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Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Denver, Houston, St. Louis, We Have a Problem
It would be unwise and inappropriate for me to comment specifically on the shooting of the eighteen year old man in Ferguson, Missouri. It's always sad when the police shoot and kill anyone. The investigation is simply beginning, and believe me, this particular case with its racial overtones will be exhaustively investigated with a fine tooth comb. The release of the officer's name prior to the conclusion of such an investigation now makes it unsafe for he and his family to work or live anywhere near that town, whether he acted improperly or not involved in a supposed altercation with a storekeeper during a robbery, I will comment that the release of this officer's name, and the release of the video showing the man who was shot, seem premature to me. There will also be a federal investigation, and one can bet that the results will be massaged to benefit the present regime and its agenda. Who knows, perhaps they intend to take the firearms of police as well as our own.
In a few prior posts I have made the observation that in the US, in my lifetime, we have gone from police officers who predominantly saw themselves as public servants who were primarily focused on the motto, "to protect and to serve", and by golly, this is what they did, to a more militarized unit, with the dress, equipment and more of the procedures of a SWAT team or special forces unit. Dress an officer like an officer and he will conduct himself as one. Dress him as an elite force soldier and he may well act like one too. Two counties over from me, our local tactical shop which opened to provide weaponry to be shipped to their son's unit in Iraq,and others like it, now sells upgraded tactical equipment and weaponry to county police from far and wide. Apparently, local police are gunning up, and getting better equipment than is provided in their home counties. I don't begrudge a law enforcement officer having the best equipment. However, we have now crossed over from our being citizens of the United States who pay taxes in order to be protected, to being viewed too many times, as enemy combatants. Each year, there are cases of people who suffocate when the police sit on their chests or backs during an arrest. There are people who are shot to death when they didn't have any type of weapon. There are diabetics who died in a drunk tank when the officers were not trained well enough to realize that they were in trouble with regard to their diabetes. There are people who are tazered and who die from a resultant disturbance in heart rhythm (arrhythmia). There have been people who died of internal hemorrhage after several police officers beat them during an arrest, when they were already cuffed and could not protect their abdomens during a beating.
I would also like to say that I have many friends who work in different levels of law enforcement. Some of them are my closest friends, and I know that they would never use force or lethal force unless warranted. Many of them decellerate dangerous situations with great skill. The two sheriff's deputies who were first on scene when my youngest son died, took over CPR for me, and performed admirably.. My DEA friends are law abiding decent family people. There is exceptional police talent out there. There are also excellent police investigators who work tirelessly to solve crimes. We do however, seem to have some problems.
Most police officers are intelligent, well trained, calm and reasoned individuals who are very clear on how to decellerate a dangerous situation. Most of them know how to decellerate a situation using a firearm as a last resort. However, we do have a number of issues which seem to be creating some problems. First, the training of police is changing. The days of their being taught that 90% of people are good and would even aid an officer in trouble, are over. They are now being taught that ten percent of people are good. Ten percent are very bad, and everyone else could go either way given the circumstances. Some of them are quite jumpy and a bit paranoid. Thus far I have not been stopped and treated like a criminal, however several of my friends with concealed weapons permits viewable on an onboard computer check when an officer pulls you over, have been. My daughter has been pulled over a couple of times and asked questions which seemed inappropriate. "Where are you going ?" during rush hour seems a little strange when she is dressed for work. It turned out that someone they were watching had her model of car.
In a county nearer Richmond, where I no longer visit, there is probably a ticket quota.
Since President Kennedy's day, a number of mentally ill people were released from mental hospitals, and became homeless. Then, most of the mental hospitals in the US were closed "in order to give opportunities in the community for the mentally ill". The reality is that if the patient was never taught to rent a room, obtain a job, hold one, manage money, then many of them can't do it, and they remain homeless and often unable to continue whatever medications allowed them to live safely. A percentage of homeless people are, mentally ill. When they encounter police they may not understand or respond as quickly to orders as you or I might. They are often extremely tired, as they may not be sleeping regular hours. Sometimes, when a police officer barks an order, we might question or ask for clarification. We might want to explain ourselves. It's very important that police officers have excellent discernment skills. They need to be able to detect mentally ill, intellectually impaired,demented, drug impaired or sick people with at least as much skill as I do. Nurses manage this population of patients on first contact all the time, and if we do it without a firearm or tazer, then they certainly can do it skillfully with these items.
The problem is that not only does our military make gifts of military supplies to police stations when they are finished with them, but police training has changed. The valued officer used to be the good communicator who inspired compliance by his communication. He needed to appear human, and most importantly, he needed to see the public as neighbors, friends, cousins, or sons like his. Now, the training of police is more likely to focus on physicality, basic training, militaristic assessment, detachment, and getting the qwelling of any potential threat completed in record time by taking control with a minimum of communication.
This is a dangerous turn for police training to have taken. This change in police training will result in the shootings and death of retarded adults, young adults with mental health issues which make self control difficult, diabetics with transient problems, and even those of us who carry concealed weapons completely legally. A failure of the member of the public to be instantly compliant does not constitute a threat. It may require additional communication. A deficit in communication with a police officer should not be a death sentence. Patrolmen also need to have a certain intellectual standard. Most do, but sometimes, a few men and women get through who do not have the intellectual skills to do the job as safely for the public as they should. Usually, these officers are weeded out, but there can be a death before this happens. One young state police officer here in Virginia watched one driver after another drive an icy exit and crash. It never occurred to her to close the exit. She had simply found a way to write a number of tickets that day, for one thing or another.
We need to reexamine the manner in which we train police officers. We need to reexamine police guidelines for when a SWAT team is called. We need to reexamine police protocols for when and why a simple contact with the police accellerates to a lethal force conflict. Our police need to know our rights under the Constitution better than anyone, because we are their brothers, sisters, children, wives, cousins, friends, and parents. We can't gloss over the rights of anyone and then expect them to apply to our own families !
This is not really a racial issue. African Americans are particularly sensitive to their relationship with police because historically, they have not always been treated well by them. However, the deterioration of police training and the new value sets of what constitutes a great patrol officer now, threatens everyone. This is a concern which needs to be addressed. Without it, a coming police state will make gatherings for our children, schools, motor vehicle accidents, any gatherings of human beings much more dangerous for both police and citizens alike. This is a problem whether you are blonde, Asian, Finnish, Muslim, African American, Chinese, West African, German, or anything else !
Lastly, police officers need not only to do the right thing, but they need to avoid the appearance or the perception of impropriety. If a percentage of Americans cease to see them as "here to help" and they are seen as "predators who exist to write tickets" or to "harass the people in our neighborhoods" then we will avoid them, cease to communicate with them, and crimes will simply not be solved. When the public no longer feels safe providing information to the police, then we have lost our country's ability to solve crime. This will open the gates for vigilante justice and "justice by perception" which is exactly one of the things the US Constitution was written to avoid. The police are already suspected of wrongdoing in some cities in our country. We must examine why some groups of the public fear or suspect the police as quickly as possible. Without this, we all lose.
My prior post on this and related subject: