The War on Cops: Wrong Enemy, Wrong War, Wrong Headed

Cops have become the focal point of the failure of society to address the cause of violence in America. This results from the unfiltered flood of social media stories lacking any corroboration or factual basis, even though overall violence has decreased in America and within police agencies.

While a troubling number of cops engage in unnecessary and unlawful violence, most are responding to situations and circumstances of violence beyond their capacity to prevent or control. By focusing on just the violence-prone officers, we run the risk of overlooking the essential function police officers provide to society.

A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it.     

Lewis H. Lapham

Some criminal behavior is pathological, little can be done absent intense psychiatric intervention. But the overwhelming majority of people who commit crimes are motivated by several common factors; poverty, poor education, lack of family support, drug use, discrimination, or other identifiable and rectifiable circumstances.

Because society does not want to face its responsibilities for fostering and ignoring the causes behind such criminality and violence, they need a convenient scapegoat. Instead of recognizing that drug abuse, one of the most significant causes of criminal acts, is primarily a health issue, they prefer to criminalize it and dump the responsibility of solving the problem on cops.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Enormous sums of money made in the drug trade cause those in control to arm themselves to protect their assets. Cops then face the reality of dealing with armed resistance to their efforts, setting the stage for violent confrontations and increasingly dangerous situations for the public. The violence breeds more violence and the police endure the criticism for their inability to control it..

We are treating the symptom, not the cause. Like injecting morphine into a broken arm. It no longer hurts, but it is still broken.

The violence surrounding the drug trade, and the criminal behavior it engenders among users and dealers, creates violence-prone territories within cities that are more combat zones than neighborhoods.

We have turned police departments into armies of occupation, failed to provide them with adequate resources, tasked them responsibilities outside their area of expertise, then blamed them for their failure to solve the problem.

A society that thrusts cops into violent neighborhoods and expects them to endure violence against them only with restraint is abdicating its responsibility.

We would not send a carpenter to teach History in a high school class, or a Doctor of Philosophy to repair a plumbing problem. Why do we send cops into our neighborhoods and expect them to be social workers, counselors, medics, priests, surrogate parents, and disciplinarians without the least bit of training or support to perform these functions?

So now, still refusing to address their own abdication of responsibility and failures, the solution they offer is to defund the police? To take the one societal resource that answers the phone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, and reduce their already limited ability to deal with society’s problems?

This is the height of idiocy.

Let me abundantly clarify a couple of things. Implicit racism is endemic to Police Departments because it is endemic to society. The difference is simple. When a carpenter or a bartender or a priest acts in a manner prejudicial to another because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, or ethnic origin, it is not replayed in the news and blasted across social media ad nauseum.

While I would concede police officers, because of their position, should expect close scrutiny, they do not deserve condemnation absent a full understanding of the conditions under which they operate. Nor should their actions be automatically assumed to be motivated by prejudice.

Here is another hard and fast rule. If officers are guilty of pre-judging a person simply because of the color of their skin, they deserve to be punished or charged for acting unlawfully in such a matter. But, until all the facts are clear, the actions of officers should not be pre-judged simply because they have become a convenient target for the ills of society.

If you want to defund things and provide resources to actually change things, here are some suggestions.

Defund the politicians who turn elected public service into a lifetime welfare system

Defund the mindless feel-good programs in schools and government that only create patronage jobs for the well connected with little results.

Defund an educational system that rewards mediocrity, avoids placing challenges on students, and ostracizes those who excel at learning.

Defund the nonsense of forced racial balancing at the expense of education and eliminating the ignorance of prejudice. These stop-gap efforts, while well-intentioned, fail to address the fundamental causes of racism; ignorance, lack of education, and inability to embrace differences.

Defund any state-sponsored support of religion, be it tax exemptions, feel-good legislation, or the best-intentioned but misguided efforts of tacit acceptance of its efficacy in secular matters, at the expense of science and secular progress. These matters further exasperate the separation of individuals into segregated groups who suffer from the lack of experiencing different ideas, cultures, and histories.

Defunding the police as a wholesale solution to the problem is like turning the radio up loud to drown out engine noise. It might mask the problem, but eventually the engine will seize up and nothing will move.

Ten Commandments For…

…Avoiding or Surviving a Police Encounter

  • I. Thou shalt not commit a crime
  • II. If thou dost commit a crime, thou shalt not protest when caught, that is for thine lawyer to do for you
  • III. Thou shalt not spout legal knowledge from a google search and argue with an officer
  • IV. Thou shalt not drive without a license nor flee when thou is signalled to stop by the police
  • V. Remember to keep holy thy court date
  • VI.. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s car
  • VII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s big screen TV
  • VIII. Thou shalt not carry a gun without a permit, a gun does not bring strength but shows cowardice
  • IX. Thou shalt not argue finer points of law in the middle of the night, in a dark alley, while holding a crowbar, standing next to a pried open door
  • X. Thou shalt not do unto others as you would not have done to yourself

If thou would be faithful to these commandments thou shall live long and prosper. If thou can but remember one, remember the First Commandment, it will keep thee well

…Police Officers

  • I. Remember that thou art a servant of justice, not an avenging angel
  • II. Thou shalt treat all with dignity and fairness
  • III. Thy Rod and Thy Sword are to Protect when all else fails not punish for things thou are not endowed with the authority to inflict
  • IV. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy fellow human
  • V. Thou shall not bear enmity toward any
  • VI. Thou shall remember that thou art fallible as are all thou shall encounter
  • VII. Thou shall endeavor to save all, including thyself, from all harm
  • VIII. Remember to keep holy the word, and the spirit, of the law
  • IX. Thou shall carry thy purpose with pride, dignity, and courage with empathy toward all
  • X. Thou are not the instrument of vengeance but the keeper of the peace

Remember these wise words spoken by an officer of great wisdom and experience.

“Always bear in mind that the difference between the officer driving the police car and the person under arrest in the back seat is that the driver never got caught”

The Gospel of Detective Joe Ford

———————————————————————————————————–

Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

Signup here for my email list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

Defund (Elements) of the Police but Let Cops BE Cops

The movement toward defunding or, in the extreme, eliminating the police has a fundamental logic to it. Although I’m certain many proponents miss the point because they are caught in the fog of emotion. There are public funds allocated to police departments that could be better directed to other programs. Some of my suggestions will be met with outrage, but the simple fact is the most effective departments are those who let cops BE cops. They catch bad guys (in the universal, non-gender specific way.)

Changing police departments without keeping this fundamental truth in mind is Utopian idiocy. These foolish experiments with “autonomous” zones excluding the police are living examples of the Lord of the Flies phenomenon. They will fail, and innocent people will suffer and die amid the anarchy.

Let me state a universal truth.

As long as there are humans, there will be bad guys and the need for those brave enough to stand between them and society.

If one is rational enough to understand this point, then certain corollaries follow. We can no more eliminate the police than we can stop burning fossil fuel without a realistic alternative. But we can get back to basics with police departments. Refocus them on their core functions, and reallocate resources to other services more suited to social welfare agencies.

Over the last few decades, there have been several divergent trends within law enforcement. One toward militarization and one toward a “touchy-feely” gentleness. Neither added to the elemental function nor improved the effectiveness of police departments

Starting back in the days of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the federal government offered surplus military equipment to police departments.

I recall the glee among many of my fellow officers, including me, over this bonanza of toys. M-16 rifles, night-vision equipment, armored personnel carriers, and more. We thought this was the coolest thing in the world. I mean, come on. Is there anything better than firing automatic weapons and seeing in the dark?

To make it even more palatable, President Reagan reinvigorated the War on Drugs. We had the stuff, we had the war, all we needed was an enemy. Like all wars, most casualties were civilians. We tried to arrest our way out of a health crisis. If you think someone who would steal from their grandmother to buy heroin gave any thought to being caught by the police, you are remarkably naive.

Then, we came up with mandatory sentences, three-strike laws, and asset forfeiture statutes. All well-intentioned, like the proverbial road to hell. The net result? We turned whole swaths of society into convicts and filled our prisons with society’s most disadvantaged.

No one embraced the concept of the war on drugs more than me, and the many officers I worked with. But most cops are an intuitive bunch. We came to see the fallacy and contradiction in what we were doing. Like the war in Vietnam, we had to destroy the village to save it. We lost the enthusiasm for a failed policy.

