Sunday, December 29, 2019

Decide What You Want

*Photo credit Mercury News*


It's time to decide what we want from law enforcement.

Warriors?
Counselors?
Guardians?
Priests?
Social workers?
Magicians?

Do we want the cheapest cops possible?
Or, do we want well trained and well screened cops?
Well equipped cops, with every tool needed for every possible eventuality?
Or the beat cop from grandaddy's hometown, with nothing but a smile, a wheelgun, and one set of cuffs?

Really, we want it all.
Admit it, we do- and we want it all, without paying for any of it.

Every officer needs to be an empathetic, well-spoken, SEAL-trained ninja, with double majors in psychology and social work, who considers the job a calling, and has no bills to pay, no nerves to fray, and enforces the law completely objectively while also using discretion at all times, unless it's going to result in arresting--or not arresting--the wrong person at the wrong time, for the wrong thing, in the opinion of every member of the public.

If that person existed, he wouldn't work for you.
So we've got to deal with what exists, and what exists are humans.

Humans are fallible, and their bodies are frail. Their brains play tricks on them when they're under stress, and then keep them from sleeping by replaying the stressor on an endless loop later, trying to find ways to 'fix' whatever went wrong.

Humans come in varieties, not exactly like dog breeds, but close enough that the analogy works:
If you need a bite dog, you don't start with a Golden Retriever.
Possibly, you can teach the Golden to bite on command, if you're persistent enough, and mean enough,but in the process, you'll ruin everything that made him a Golden to begin with.
*Photo Franklin County Sheriff's Office*

Now translate that back to people.
Warriors, soldiers, great war generals like Patton, may live for the fight but they don't always play well with others after the battle.
They can be harsh.
They can use bad language in settings where you wish they were polite.
They find humor in ugly, dark places that just frighten the rest of society.
They're not always...nice.

If you want only a cuddly, soft, empathetic officer whose first response is always a soft answer and compassion, you can have that.
She'll never embarrass her chief at Coffee with a Cop.
He'll present well on camera, every time, and remind you of someone's grandfather.
He'll be the perfect SRO, until there's an active shooter at your kid's school.

Suddenly, society insists on the warrior.
They want the crack-driven demon Malinois, 55 pounds of rawhide, springsteel and gator teeth, driving into the gunfire and doing anything it takes -- anything -- to keep the children safe.
And once the threat is gone, society wants the Malinois to morph back into the therapy dog.
They want the warrior gone, the counselor returned, the off-switch thrown.

That's not how it works.
And it's not fair.

I tell you now: the unicorn doesn't exist.
You can't have it.
What you can have is a human.
If you recruit well, background thoroughly, and train constantly, you can have a human with a kind heart, and good ethics, who is willing to fight hard, be uncomfortable, even get hurt, for you.
You can have a human who tries. You can have someone who struggles, who sometimes fails, who gets better with time and experience, and who has setbacks.
You can't have perfection.
In fact, you can break perfectly good humans by insisting they be something they can't be-- things no one can be.

Decide now that, as long as cops get recruited from the human race, they're going to be exactly human, with everything that means.
The rest of society is also human, after all.
Maybe it's time we decide what we want from the rest of us, too.

28 comments:

  1. Outstanding. This is how we feel.

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  2. Here's to us and, those like us.....

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  3. This articulates well how it felt serving as an officer and probably explains why you end up being a bit off for the rest of your life. I retired 11 years ago and I'm still effected by it somehow.

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  4. These are just the words, said in just the way, I've been looking for after 38 years on the job, and now teaching the job. I know this is the truth. Thank you, Charlie!

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  5. It is seriously sad to see the only relevant role go unmentioned. Police officers are supposed to be "protectors". They are supposed to protect the public against criminals. If a police officer sees him/herself as a warrior, he/she will treat the public as the enemy. If he/she sees him/herself as a protector, he/she will see the public as the group it is supposed to protect. We want well trained and well paid police, and good training in de-escalation. However, militarization of the police is not the answer. Militarization of the police is part of what has changed the mindset from protector to warrior. We don't demand perfection, but the standards for those entrusted with the power to arrest and even kill, in order to protect the public, have to be a lot higher than for the average Joe.

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    1. Interestingly, I've written two articles specifically addressing both the terms 'militarized' and 'war'. http://www.theruralbadge.com/search?q=militarized

      http://www.theruralbadge.com/search?q=war

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    2. @China Mom - spoken like someone who has never had to put themselves in harm's way to be a "protector". Those who have never had to sacrifice and/or risk serious bodily injury or death on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis, dealing with the 2-3% of the worst humanity has to offer Will Never Understand. When those who don't understand, especially those who hold political office or enact statutes or review law enforcement incidents, make often irrational demands of law enforcement and refuse to acknowledge their ignorance, then we have significant problems (like now).

