Healing the Rift Between Police and the Public

09Sep14

I recently wrote an essay about the Michael Brown shooting (https://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/08/24/a-dose-of-reality-for-ferguson-missouri/comment-page-4/). In the essay I debunked some of the most commonly used arguments to “prove” the shooting was unjustified (i.e., “Shooting an unarmed person is always wrong”). Not surprisingly, many readers took my essay to mean I’m part of the “blue wall”, and that I’ll back up a cop no matter what he does. That’s not the case.

If a cop is guilty, he’s guilty. During my career I’ve known three officers who were charged with committing rape while on duty. Two of them went to prison, because they deserved it. I didn’t hear anyone defend them. Every cop I know hates a rapist, especially one wearing a badge. I’ve known other officers who went down in flames for other crimes, because they should have.

So I’m not always on a cop’s side. Law enforcement isn’t a gang. Loyalty doesn’t override principle.

Now that I’ve shown where I stand, I’ll point out that my essay wasn’t about law enforcement’s many problems, or racial bias in society, or how to fix everything that’s wrong with everything. The essay was intentionally very limited in scope; all I did was address misconceptions many people have about violence and lethal force encounters. I avoided the other issues because I’m no sociology professor. I’m just a cop, soldier and community college non-graduate.

However, a few readers asked me to comment on the larger issues, because they thought my perspective was important. So I’m going to address three ways I think we cops can get the public back on our side.

And let’s face it, we police are losing more and more public support with every high-profile incident like we just had in Missouri. Parts of the public have never trusted police and never will, but we’re also losing support from traditional allies like the military. When a retired Marine officer says we’re the standing army the founding fathers warned everyone about, we have a serious problem. And it’s a problem we created.

It should go without saying that every opinion I write is mine and mine alone. I don’t speak for my department, and won’t even publicly acknowledge which department I work for. I don’t represent the military either. I’m just speaking my opinion, based on two decades as a cop.

Method 1: Lose the military gear

Even though I’m a minority and police allegedly want to murder me because of my skin tone, for some odd reason I’ve never been afraid of a police officer in America. And in another strange twist, neither I nor any of my dark-skinned friends or family members have ever been shot by a cop. I grew up lower middle class, obviously Hispanic, but never felt oppressed.

But I was scared of cops once. In another country. During a war.

In 2001, while I was working as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo, I had to stay overnight in neighboring Macedonia to catch a flight early the next morning. Macedonia was at that time embroiled in a civil war between the Slavic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The Macedonian military and police were run by Slavs, and they believed Americans were backing their Albanian enemies. Despite the war, borders were open and the capital’s airport was still running. One of my Albanian translators in Kosovo lived in Macedonia and invited me to stay with his family before the flight.

I had a very nice dinner with his family. Then the translator, his brother and I walked to the town square. Before we left the house they warned me: “If we get stopped by the police, don’t talk. Most of the police are drunk, and they hate Americans. You look Albanian, so if you don’t talk they won’t know.”

The town square was nearly empty because of recent fighting. We only spent a short time there before heading back. And as we walked back through a darkened neighborhood, we turned a corner and ran right into the police.

There were maybe four or five of them. The “police officers”, if you could call them that, looked exactly like soldiers. They were dressed in camouflage fatigues and black combat boots, wore chest rigs and carried AK-47s. They were closer to a fire team than a police patrol.

When they saw us they almost stopped, and glared hard at us. My heart rate quickened. One officer in particular, a small dark guy, focused on me. Crap, I thought, and looked away. I was unarmed, had no idea where exactly I was and had no realistic expectation of either fighting or escaping. If one of those guys decided it would be fun to throw an American in jail, into jail I’d go. And jails in semi-third world, former communist countries aren’t known for being pleasant.

My Albanian hosts gave the officers a friendly greeting in Serbo-Croatian. The officers mumbled back a reply. We turned toward the house, which actually put us in front of the police. I didn’t look back, but I expected to hear “Stop!” in Serbian any second. My friends whispered, “Just act like everything’s normal. I don’t think they figured out you’re American.” Eventually, several minutes later, one of them looked behind us. The coast was clear.

I relaxed, but it had been an odd feeling. I had never been scared of a cop before. I guess when police are geared up like soldiers in a war, and look like they hate you, they can be intimidating.

Anyone else ever seen a cop wearing so much military gear you literally couldn’t tell whether he was a cop or soldier?

Police officer at a demonstration in Anaheim, California

Police officer at a demonstration in Anaheim, California

I’ve been a Marine and Soldier longer than I’ve been a cop, and I served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I understand that military gear can be useful to cops. If some wacko with an AK is dumping rounds out his bedroom window, I want an MRAP there. If ISIS is attacking a school, I want SWAT teams to be fully geared out like I was overseas. Other than those extreme situations, why do we need to look and act military?

This is a fine line. We soldiers have learned a lot of hard lessons in the past 13 years of war, and anything we learn that can help make police safer, which then makes the public safer, is a good thing. But there has to be a balance. Yes, officers should carry tourniquets and pressure bandages, because those items save lives. No, officers don’t need to wear desert boots or camouflage uniforms on the street. And good God, someone please explain to me why a cop on duty in America would ever need to wear a shamagh (Arab head scarf).

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Do desert boots, camo and shamaghs make us safer or help us do our jobs? No, but they do accomplish two other things: making us look like wannabe soldiers, and gradually eroding public respect for police. The cool gear some of us wear isn’t worth the bad feelings it generates.