Back then, no one made the connection that turning police departments, at least in appearance, into what were essentially armies of occupation was a dangerous thing. They held entire training conferences teaching agencies what language to use in the applications.

No one questioned the wisdom or consequences.

These programs were followed by the COPS Grant program, designed to put more officers on the street through technology. And there were others. Each had, what seemed, a logical and beneficial purpose.

They became a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

In parallel with these programs, a kinder and gentler approach took hold. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program rose to prominence in Los Angeles and spread across the country. Community Policing quickly followed on the heels of DARE.

The problem was, in many agencies, these programs became specialized units rather than philosophical changes.

DARE put cops in schools as teachers when most lacked a fundamental understanding of educational theory. No matter how well-intentioned, DARE would prove marginally effective, if at all. Studies show contradictory results from DARE training. One five-year study showed no significant results between schools implementing DARE programs and those that did not. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/dare/effectiveness.html

Community policing, one of the most promising of all the “New Age” programs, had the most potential. Police Departments formed “Community Policing Units” as a way of embracing this new paradigm. This presented a contradiction to the purpose of the philosophy. Community policing is not a thing, not a specialization like CSI or Homicide investigations. To treat it as such is to hobble the beneficial effect.

Community Policing is a philosophy, a paradigm, and a practice to be ingrained within an agency’s approach to police work. But many issues addressed by community policing are better handled by other agencies. In some agencies, Community Policing became little more than a central collection point of information about quality of life issues—loud congregations of youths, trash on the streets, burned-out streetlights, noisy business establishments, road maintenance. The officers then referred this information to the responsible agency. It drew personnel away from the core function of the police. That is not what cops—by training or design— are best suited to do.

Once again, a well-intentioned program clouding the fundamental responsibilities of cops. As a matter of normal course of operations, cops should pay attention to such issues. Small annoyances can escalate into major problems. While the “broken window” theory of law enforcement is largely discounted, an element of its validity persists. Focusing on the small things before they become major issues works.

But cops need to focus on what they do best.

Community Policing drew personnel away from the core function of the police with limited beneficial improvement to the community. The reality is, all policing is intended toward protecting the community. Crime prevention through police presence, apprehending criminals, suppressing disturbances, responding to accidents, all take place within the community.

Attitudes and expectations, both by the police and by the community, need to change. The cops are not the enemy, and the community is not the problem. Community Policing should comprise merging the responsibility of both the community and the police into a partnership to catch bad guys. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/What_Works_in_Community_Policing.pdf

There was once an effort to combine the functions of public safety, i.e., police, fire, ems, into a single agency. In theory, it seemed to make sense. Have those first on the scene cross-trained in all aspects of public safety.

In reality, it was a dismal failure.

When an EMT responds to a shooting, their focus needs to be on treating the victim. When the Fire Department responds to a fire, its focus needs to be on putting out the fire, rescuing individuals, and saving property.

When cops respond to these same incidents, an element of each comes into play—preserving life being the most important. But the officer must also focus on determining if a crime occurred, preserving evidence, and apprehending those who committed the crime.

Differentiation and separation of responsibilities make all public safety operations more effective.

The problem is, in many cities and towns, the police are the agency of last resort. If the trash in the street is infested with rats, if the neighborhood bar blares music to all hours, if the kids on the corner block the way, cops are the simplest solution. If a homeless person, suffering from mental illness, is blocking the entrance to a business, call the police.

Even if they can only deal with the issue temporarily.

There is another, more sinister aspect to things police departments are tasked with performing. The enforcement of traffic laws—intended to save lives and prevent accidents—has become a source of revenue critical to state and municipal budgets. Every department in the country will say they do not mandate a quota for officers. Yet, most agencies use the number of tickets written as a measure of officer performance.

Like the contradiction in government warnings about the dangers of smoking and their dependency on the tax revenue from the sale of tobacco, police department generate revenue from tickets. It is a tax disguised as a public safety function.

If one wants to understand the danger of such dependency on traffic ticket revenue by a municipal government, all one has to do is look at the level of traffic enforcement in Ferguson, MO. The shooting of Michael Brown wasn’t the reason for the unrest and riots in that city, it was the spark that lit the fuse.