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    3. I love that you complain about the word "Protector" not being used yet the word "Guardian" clearly is. GUESS WHAT A GUARDIAN IS DEFINED AS? "a defender, protector, or keeper." Another two faced liberal liar speaking out of both sides of their mouth.

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    4. The role of “protector” is certainly at the heart of the job, but in the real-world, these officers have to deal with the criminal actions of some pretty bad individuals .. LEO often put their very lives on the line to do so. To say the only relevant role for them is “protector”, downplays the risk they assume day in and day out! Chinamom must not have real-world experience with what these officers deal with!

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  6. "Decide now that, as long as cops get recruited from the human race, they're going to be exactly human, with everything that means."

    This thought was spoken by Joe Friday on Dragnet over 50 years ago and it still resonates in my mind all this time later. Yes, I am that old. And yes, police work used to be fun when I was doing it. Too bad it had to change

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  7. Charlie Pitt, Thank you Blue Brother for your service and thank your for your words of wisdom. I myself have more than 30 years in the profession as well. Only those of us who have been there truely understand the human sacrifice and dedication that it takes to do the Job. The Blue Family is really the glue that holds this Country together as a civilized nation. Nobody can even comprehend in their wildest dreams what this Country or the world for that matter would be without Law Enforcement.

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  8. I wholeheartedly agree that cops are people. They arent robots and they are subject to human nature and making mistakes just like everyone else. Still, when an egregious mistake happens, they need to be held more accountable for their life ending actions. Thats one of the problems with law enforcement in America. In every other profession, if you make a mistake that kills someone, you will be held responsible. With police, we dont do that. Why? Because we dont want to establish a situation where police are worrying about being sued or going to jail when they are in a split second life or death situation. Thats understandable to some extent, but eventually facts have to win out. Too much emphasis is placed on officer perception. But there are facts in every situation. If you misread the facts and pull the trigger at the wrong time, someone should be held responsible for that. As a society, we decided a long time ago to always err on the side of the officer. Most of us know that criminals are way more of a threat to the common man than the police. So we allowed them full leighway. But the time has come now to reign that back in. One of the reasons there is so much disrespect and hate for law enforcement is because people can see some of them think they are above the very laws they claim to be enforcing. A few bad apples really do spoil the bunch when it comes to public perception. And with the spread of traffic stop footage and body cams people can witness the true facts of a situation instead of just relying on officer perception as we always have. If we could just raise the level of accountability for officers that make lethal mistakes, there would be a lot more appreciation and respect for law enforcement in this country. You can never get rid of all the bad apples, but if we change the system to make it clear that bad apples will be punished and not celebrated as heros, this type of behavior would decrease.

    One example happened near my hometown. A GA state patrol officer was traveling over 100 mph on one of our highways. He was not responding to a call and he did not have on lights or sirens. He struck a car with four passengers killing 2 young girls. He was terminated, but he was never truly held accountable for this action. If I, or any other citizen was traveling at 100+ and killed 2 young girls we would be put in jail for vehicular homicide. The same should have happened to him.

    And another case in Kansas where a fake prank call led to mans house being surrounded by swat. The man had no idea what was happening. He stepped out on his porch to see, and there was a ring of officers standing 20 feet away. He didnt reach, he wasnt armed. He stood for a few seconds, motionless, and then suddenly, a swat officer perched on a roof from 100 yards away pulled the trigger on his AR killing the man and endangering the leading ring of officers, who by the way were in much better position to perceive any threat. Whether he mistook a motion by the man as reaching, or if his finger just slipped, it was still a mistake. Someone died because of this mans slip up and he should be held accountable. At least for 3rd degree wreckless homicide. Under our system of laws, intent doesnt matter as much as outcome. Thats how it is for me and every other citizen. Even if I had no evil intent, if my mistake leads to someone losing their life I will be held responsible.

    These are just two small examples. Unfortunately events like this will happen dozens of times this coming year, and no one will be held accountable. This is a problem. If we can address this problem, and make clear to officers that they will be held accountable for serious mistakes, our country would be a lot safer, people would respect law enforcement more and there would be way less irrational fear and paranoia of police.