People get why we cops do what we do. Most of them respect what we do. But they don’t respect us if we look like we’re trying to be someone else. A cop in all camo with desert boots, a shamagh, chest rig and carbine looks like he’s trying to be a soldier instead of a cop.

Americans don’t want soldiers patrolling the streets looking for combat. They want officers there to help people who need help and keep the community safe. They understand we need to fight sometimes, they understand we need to shoot sometimes. But they don’t want us all geared out unless the crap hits the fan. And that’s not unreasonable.

Yes, the EOTech is mounted backwards on the officer's carbine. That's not exactly confidence-inspiring.

Yes, the EOTech is mounted backwards on the officer’s carbine. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.

We’re not at war here in America. We don’t need to look (or act) like those “cops” I encountered in Macedonia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any military-type gear; on patrol I carried a carbine, plate carrier and helmet in my trunk for special occasions, and I broke it out several times. We should put that gear on when circumstances demand it. But we shouldn’t break it out simply because circumstances “permit” it.

Method 2: Cameras. Lotsa cameras.

Many cops don’t like having cameras in their car or on their body. I understand why. Even in cases where we do everything right, police work can still be ugly. There is no nice, gentle, eye-pleasing way to take down a violent suspect. And the language of the street ain’t too pretty either. Cops are human, and there are cases (lots of cases) where we use bad language during a high-stress incident. Some police actions just look bad on video, no matter how right we might be. And it’s a bit unreasonable for someone to watch a video of a violent struggle between a cop and criminal and say, “Just because that PCP addict attacked an officer with a tire iron, there’s no reason for the officer to curse. The officer should have called him ‘sir’.”

Video doesn’t always tell the whole story, either. An officer in the middle of a critical incident may miss something that’s readily apparent on video. There are good reasons for this: an officer may have been stunned by a blow, or had a brief visual obstruction, or may be suffering from physiological responses to stress such as tunnel vision. People watching video of an event might say, “Why didn’t the officer see that? It’s totally obvious!” And maybe it is obvious – to the camera. To the guy fighting for his life, it may not have been.

I hate comparing any real-life activity to sports, but consider how often players, refs and fans see something in an instant replay that they missed during the actual play. If someone never played sports and only watched instant replays, “what should have been done” might seem real obvious. It’s not so obvious to the guy playing the game. Video doesn’t capture everything, and even when it does it may not show what the officer saw.

Here’s an interesting example. A dash cam captured part of a fight between an officer and suspect, but didn’t capture the suspect hitting the officer. If the officer hadn’t been wearing a body camera, he would have been stuck trying to convince the public that he was assaulted.

Without question, video has its limitations. But even if it doesn’t tell the whole story, it still provides the public with critical information.

Consider this shooting, which superficially compares to the Ferguson shooting. An unarmed black male was killed by a white police officer. The officer claimed he was attacked and had no choice but to shoot. Without video, and absent any significant injuries, that officer would be hard-pressed to explain why a grown man with a Taser and maybe baton and pepper spray couldn’t defend himself against one unarmed guy.

The video shows just how big and aggressive that suspect was. It clearly shows the officer did not provoke the fight. It shows his Taser fail. It shows the first punch that floored him. In short, it removes the “he said/she said” atmosphere swirling around the Ferguson shooting.

Here’s another one. Officers kill a suspect trying to stab his girlfriend.

Two major points from this incident: officers accidentally shot the girlfriend in the arm when they killed her boyfriend, and the girlfriend says repeatedly “Y’all didn’t have to do that.” In many domestic violence cases, the victim will claim she wasn’t in any danger and the officers didn’t have to take the action they did. This woman insisted the officers didn’t have to shoot; however, in the video (at around 00:57) we see the suspect trying so hard to stab her that the knife blade actually bends from the downward pressure.

The officers were obviously justified. The video proves it. But imagine how it would have been reported without that video.

“White officers shoot black woman while allegedly trying to save her from her black boyfriend. ‘They didn’t even have to shoot him,’ woman says. ‘He wasn’t really trying to hurt me.’”

Cameras may not be perfect, but they give us a better option than expecting everyone to believe us just because we’re cops. The public doesn’t give us that much benefit of the doubt anymore. But if we all have car and body cameras, and the public hears us testify to facts that are backed up by video, we’ll start getting that benefit of the doubt when there is no video. We cops should start demanding that our departments provide cameras. They’ll save a lot of officers who might otherwise be going through the same thing Darren Wilson is.

Method 3: End the Drug War (or at least legalize marijuana)

Many years ago I responded to a robbery call. A local teenager tried to rob a business owner at an ATM. The business owner knew who the teenager was, because he was a frequent customer. He gave me the name, I found an address in our system. Another officer and I went to the suspect’s house and knocked on the door.

A red-eyed man in his 30’s answered. The smell of marijuana flowed from the house. The man’s eyes widened when he realized we were cops. He yanked his head back into the house and almost slammed the door, but left it open just enough for me to see about half his face.

I asked, “Does John Smith live here?”

“Yeah he lives here. Why you asking?”

“Are you his father?”

“Yeah I’m his father!” the man blurted. “But he ain’t here!”

“Do you mind if we come in and check?”

“Why do you need to do that?” the man defensively asked. “I just told you he ain’t here!”