The recent revolts across the country are not just because of unjustified police shootings of people of color. They are a reaction to a complex range of issues. Police departments are being forced to contend with many of these, mostly outside their control, and doing it poorly.

We wouldn’t send a carpenter to fix a plumbing problem, why do we expect cops to solve societal issues beyond their control or expertise?

Redirecting funds from police departments to social service agencies make sense. But this is a long-term strategy. We still need to deal with the practical realities of crime. Cops prevent, investigate, and solve crimes. They apprehend bad guys. They should do so with professionalism within the confines of the law. Sometimes, this will involve the use of deadly force. We can set our sights on eliminating that necessity someday. However, we still need to have cops being cops for the foreseeable future.

Before we rush headlong into such irrational actions of disbanding the police. Before we just slash and cut police budgets to satisfy an incensed, but uninformed public. Before we commit ourselves in a rush to judgment to do something, anything, we need to step back and analyze what purpose police departments serve.

The cops are not the adversaries of the public. This is not an us versus them situation. Cops are humans, subject to the same frailties and foibles as everyone else.

We need to let police departments get back to the fundamentals. We need to stop relying on the police as the agency of last resort in dealing with issues outside their skill set. We need to recognize the problems we face are all our responsibility, not just the police departments because they are a convenient 911 call away.

Let cops be cops. Not social workers, not teachers, not mental health providers, not counselors. Let cops do what they signed up to do, stand on the thin blue line, and catch bad guys.

———————————————————————————————————–

Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

Signup here for my email list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

A Eulogy for the Police

Friends, Americans, Countrymen (in a non-gender specific, judgment-less way) lend me your ears.
I come to bury the Police, not to praise them.
The Evil that some cops do lives after them;
The Good by most is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with the Police.
The noble protesters hath told you the Police were ambitious.
If it were so it was a grievous fault.
And grievously would the protesters have the police answer for it.
 Here, under the leave of the protesters and the rest—For these protesters are honorable people,
so are they all honorable people,
Come I to speak at their defunding and disbanding.
The police were my friends, I once stood among them, they were faithful and just unto the country and their charge.
But the protesters say the Police are ambitious.
And the protesters are honorable people.
The police hath brought many captives off the street
Whose deeds did vex the citizens and the land.
Did this in the Police seem ambitious?
When that the desperate and abandoned hath cried, the Police were there when no others came to help and wiped their tears.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet the protesters are honorable people.
You all did see that on their service, we offered them little in appreciation, let them suffer the demons of their work, pilloried them for being human and prone to human frailties.
Yet still they chose to stay, do their duty, and stand on that thin blue line.
Was this ambition?
Yet the protesters say the police are ambitious
And sure, they are honorable people.
I speak not to disprove what the protesters spoke,
But here I am to speak of what I do know.
You all did love them once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to abandon them?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And people have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in the coffin there with the police,
As will all of us should these honorable people have their way
And I must pause till reason returns.

Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

———————————————————————————————————–

Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

Signup here for my email list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.

Cops, Superheroes, and Stupidity

In my almost 60 complete revolutions of the sun, I have heard people say some stupid things. Truth be told, I spewed some idiocy myself. But, after reading a story about a protest over the recent police involved shooting in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, I saw a statement that defies explanation.

The words are so without an inkling of intelligence or rationality as to be laughable if they didn’t revolve around such a serious matter.

The Providence Journal (http://www.providencejournal.com/news/20160409/video-protesters-in-pawtucket-call-silence-over-fatal-police-shooting-injustice) quoted one of the protesters as saying,

“A Police Officer should disarm someone, not shoot to kill.”

Where to begin?

Statements such as this come from people whose experience with police procedure comes from one of three places: Television, movies, or riding in the back seat of a police car with their hands bound behind them.

Such ignorance does nothing to promote better relations between the community and the police. Such lack of intellectual foundation does nothing but reveal the lack of understanding of the situations officers find themselves in on a daily basis.

If she had said, we have to discourage people from carrying guns so the police won’t be forced to kill them I could agree with her.

If she said, we in the community must work with the police to tell them about those who carry guns so we can prevent such confrontations I could agree with her.

But to expect an Officer, in a dark alley, after having a gun pointed at her twice, to somehow disarm the individual regardless of the risk to the officer is nonsense.

I have always said that much remains to be done to eliminate prejudice within our society. Much remains to improve relations between the police and the minority community. Statements like this hurt such efforts.

I can guarantee you that at the moment that Officer decided to fire, she did so because she recognized a threat to herself and her fellow officers. She didn’t see skin color, she didn’t see a socially handicapped victim of prejudice, she didn’t see anything but a gun pointed at her by someone she reasonably believed would use it.

Much is made about rights in these cases. Too often an important element of this discussion is left out, the right of the officer to live.

Officers have a responsibility to perform their duties impartially and lawfully. It is a heavy burden and one we should be glad that there are those among us willing to bear it. Officers accept the responsibility knowing it may come at the cost of their lives. That doesn’t mean it must.

Behind that badge beats a human heart. One that has a family, friends, and loved ones it cares for. Officers have an equal right to enjoy their lives.

Some Inconvenient Truths

Here are some of the inconvenient truths within the terroristic end-of-the- world we-have-to-kill-them  before they kill us nonsense arising from the media driven hysteria surrounding the criminal act in San Bernardino.

Syed Rizwan Farook, the male half of the criminal duo, was an American citizen. Born to Pakistani parents who, by all accounts, lived here legally.

He travelled, under a passport of the United States, to Saudi Arabia and returned with a woman, Tashfeen Malik. Subsequently marrying her.

He was estranged from his father because of his parents divorce. He apparently had selective adherence to who needs to die according to the Quran

Farook, as a citizen of the United States of America, exercised his Second Amendment rights and purchased weapons.

A whole bunch of weapons. And ammuntion. And other things protected by that untouchable Second Amendment.

So far, everything he did was well within his rights as an American.

And as someone who was not American, so well said, “There’s the rub…”

His mistake, in the eyes of the hysteria gripping this country all out of proportion to the perceived problem, was being Muslim.

They are all EVIL if I believe what I see in the reaction to this horrific act.

Those that hold the Second Amendment as inviolate have a problem.

They have to choose between an absolute right of Americans, absent a criminal record, to buy as many firearms and as much ammunition as they want, or acquiescing to a limit. Or worse, monitoring.

I have a more modest proposal.

Let’s just eliminate Muslims. They are obviously the problem. Even those that were born here. They’ve been bred to hate us.

They worship the wrong god.

Their book, the Quran, is filled with hatred.

Unlike the good book. The several thousand versions of the Bible.

They need to be eliminated from the earth. They are a scourge upon our planet. They are not American.

As Pope Urban II so well said when he launched the first crusade. “Tear that land from the wicked race and subject it to yourselves.” He just didn’t realize he was talking about the good old US of A.

There, indeed, is the rub.

No doubt some took those words to heart. Damn straight, this in ‘Merica. Screw them!

There are Americans that wave the flag, clothe themselves in the Constitution, and believe in a divine right to the freedoms of this country who would so quickly deny the same benefit to others by virtue of their embracing a different religious doctrine.

It’s not like we’ve never done it before.

They would do this because a few within Islam embrace violence.

Islam is not alone in those of the faithful that prefer the sword to a peaceful tolerance of difference. The Westboro Baptist Kooks come to mind.

What happened in California was a criminal act. If inspired by a god, that says more about the danger of believing in gods then some would care to admit. What matters is not the reason they acted the way they did, but the fact that they committed a crime and did it intentionally.

I am glad the cops ended it the way they did. I’m glad they had the training, tools, and courage to do so.

I do not want anyone to determine someone deserves such a response by the police simply because they are Muslim.

If those so quick to post and tweet and blog and Instagram ever bothered to understand the way the American justice system works beyond what they see on television or the movies, they would understand that the court does not care what religion you adhere to.

It does not matter what you believe.

It does not matter what god you worship.

As a matter of law, your faith is meaningless before the court.

What matters is evidence. Does it prove you committed the crime?

There was a time in this country when being black was an automatic guilty. That fact continues to haunt justice in this country.

Do we really want to add the color of your faith to the problem?

If you are comfortable with the government deciding what beliefs are dangerous, whether or not you act on them, you are a fool.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who are willing to trade freedom for security, will have neither.”

I say, “those that are willing to trade someone else’s freedom will someday find themselves losing their own.”

I have no qualms with the way Mr. and Mrs. Farook left this mortal coil.

I thank the officers that did what cops do, running toward danger when everyone else runs away. They are the best example of the greatness of America.

I do not want them turned into an American Gestapo, seizing people by virtue of their heritage rather than their actions.

But the inconvenient truth is an American citizen, born here, raised here, exercised his sacrosanct Second Amendment right.

How do we fix that without becoming a disciple of Big Brother?

Selective Outrage

Once again this country is subjected to a dramatic incident of violence. In the rush to be first, the media outlets broadcast a constantly changing cacophony of half-truths and rumors.

Compounding the problem are the bloggers and reporter wannabes in their insular  agenda-driven worlds.

They were practically salivating at the conveniently ethnic origin of the suspect’s name. Whether it has any bearing on the truth or not.

Better to be first, than right.

The inevitable outcry by competing interests will flood the broadcast, print, and social media.

“More Gun Control!” “Less Gun Control!”

“Take away guns and only criminals will have guns.”

“Stop the Insanity”

“Guns don’t kill people, GMO’s do”

They’ll be the usual talk from the opposing political views that either this whole thing is Obama’s fault, or this is the consequence of interpreting the Second Amendment as inviolate.

And then it will fade away. The headline will be replaced, as it always is, by some other tragedy or scandal.

What happened in San Bernadino is a tragedy. A sad example of how much mankind has to go before they can truly be called civilized. Whatever fruitcake philosophy compelled these actions, be it a misinterpretation of religious doctrine or simple prejudice against those who are different, is repulsive.

How we respond will either set the course for positive change or doom us to an uncertain future.

Many will focus solely on classifying this as terrorism and incite the country to use its powerful military forces and bomb something, anything.

Somewhere else of course.

Nothing like the satisfaction one gets from watching the video of a cruise missile launch or a night-vision view of a target being obliterated.

But that will only mask the underlying problem.

The real tragedy here is that we fail to notice this is happening almost every day in our cities. In Chicago for the month of November this is what we apparently missed in the FOX, MSNBC, and CNN headlines.

Thirty-two people were shot and killed

One hundred and sixty-six were shot and wounded

That’s almost two hundred people and that’s just one city. That sounds like the statistics from a war zone. I dare say it is more dangerous to walk some neighborhoods in Chicago than it is in Kabul.

America can, and should, be better than that.

The necessary discussion on dealing with the very real problem of violence in this country will never happen as long as it is headline driven.

Be it a rational approach to firearms, the issue of racism or the propensity toward violence to settle differences, we need to use our intelligence and common sense here.

Not emotionally driven hyperbole.

We need to focus on the underlying problem. It is critical to the survival of this country. More so than idiotic causes that politicians so love to use to divert us from the real issue. The solutions are not easy, they are not found on Facebook and Twitter. They require thinking and courage. Surely there is an abundance of that in a free country.

Many good people turn to prayer at a time like this. But as the Dali Lama so well said,

“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

Whether you believe or not, doesn’t matter to me. Whether you care enough to think this problem through and seek a solution does.

And one last point. You know who ran toward the carnage and danger when everyone else ran away?

Cops.

There are some dramatic images of the courage demonstrated by the officers involved. It would be nice if more people understood that is what cops do every day. And appreciated it.

 

 

 

 

 

How Can There be Good Cops, If There are Bad Cops?

I read an opinion piece the other day from the Bangor (ME) Times entitled, The False Message from those ‘Good Cop’ Stories? Things Aren’t So Bad by Heather Denkmire.

Here is the link and I encourage you to read it before you continue with my take on the author’s message.

http://bangordailynews.com/2015/08/05/opinion/contributors/the-false-message-from-those-good-cop-stories-things-arent-so-bad/

My first reaction on reading this was one of profound confusion. How can reports about the many good police officers and their acts of kindness and caring be a bad thing? If all we do is focus on the bad things, it distorts reality.

On reflection, I realized she had a valid point. Not the one she intended and I am sure one she does not even realize she made.