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    1. I'm sorry but you are completely and utterly wrong. Peace officers ARE held accountable in multiple ways no other profession is. Let me explain:

      Firstly, we are held accountable to agency policies and procedures. It is entirely possible to perform an action which breaks no law, doesn't violate anyone's civil rights and still be fired or punished for it because the peace officer violated a policy or procedure.

      Secondly, we are accountable under state AND local law for any violations of same.

      Thirdly, even if I don't violate state or local laws, I can be charged under Federal law. Or even if charged under state law, I can also be charged under Federal law. Many Federal laws that have no applicability to regular citizens apply to peace officers for example, Joe citizen can't be charged with violating someone's civil rights because you have no responsibility to respect anyone's civil rights.

      Fourthly, I can be sued civilly in state court for my actions.

      Fifth, I can be sued in Federal court for my actions.

      Sixth, I can be brought before my state licensing board for peace officers and lose my certification to be a peace officer if they decide that even if I didn't violate any policies or procedures, didn't violate anyone's civil rights, didn't break any state, local or Federal laws, I still did something the board deems to be incompatible with the ethics, honesty and responsibilities of a peace officer. How's that for accountability???

      Anyone of these penalties has the potential to utterly destroy my life, my ability to earn a living, to work in the profession I have dedicated the last 9 years of my life to and render me unable to support my family or spend the rest of my life in jail. Name me one other profession that has the above potential consequences for simply doing my job and I'll concede your post has validity.

      Many well meaning citizens *think* they know what cops do or don't or how stressful the job is or, like you, simply don't have a clue how many ways peace officers ARE "held accountable" every day. We appreciate the support but by the phrases you use, you clearly don't understand why the Supreme Court used the metric of a "reasonable officer" in determining if our actions are acceptable or not. You and the general population simply have no concept of the specifics of our jobs; you lack the training, the experience, and the knowledge to understand what it is we do for living. That's not your fault or a bad thing; I wish I could unsee many of the things I have seen or maintain eye contact with my wife while eating instead of scanning the room looking for potential threats. The world I and other peace officers live in is nothing like yours; while you sleep, we keep you safe by hunting those who intend you harm. We have seen unspeakable things that humans do to other humans on a repeated basis and still try to remain sane. We absolutely have to treat everyone we meet as potential threats to our lives, not because of the threat we personally present to someone but simply because of what we represent. It is extremely rare that a peace officer is murdered by someone they personally know as a result of the interaction but that is the reason most citizens are murdered. See the difference?

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  9. "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

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  10. Police work has changed from the day I was serving but the crimes are also not the same. Today it is the normal to hear about shootings both in schools and on the street while you are shopping. So also is the training for Police Officers changed all have to wear vest to protect themselves on every call and be put on camera every step of the way ever day at work. My hats off to the new breed of Police Officers that work today. May God bless each and every one of you. If you need help and I am near I will be there to help you. Larry Collins

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  11. China Mom what do you think a warrior is??? A Warrior is a protector of everyone except the wolf. A warrior protects its people from the evil that walks the earth. You have a very skewed view obviously by someone who has never walked the beat. A warrior is someone who when faced with a life and death situation (their own life) chooses death to protect the flock from the wolf...You need to learn what a Warrior truly is....A warrior is a mother and a father, a lover and compassionate person who listens and processes the situation with compassion but is still willing to do their job. A warrior looks out for everyone but runs to the sound of gun fire to subdue the evil that will always walk this earth...China Mom you are way off base with your thought process stop trying to play word games and support those willing to lay their life on the line for the good of this earth...

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  12. Very well said, my thoughts on first reading was similar to China Mom in that "the Sheepdog" was left out. When I finished I realized that he was included in your analysis of when it's done right all the way through. Most people will never know, hopefully, what it's like to look at every human to see if it's a real sheep or if it's a wolf. Keep the faith and keep forging words to the benefit of the thin blue line....

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  13. Amazingly well written, I served 15 years, and left the profession 5 years ago. Not because my heart wasn't there, not because I got in trouble, I just didn't know how to be all the public and courts wanted and it weighed on me. My passion for justice didn't correspond with theirs, and my soul grew tired. I'm grateful for messages like this, my heart is still with my Blue friends. Always praying for all officers!

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  14. Reality is never cut and dry, variety is human nature. We can as a race only seek to do the right thing at the right time. Coming from a long line of militaryincluding myself and now my Son I know in my heart He will always seek the correct answer foe each situation. I pray that all our public servants will remain safe and make it home to their loved ones

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  15. Thank you for writing this. I find it hard to explain how we feel when people want everything from us.

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