The man was nervous as hell. “Sir, your son is a suspect in a robbery,” I said, in as calm a voice as possible. “All I need to do is confirm he’s not inside. I don’t care about the marijuana.”

As soon as I said “I don’t care about the marijuana,” the man’s expression changed. The tension seemed to drain from his face. He relaxed, exhaled deeply, and opened the door.

“He’s not here, officer. I haven’t seen him for hours. Come on in.”

And just like that, an uncooperative family member became cooperative. He led us through the house, showed us his son’s room, gave us information about where his son might be, and thanked us as we left. He knew his son was a bad kid, and didn’t begrudge us for trying to catch him. He just didn’t want to be jacked with for smoking marijuana by himself in his own house. And I didn’t blame him.

Obviously, not every pot smoker will suddenly become pro-police if we ignore their marijuana use. But there are many people who smoke marijuana but aren’t criminals. They don’t get angry at us for arresting robbers, rapists and murderers, but they do get angry at us for throwing people in jail over the functional equivalent of drinking a few beers.

The Drug War, in addition to being unwinnable, has gained us more enemies than anything else over the last half-century. We’ve gained all these enemies because we cops have embraced drug enforcement and all the tactics that go with it. Every time we dig around someone’s groin for drugs, or breach a door for a no-knock warrant against a marijuana grower, or throw a flash-bang into a toddler’s crib during a raid, we turn more and more people against us. The excesses committed in our crusade to eradicate drugs have been so egregious, we’ve actually seen a grand jury in law-and-order Texas refuse to indict a marijuana dealer who killed a cop raiding his house. That grand jury, and much of America, decided drug use may be bad, but kicking in people’s doors to stop drug use is worse.

In most cops’ minds, “anyone involved with drugs” equals “bad guy”. I used to feel that way myself. And granted, a lot of drug users and dealers really are bad guys. But when we arrest for simple possession, we’re not discriminating between peaceful users and actual criminal thugs who happen to use or sell drugs. We don’t need to treat the kid smoking a joint in his apartment the same as the Mexican Mafia murderer who makes his living selling tons of weed and killing rival dealers.

For years I’ve heard drug users say, “Aw man, I ain’t hurtin’ nobody,” when we arrest them. For years, I’ve heard cops jokingly say, “Aw man, he ain’t hurtin’ nobody,” when they’re making fun of someone under arrest for drugs. I’ve said it myself. But now I realize a lot of them actually weren’t hurting anyone, and arresting them literally did nothing to protect the public. All we did was further overload the criminal justice system, create years of problems for people who weren’t criminals, and convince ourselves we had somehow accomplished something positive for society. And at the end of the shift many of us went home and had a beer, even though all cops know alcohol causes the same problems we accuse illegal drugs of causing.

Many cops will have a knee-jerk reaction against everything I just said. They’ll say, “We can’t legalize any drugs, not even marijuana! We don’t want people driving stoned!” or “Would you want your kid smoking weed?” Well, we don’t want people driving drunk either, but alcohol is legal. I don’t want my kids to drink at all (I don’t and never have), but it’s legal. In fact, whenever cops object to legalizing marijuana by saying “But marijuana is bad because (insert bad thing here)!” they should just switch out “marijuana” with “alcohol” and repeat the statement.

Of course, we cops can’t end the drug war on our own. But we can oppose it at the voting booth and make our feelings known, and we sure as heck don’t have to be enthusiastic about drug enforcement. A lot of cops already have shown their support for legalization in a survey conducted by PoliceOne, a law enforcement web site. 44% of officers surveyed were either pro-legalization or receptive to the idea.

http://www.policeone.com/chiefs-sheriffs/articles/4835061-Legalizing-marijuana-Police-officers-speak-out/

Guys, imagine an America where cops wear regular uniforms with body cameras and don’t jack with people for smoking a joint. Imagine how we’d be viewed if we’d only arrest bad guys for hurting others, instead of throwing people in jail for the type of cigarette they smoke. I think we’d get tons of support if the public knew our only job was to help victims and arrest the people who victimized them.

Maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe all the ideas I have are off base and would lead to national disaster. Maybe. But I think it would be worth a shot to try them out anyway. Because what we’re doing now sure as hell isn’t working.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com, Iron Mike magazine and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Line-Valley-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B00HW1MA2G/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=09XSSHABSWPC3FM8K6P4
http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Our-Resolve-Chris-Hernandez-ebook/dp/B0099XMR1E/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=0S6AGHBTJZ6JH99D56X7

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70 Responses to “Healing the Rift Between Police and the Public”

  1. From your lips to God’s ears.
    May your tribe increase.

    First, I want a lot more of Reed and Malloy on the beat, and a lot less of Officer Tackleberry or Lieutenant Howard Hunter. Let alone Rambonehead.

    Second, the battle right now is about perceptions, and when the YouTube videos are 5000 citizens showing an officer screwing up, to every one dash cam or body cam showing why an action was justified, the profession is losing that war in a walkaway. Even if the day-to-day tally is just the opposite.

    And third, too many on patrol and in command are still operating mentally, and in real time, under the impression that everything they do is right, and they shouldn’t be questioned, even when what they’re doing isn’t right, and should be questioned so hard it leaves a mark on a career. So “suddenly” (it’s been about 25 years since Rodney King), as technology has exposed them to a level of unaccustomed, pervasive, and constant scrutiny, the reflex is a default to “Because it’s my job to tell you what to do”, rather than “Because my job is to enforce the law, and policy and common sense demands we do that by doing X, and here’s dashcam and bodycam video from five directions showing us doing X beyond any shadow of doubt.”
    Mom or Dad could get away with “because I say so” when I was a kid under their roof.
    Officer Friendly, not so much.