Her premise is clear, reporting stories of a Police Officer acting in some kind and considerate manner does detract from the issue of violence involving officers and civilians, too often civilians of color.

However, the problem is not that the media reports these stories, the problem is the author’s assumptions that all encounters between a police officer and a person of color are motivated by racism.

Ms. Denkmire writes,

“My daughter just heard a radio story about how a police officer who murdered a black man was having trouble finding a job. She found it troubling that the news story was focusing on the murderer’s “difficulties.”

Herein lies the problem. Taken at face value, this paragraph says a police officer murdered a black man and was having trouble finding a job. The statement implies the officer was “convicted” of murder. If that were the case, either the incident happened a long time ago and the former officer is now out of jail, or the statement is misleading. I think it equally possible the officer resigned due the incident, or was forced out by political expediency. Either explanation is viable.

Police use of deadly force is a serious and difficult issue. It would be naïve to assume that all such incidents are investigated as thoroughly as they should be. The benefit of media attention is clear, however media attention that meets standards of good reporting, not a Twitter feed or Facebook rant with questionable images.

The author also bemoans the unequal reporting of black as opposed to white murder suspects.

“We had talked before about the different ways the media portrayed white killers compared with black victims; for example, how Dylann Roof was shown opening Christmas gifts while the media use and crop images of black victims in ways that imply they are not entirely innocent. That kind of biased reporting is pretty standard.”

This is the problem with her premise. The very issue she points out here, about biased or slanted reporting, is the issue. She just has the real point wrong.

Here is an example of two headlines, same incident.

White Police Officer Shoots Fleeing Black Suspect in the Back

Same story, different headline.

Police Officer Returns Fire, Killing Gunman.

The tone of the first headline stirs emotion and the writer chose the words to generate interest in the story (that translates into sales). The second is the same set of facts but presented as just that, facts. Not an editorial comment implying wrongdoing by the officer (or highlighting the race of either party as being significant).

Now, I completely agree with the writer’s point that the incidence of violent confrontations between police and persons of color are, statistically, significantly higher than those between the police and a white person.

As Mark Twain once said, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Here is an example, police officers kill more white suspects than suspects of color. The “statistics” bear this out. However, examine the numbers in depth, as a percentage of the population minority suspects are more likely to be confronted with a violent response. Both statistically accurate.

The perception by some officers that persons of color represent a higher threat is a difficult one to overcome, and wrong. Here is the sad reality, according to data from the FBI, though African Americans are arrested and incarcerated at a higher rate than whites, the majority of assailants who feloniously killed police officers in the past year were white.

There is a serious problem with racial bias in this country. Complaining that positive stories about the police ignores the issue, or minimizes its severity, is nonsense.

If you have read the article, it is clear the author holds a dim view of the police. She can barely concede that most officers are well intentioned and honest.

Therefore, I applaud her bringing the issue to the forefront. Underreporting or ignoring the issue is wrong. Portraying the issue as being solely the fault of the police is equally wrong. In fact, it is dangerous.

The only way to deal with this problem in the long term is through education. Racism is a learned behavior; no one is born racist, children are indoctrinated with it. In the short term, focused and impartial attention to the police and better training is the key.

The media needs to report factually and without sensationalizing stories. However, we all know what should happen and what does happen are two mutually exclusive things.

The police are not your enemy and people of all race and ethnic origin need be treated the same. If you break the law, your skin color should not have any effect on the disposition of the case. The numbers are clear. Perhaps we should focus on the inequities in the judicial system more closely since that is the only forum in which unlawful actions by the police should be addressed. Not on the street with a crowd of cell phone equipped people relying on legal advice from a Facebook post.

Here is my last statistic; there are 765,000 (approx.) sworn law enforcement officers in the US. Statistically speaking the overwhelming majority of them will NEVER kill anyone in their career. Nevertheless, I am willing to bet every single one of them will do something good almost every day in that same career.

A Perspective on Sandra Bland and the Issue of Resisting Arrest: Perception versus Law

My friend, Kent Harrop, wrote the following editorial on his blog about the Sandra Bland incident. I encourage you to read it before you read my response. You can find it here, https://greenpreacher.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/a-moral-emergency-the-death-of-sandra-bland

The issues raised about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and subsequent suicide of Sandra Bland are genuine. Racism and the difference in treatment of black people by many, but not the majority, in law enforcement is a fact in this country. Yet, having watched the entire video, I am struck by the fact that if the woman signed the ticket and fought the issue in court, this would not have ended the way it did.

I am not trying to explain away the officer’s actions or blame the victim, but we need to look at the incident in context and as a whole. Since we lack all of the facts at this point, a fair and complete analysis is impossible.

Nevertheless, we certainly can examine the incident as it underscores the issue of racism. Clearly, racism is a scourge in this country. It is rampant, insidious, and destructive. It is difficult to understand how people come to hold these beliefs, unless we glimpse into their past. Racism is a learned behavior.

I disagree with Ty Burr’s words mentioned in Kent’s article, ‘This is the tale of two stories, the official version and the one we can see with our own eyes’.

There is only one version recorded on video. Our reaction is a combination of our own perceptions, experiences, and opinions. What happened in the incident is there for all to see and hear. What transpired after, and why she was in jail for three days, remains unclear. The full investigation is not complete and there should not be a rush to judgment.

Up to the point the Officer decided to remove her from the car, he was polite and professional. Once he asked her to step from the car, she contributed as much to escalating the situation. Like it or not, we bear a responsibility to act in a civil manner despite what we may perceive as someone else’s failure to do so.

Assuming for the sake of argument the officer was wrong does not justify resisting arrest. It is not in the best interest of our society to think such resistance is acceptable; it is too susceptible to a range of interpretation.

None of us have seen the officer’s report. None of us know the reason for his deciding to remove her from the car. However, an officer can ask someone to step from the vehicle if he or she has concerns about safety, both the officer’s and the driver’s.

There is no constitutional right to resist arrest. If the officer says you are under arrest, then you are under arrest. There are a number of legal avenues to pursue if an arrest is unlawful, through the courts. That is the proper place, not in the street.

No one is in any position at this point to determine if the officer was justified. The reports of the stop and the reasons behind officer’s actions are still not public. If the agency deserves any criticism, it is in its failure to make those reports immediately available. We have seen this time and time again. Delay adds to the conspiracy mentality. That arrest report, unquestionably a public document, should have been made public.

I do know that officers deserve the benefit of the doubt during the incident to protect themselves. Once the matter is in the court, they can then be held to a high standard to justify their actions.

The issue of Bland being arrested for a minor traffic offense is not accurate. She was not arrested for the motor vehicle infraction; that was the reason the officer stopped her. She was arrested for failure to comply with what appeared to be a lawful request to get out of the car. That is all we have at this point. Why did he do that? What was his justification? All legitimate questions. The officer bears the burden of proving it in court, detailing the probable cause, and validating the arrest. The street is not the place to argue that.

Since the medical examiner ruled the death a suicide, I can only assume there were other issues in that woman’s life we are not privy to. Having had hundreds of encounters on the street with people in all sorts of circumstances, I know officers develop a sense for people that are in a stressful or emotional state. From what I saw on the video, the officer’s initial conversation was polite, professional, and geared to evaluate the person. Doing that is critical to surviving as an officer.

Did Bland pose a threat? Probably not. Should the officer have demanded she put out the cigarette? No. Yet it doesn’t alter the fact that Bland contributed to the escalation. In her own words, “I can’t wait to get to court.” She should have, she would be alive and, perhaps, in the near future cashing a check for a violation of her rights.

None of the above alters the fact that on a daily basis in this country, Police Officers target minorities. Not all officers, not even a majority. However. if even one officer targets a person based on race that is a crime. There is much room for open and honest discussion of this issue. Much room for demanding change within our society.

It starts with education. Learning that despite differences in appearance or cultural norms or social standing we are all human beings entitled to fair and equitable treatment.

It is important we evaluate incidents once we have all the evidence. To do so prematurely leads to misinformation or worse. Recall the Michael Brown “Hands up don’t shoot” phenomenon that caused so much destruction. It did not happen the way it was initially portrayed, and the truth got lost in the media storm.

Knowing the full story, recognizing the deleterious affect racism has on us all, and using the courts to right all wrongs is the only way to deal with these incidents with any hope of eliminating them.