    When people get used to seeing police officers almost always getting it right instead of every fresh exposure being another “Look how badly they clowned it up this time, and here’s their body count” moment, it will begin to swing the support meter back to a much better place for everyone.

    I want to be on the side of the police, not right or wrong, but because they’re on my side and everyone else’s, and play by the rules in the Bill of Rights.
    That hasn’t been the case in a lot of instances, and it’s long past time to address it, and fix it.

    We all know there are bad people out there who’ll hurt us, and need to be stopped. They should never be the ones wearing the badge.

    • 2 Patrick Aherne

      Reid and Malloy were a TV show. They never existed. Neither did Mayberry, RFD. Rambo and Tackleberry were fictional characters, also. I am glad you took your “knowledge” of policing from Hollywood.

      I’d like citizens to be knowledgable about their civic duty and understand their responsibilities in a representative republic. Who am I kidding? That’s about as likely to occur as me encountering John Rambo…

      • I take some of my points from popular culture, because they’re a shorthand most intelligent people can latch onto mentally and follow immediately, without requiring a doctoral dissertation-length post of backstory explanation, or reverting to using single-syllable words with lots of pictures.
        In most cases.

        John Wayne movies are popular culture too. So is Spartacus, Star Wars, the Rambo movies, and Saving Private Ryan, and like hundreds of movies, thousands of plays, and millions of books, they all refer, through fiction, to timeless human truths that people have responded to going back to Greek poets. (In case your education was light on the classics, that would be several thousand years ago.)

        Given that you’re on the blog of a guy who self-identifies as author, reference to or recourse to using such a basic concept of communication shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

        That you could correctly identify each of the items as fiction proves that you have no problem with following the concept, or the substance of what I wrote, so you just want to quibble about style. (Or, just to be fair to all the psychological possibilities, that you have an inability to think abstractly generally indicative of psychosis, but it’d be hard to say based on just one response. I’m certainly not suggesting it.) At any rate, as you’re not an English professor and I’m not your student, it’s both obnoxious and presumptive to attempt such a critique, and indicates a total dearth of basic manners. Even on the internet.

        At the risk of confusing you with another such obtuse cultural reference, I’m sincerely sorry if all that interfered with a binge-marathon of Dumb and Dumber.

        But for your information, the reason you won’t encounter John Rambo isn’t because he’s pure fiction; it’s because he was a real person, and his name is carved into the Vietnam Memorial Wall:

        http://www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces/42235/ARTHUR-J-RAMBO

        But of course, when you pulled your example out of…wherever… you knew that too, right?

        • @aesop: That, sir, was beautiful. Ignoring it would, no doubt, have been better. But elegant nonetheless.

          • 5 Innocent Bystander

            If you ignore a bully, he keeps bullying. When you stand up to them, they back down (except when they are hiding behind a badge that is). Well done Sir. By attacking your examples he was trying to undermine your point thus negating your very well put thoughts.

  2. 6 SPEMack

    I get having an MRAP sitting in the back of the police lot just in case. And I certainly understand having a good plate carrier in the trunk of the cruiser. And I think every officer should have their preference of carbine clipped to the dash.

    But you can’t sell me on cops wearing ACUs.

    Or the value of the no-knock.

    Good write up, Chris.

    • 7 boatguy

      I can see the value of a no-knock, but I think it is exceedingly overused. ACUs? There is no reason in my mind for cops to be wearing military uniforms. OD green/black/blue are borderline, but I get the functionality of the uniform itself for a SWAT/SO team. Wearing ACU/Multi-Cam/digi-cam, that is just another group of guys wanting to look cool in my opinion.

  3. 8 Wraith

    This would make a huge, huge difference for the better in cop/citizen relations. I would suggest a Point 4:

    Get rid of the thugs. It seems that every day, we’re treated to another story about a cop verbally and/or physically abusing citizens without the slightest justification, stealing from the public under unConstitutional “asset forfeiture” laws, or blowing away some little old lady’s toothless Pomeranian claiming he was “in fear for his safety.”

    Let’s not yank each others’ chains–there are cops out there who are thugs with badges, no better than the scum they’re supposed to be protecting us from. These cops are not, in my experience, the majority, and hopefully it will stay that way. But, as far as I and a growing number of other people are concerned, if the real peace officers aren’t doing everything in their power to remove an abusive thug from their department, then they’re accessories to his outrages, and are seen as just as guilty. Just as all bikers and truckers are tarnished by the actions of a few lowlives, so will any group be, including police officers.

    I want to know, when the cops show up, that they’re here to help. I want to trust them. I have yet to develop the All Cops Are Bastards mindset, even after experiencing police brutality and ugly attitudes at times. But with the trend seeming to drift away from Peace Officer and towards Occupying Soldier, I fear that the image of ‘Officer Friendly’ is becoming damaged beyond repair. I hope I’m wrong. I want to be wrong. And I certainly hope your suggestions are implemented nationwide. They would do much to bridge a divide that no free, civilized country should ever have in the first place.

    God bless you.

  4. 9 Joshua_D

    Excellent article. I agree with pretty much everything you’ve written. One thing that I would add is that cops and all law enforcement should be held to, and should hold themselves to, a higher standard of conduct than the Public. Many times they don’t, and that’s why people get frustrated. Law enforcement are tasked with upholding the law and are basically given a monopoly on the use of force, and as such, law enforcement officers must do everything they can, at all times, from now on, to be above reproach. Law enforcement are public servants, after all, and trusted with extreme amounts of authority. Again, very good article, keep spreading the word.

  5. 10 fknauss

    I think this article is a great balance to the other one – thanks for writing it.

    Do you have any thoughts on how asset forfeiture has changed how LE prosecutes the war on drugs? It strikes me that what was intended as a disincentive for criminals has turned into a horrible temptation for those on the side of the law.

    • It certainly can be a horrible temptation for LE, especially if the agency seizing the asset is the same one that winds up in possession of it. I haven’t seen much of that in my career, and have never seen it abused (I think I was on one arrest that turned into an asset forfeiture). But I agree with you in principle, it seems like an easily-abused authority.

  6. 12 Scot M

    Great write-up Chris. Refreshing to hear an LEO say that about legalization of weed. I don’t use it, but I know plenty about what you said about the petty charges being a drain on our economy, and agree it shouldn’t be as illegal as say heroin.

    As to the militarization of police, I’m fortunate enough to live in a very rural area where I don’t think there’s even a SWAT team! All three LE agencies in my town are the epitome of the cops you describe as the way they should be. Upstanding officers, that don’t take their authority as a blank check to do what they want, or strong-arm anyone.

    In fact, the one case I’ve heard of where a sheriff officer unjustly drew his weapon on a driver that he stopped for going 5 over the speed limit, is now a courier for the dept! Talk about a demotion!

    Keep up the awesome articles man, I hope they get spread far and wide.

    • Thanks Scot. Just to clarify, I do think there’s a need for SWAT and some military gear. I just think it gets pulled out far too often. Most cops would like to be Andy Griffith, but circumstances don’t always permit the Officer Friendly method.

      • 14 Scot M

        Oh I understand, I definitely see the need for a tactical team as well. I was just making an example of how small our town is!

        On another note, in regards to a comment below, I’d be interested to hear more about you not “buying into the sheepdog idea”. I understand that some people seriously take it too far, but there’s definitely a line between the people that have no clue about everyday dangers, ASP, situational awareness, etc. And some of those that DO know about it, choose to put their heads in the sand and think “oh that could never happen to me/in my neighborhood. Or, the police are enough to handle every bad guy I might ever have to worry about.

        As opposed to those of us who know about the dangers in life, and choose to be prepared to protect ourselves and those that aren’t able to.

        Just a thought for future discussion.

  7. Stop shooting dogs.

    • 16 Mike

      I’m with everything Chris wrote. However I have to disagree with you Robert. People love dogs. I love dogs. I get it. But if you get charged by an aggressive dog, an officer shoudn’t have to accept getting bit.

      • Mike,

        Thanks for that. I’ve never shot a dog, but I came close. I’ve worked areas where owning a pit bull or “Rockwilder” was a status symbol for gang members. It was common to see dogs in backyards dragging a heavy weight like a truck rim attached to a heavy chain. In one town I worked we had a rash of dog disappearances; small dogs were apparently being stolen from backyards. We never found the thieves, but we did hear that local scumbags were letting their fighting dogs kill the small dogs for practice. Again, we never confirmed it, but I think that’s what was happening.

        I’ve drawn on a couple of dogs. One was a very large Rottweiler that turned out to be very friendly. Another incident, I knocked on a door and a dog came flying around the corner of the house barking like he wanted to kill me. By the time I put my hand on my pistol the dog was flying through the air at face level. Then he hit the end of his chain, flipped over and fell. Scared the scrap out of me. Another one, I got into a fight with an assault suspect and he broke free and ran. When I started chasing him I heard barking behind me. The suspect yelled “Sic him! Get him!” I spun around and a big Rot was after me. I stopped and drew, and pointed my flashlight in the dog’s face. The dog stopped and had a “Hold on, let’s talk about this” expression on his face. And the suspect’s girlfriend ran up and grabbed the dog, and yelled “Don’t shoot!”

        So I’ve never shot a dog, but I understand that sometimes officers are completely justified in shooting one.

      • 18 Allen

        How do meter readers/usps/ups/pizza delivery guys, do there jobs?
        They must be getting massacred out there! Or are they shooting dogs, left and right? It’s a mystery.

        • 19 Patrick Aherne

          Simple, they can walk away, or not make the delivery. When police respond to a burglar alarm, we can’t say, “Oopps, there’s a big pile of dog turds in the front yard, I might have to shoot a dog, 10-8, back in service.” I’ve worked in a suburban LE agency for over 21 years and never shot a dog. I’ve come close, twice. Out of the 50 cops I’ve worked with in that time, only one has shot a dog. A pitbull clamped onto his wrist while he was responding to a burglar alarm. Even after getting bitten, he still was excoriated in the local press and suffered a number of citizen complaints.

          Any cop that wants to shoot a dog shouldn’t be a cop. Every cop gets put into situations where they might have to shoot a dog, not by our choice.

    • Good point, I would just amend it to “Stop unnecessarily shooting dogs.

  8. 21 Goober

    First, awesome write up. Agree 100%.

    I’d add two things:

    1.) Stop the culture of protection and cover ups. If a cop is a bad cop, stop covering for him. Its way too common for american police officers the cover up for the bad behavior of their coworkers. Change the culture. Police everyone. There are no sheep or sheepdogs. Recognize that there are a lot of guys like me who only need the police because I don’t have qualified immunity like they do. I’m not a sheep. Your badge doesn’t make you better than me, or really special in any way (not you, chris, but the hypothetical cop reading this who be lives that sheepdog nonsense. )

    2.) Be polite. I get that you’re going to say bad words once the fight has started. But until then, ASK NICELY AND SAY PLEASE. Again, I think this springs from the sheepdog mentality. I’ve dealt with too many officers barking out orders, and I was tempted every time to tell him to go fuck himself.

    3.) Live by the same rules as everyone else. if I don’t get to talk on my cell phone while I’m driving you sure as hell shouldn’t be typing on your laptop computer, talking on your radio, or cell phone and steering with your knees while driving ten over. Impractical? Sure. But only impractical for cops, right? The rest of us should pull over or risk a ticket because cops have special”fuckin around while driving” powers the rest of us don’t have. Right? If it’s impractical for the police, it’s impractical for everyone.

    • Goober,

      1) Agreed, nobody should cover for a criminal cop. By the way, I never bought into that sheepdog thing. 🙂

      2) Agreed again, there’s no reason to create hostility where none exists or is needed.

      3) This one’s a bit more complicated. In Texas there is no cell phone law, so it’s not a problem for officers or anyone else to talk and drive. Where it becomes complicated is with the use of our car computers. Unfortunately, with the number of officers on the street versus the number of radio channels we have, there’s no way a big agency can do everything by radio. Most communication is by car computer, if we tried to do all license plate checks/call for service checks/status checks on other officers/communication with other officers/calling out on traffic/communication with dispatch/etc. over the radio, we’d jam it up and nobody would be able to talk. And it’s not realistic to expect an officer to, for instance, see a car he suspects is stolen, read the plate, then pull over to run it and wait for the response. There are certain things we cops have to be able to do, like violate traffic laws while responding to emergency calls. Using the computer while driving is another one. That doesn’t mean we’re not responsible if we screw up while driving and typing, but it does mean it’s not feasible to not type and drive.

      • Throwing butts and cig packs out the window, however, is hard to justify as duty related.

      • I think maybe you aren’t picking up what I’m laying down.

        You just argued that it isn’t unsafe for police to drive distracted by phones and radios and laptops.

        But there’s no training to teach a guy how to properly drive distracted. If it’s unsafe for me to drive and talk on my phone, then it’s unsafe for you to, also.

        If it’s not unsafe for you to do so, then it is likewise for me.

        You say it’s about convenience and practicality, as if those two things only matter to police. Everybody else? Inconvenient and impractical for the muggles, amirite?

        Stop thinking you’re above the rules, or that you’re better than everyone else, or that something is only a problem if it’s inconvenient and impractical to police.

        Some of us have jobs and duties and schedules just as important asyours, hard as that may be to belive, and as long as I’m not driving dangerously, why is it so much more convenient and practical for me to pull off the highway to take a call?

        It isn’t. It’s a stupid rule designed to cater to the lowest common denominator, and assumes that everyone not imbued with magical badge powers is a drooling moron incapable of accomplishing two semi-complex tasks at once, while simultaneously trumpeting about how police are better than us.

        If someone is driving dangerously due to distraction it should be easy enough to remedy that without banning all people, ever (exception to the really special people) from doing anything else while driving.

        • You’re projecting thoughts onto me that I never even suggested in my writing.

          “You just argued that it isn’t unsafe for police to drive distracted by phones and radios and laptops. But there’s no training to teach a guy how to properly drive distracted. If it’s unsafe for me to drive and talk on my phone, then it’s unsafe for you to, also.”

          No I didn’t. I said there’s no realistic way for officers to communicate (at least in a big agency) other than primarily by mobile computer, secondarily by radio. Radio networks can’t handle all the radio traffic, license plate checks, warrant checks, DL checks, beat call status checks, call slips, BOLOs and other types of information generated by patrol officers. That doesn’t mean it’s safe for us to type and drive, it means there’s no other way to do it. Just as when we’re driving lights and siren to a call; that’s not “safe”, but it’s a risky activity we have to undertake in order to respond to crimes in progress in a timely manner.

          “You say it’s about convenience and practicality, as if those two things only matter to police.”

          No I didn’t. Look at my comment. Nowhere did I use the words “convenience” or “practicality”. I used the term “not realistic”.

          “Everybody else? Inconvenient and impractical for the muggles, amirite?”

          Please point out anywhere in my writing where I’ve used any term synonymous with “muggles” or even suggested police officers’ concerns are more important than the public’s.

          “Stop thinking you’re above the rules, or that you’re better than everyone else, or that something is only a problem if it’s inconvenient and impractical to police.”

          Stop accusing me of saying things I clearly never said. I’d guess you believe all police think that way, and are projecting it onto me despite what I’ve very clearly written to the contrary.

          “Some of us have jobs and duties and schedules just as important as yours, hard as that may be to believe, and as long as I’m not driving dangerously, why is it so much more convenient and practical for me to pull off the highway to take a call?”

          Why are you talking as if 1) I’ve ever suggested my life as a cop is somehow more important than anyone else’s, or 2) I’ve argued that driving while talking on a cell phone should be illegal? Apparently you didn’t read my comment, where I clearly stated driving while talking isn’t illegal in Texas. I’ve never stopped anyone for driving while talking on a cell phone.

          “It isn’t.”

          I agree.

          “It’s a stupid rule designed to cater to the lowest common denominator, and assumes that everyone not imbued with magical badge powers is a drooling moron incapable of accomplishing two semi-complex tasks at once, while simultaneously trumpeting about how police are better than us.”

          Did the police where you live pass that law? If so, I guess you live in a different country. As far as I know, in America police don’t pass laws. But in response to the principle of this comment, I agree that it’s a stupid law. I don’t hear cops in Texas demanding we pass a “no cell phone use while driving” law.

          “If someone is driving dangerously due to distraction it should be easy enough to remedy that without banning all people, ever (exception to the really special people) from doing anything else while driving.”

          I agree. Who are you arguing with?

          • I think I was having a bad day when I wrote my last response. I could have made my point easily without sounding like such a dick. Sorry Chris.

          • No worries Goober, we all have those days and I didn’t take it personally. 🙂

    • 29 KHorn

      You left out the most important reform that will provide greater trust and transparency not only with police, but all government employees:

      4.) Eliminate all forms of official immunity, police, prosecuter, judge, IRS agent, all.

      Everyoned else lives with the negligence standard, is this how a reasonable, similarly qualified person would act in the same or similar circumstances, so why can’t government employees? And before someone gives me the usual excuse, yes plenty of civilians have to make split second life or death decisions too (from doctors in an emergency or roughnecks or construction workers faced with a sudden catastrophe), and they are expected to live up to a negligence standard. Most bad government decisions, just like most bad private decisions, are not made at such times but with plenty of time for careful deliberation. If everyone has skin in the game, suddenly life becomes more focused. If a judge knows she is liable for issuing a warrent that wasn’t properly supported with probable cause, my guess is we won’t see any more of those issued solely on the “testimony” of a single anonymous informant. If the cop knows he is personally liable for taking actions outside his authority, we won’t see many more of these camera phone grabs from people “interferring” with a scene when they are standing 10 yards away filming.
      And, I’ll admit my ulterior motive, it should lead to much needed reforms in our civil justice system. When legislators, judges and attornys general our subject to the same mess the rest of us are, I’m sure reform will become a top priority.

      • 30 Mike

        You have to be careful with this road. If you make it so a cop can be personally sued for a goodwill mistake made in the heat of a stressful moment, all you will end up with are timid cops that won’t get out of their cars.

        There has to be some acknowledgement of the difficulties and judgement calls an officer has to make on a daily basis.

        • 31 KHorn

          Which is why the standard is “in the same or similar circumstances.” It takes into account there is a difference between judgments made in the heat of a violent encounter and, say, sitting at a desk deciding which political activist groups to audit. Good faith is also considered when determining if someone is negligent. The problem with the current good faith standard applied to police is that it’s basically a get out of jail free card. Cases have allowed “good faith” mistakes for no knock raids on the wrong address. That should be inexcusable, and should not just lead to civil liability, but criminal, but instead the most likely outcome is no one punished at all.

        • Mike,

          I agree with that sentiment, but I have to point out that we can be sued for anything. As a lawyer told me once, “I can sue you for killing my cat. I don’t even own a cat.” A lawsuit is just a matter of filing the proper paperwork, and generally speaking, anyone can sue anyone for anything.

  9. 35 RandyGC

    Good write up Chris.

    The .mil attitude is unfortunately very institutionalized in some agencies. I attended a meeting at the local state patrol academy a while back and my thought was “these guys seem awful ate up for attending a school with no jump towers”.

    Another vote for asset forfeiture reform. If nothing else toss out the 17th century theory that property has no rights, is presumed “guilty” and therefore no due process is needed. If the owner of the property is convicted, then fine, size the tools of his crime (but maybe put the money in the general fund to further remove the inclination to abuse the system) if so sentenced by the trial judge.

    But if the suspect is acquitted, not charged or charges dropped, he gets any seized (legal) property back. Immediately and in the same condition as when it was seized. Dot. Period.

    in the case of jointly owned property, no seizure at all, it gets turned over to any other legal owner immediately. Do not pass go, do not have 35 forms in triplicate, do not wait for what a judge says. If the suspect does not have clear title to the property, it is not subject to asset forfeiture.

    • Randy,

      No arguments with your asset forfeiture ideas. Sending seized property to a general fund would remove a lot of the temptation fknauss mentioned earlier.

      • 37 John Balog

        Money is fungible. If the local copshop sends $Xmillion to the general fund, you can bet the chief of police or Sheriff will be getting a big bump in his budget based on that. Civil asset forfeiture is theft, plain and simple.

  10. 38 "Greg"

    Chris, you made a few comments comparing alcohol to some drugs, but nobody has yet mentioned that making alcohol illegal was actually tried once before! The more scholarly (yet uninformed) might want to google “prohibition” and the less scholarly can check out “The Untouchables” (with Kevin Costner & Sean Connery) for the hollywood version!

  11. 39 Redleg

    Great ideas that would go a long way towards rebuilding trust.

    While I’ve heard many cops say that cops were worse in past decades that was not my experience growing up. I always had good relations with the “Peace Officers” of my community in the 70s and 80s and they were pretty much all a credit to their vocation. starting in the late 90s while back on leave I had several interactions with “Law ENFORCEMENT Officers” that were decidedly negative due solely to the fact that Officers were dicks. I was a respectful and stract law and order Army guy with a pristine record. I was not cited, detained, nor arrested (and never have been) but they just chose to be assholes because…I have no idea. This was California (which explains a lot) and I had been gone for almost a decade…how things changed for the worse during that time. For me that was the beginning of my loss of respect for police.

    Early in my military service I would have risked my life to come to the aid of a police officer but the way they act here in Southern California today, the thought wouldn’t even cross my mind any longer which is sad. Most of my buddies who are patriotic gun owners, service members and veterans all feel the same these days…some real damage has definitely been done to traditional “law and order” Americans’ outlook towards the police, and it should probably be addressed sooner rather than later with the way things are headed in our country.

    In contrast another buddy lives in Wyoming and the deputies are all old school “Peace Officers” where he lives that treat everyone with respect. When I talk to him about the actions of the police in my AO he laughs and says that would never fly there because as sparsely populated as his area is, backup is usually 30 minutes away and frequently the only available backup is the citizen who carry’s open or concealed. He says one of the reasons they are treated so well by the deputies is because they don’t want to alienate the locals because some day that person may be the difference for them in surviving an engagement with the criminal element…makes perfect sense to me.

    Too bad the cops in California can’t see the logic in that.

    I’d sure be interested in your perspective on what caused the police in Southern California (or New York, Chicago, etc.) to become so much more authoritarian, abusive, and just plain dicks when compared to police in “red states.”

    • 40 Patrick Aherne

      People in California are dicks, that’s why. Everybody and their mother thinks they know how a particular cop should have handled every particular situation. If the cop gives a warning to one person, was it because of some racial, religious, ethnic, or national origin bias? You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. If a cop gives a basically good citizen who speeds an ass-chewing, instead of a citation, is he more likely to be rewarded for community policing, or is he more likely to receive a complaint? My agency has NO ticket quota and an officer can choose to issue a written warning that counts the same as a ticket when we compile stats. I know of one motor officer who issued a written warning and received a complaint because the lady felt he had no PC to stop her if he didn’t write her a ticket. Do you think he, or anyone else on his shift writes warnings anymore? Nope. Thanks, California folks for screwing it up for future guys who get pulled over.

      Police are a reflection of their community. I can’t speak to SoCal as I don’t live there, but in California, generally, it’s safer to make an arrest or cite than to choose an alternate method of changing folks behavior. It is that way because the citizens, through their representatives and the courts, have mandated it. The mirror can be a harsh instrument.

      • 41 Redleg

        Patrick, while you are correct about far too many Californians attitudes, that does not explain everything. Just because you personally may be the epitome of a “Peace Officer,” in my experience where I live, you are the exception, not the rule. Generally on my local PD the old guys (20+ years of service) are awesome, it’s the younger guys who are douche nozzles.

        Why is that? Because those older veteran officers were trained and mentored by those same police officers that I spoke highly of from the 70s and 80s. They were trained and mentored by police officers that still remembered what freedom in America was like and what a privilege it was to grow up in America. When I had a conversation about “Peace Officer” vs. “Law Enforcement Officer” with the Chief here, about officer discretion, and the duty of the older police NCOs to mentor the new guys in order to nullify this whole “respect my authoritah” mentality that is so prevalent with new academy grads these days (which was coming from an old school Army NCO who did more than his fair share of mentoring) you know what he said? He said “that [mentoring like I did as an Army NCO for two decades] takes a lot of time and energy and we don’t have the time.” WTF, over???

        I’ll give you a counter example to your speeder to illustrate the other side of the coin.

        An 80 something year old Korean War Combat Vet is pulled over here in town for no seat belt. Three patrol cars respond. The primary responding officer walks up with his hand on his gun like he’s just pulled over a local gang banger with two cars sitting there as backup for an old man who deserves our gratitude, not to be treated like a criminal over a stupid seat belt. In the typical way of “respect my authoritah” types he is issued his ticket and released. The police have just alienated another vet who was traditionally a law and order guy and who USED TO support the local PD except the alienation doesn’t stop there. The vet goes to the local VFW, Legion, Elks & Masonic Lodges that he is active in and tells everyone what jerks the local cops are and why…now even more loss of support and respect for the police from those who used to be big advocates. One negative incident can have a huge ripple effect among people in the community who now are pissed at how one of their own was treated for absolutely no reason which leads to even bigger issues as follows…

        The Local PD here are always complaining about pay and benefits and there are countless letters to the editor demanding more money with accompanying local sales tax increase bills to give more money to the local police. Over the last 3 elections (last 6 years) all three bills were rejected by the community! Gee, I wonder why? You think the local PD realized that their behavior led to defeat for these bills? Of course not, it’s those damn liberal Californians to the cops. Well I’m as far from liberal as one can get and it sure isn’t that. When they send 3 cars to respond to an old man not wearing a seat belt (and all the other out of control traffic stuff they do here to fleece the generally law abiding public with traffic infractions) yet they ignore the gangs which are the real problem they can expect the next three sales tax increases to fail too.

        I had a sit down with the local Chief of the PD here on this incident in particular and asked him whatever happened to officer discretion? I said if the officer would have given the old vet a warning and explained that a seat belt was for his own safety and why, how much the current fine is ($142+++) etc. and let him go on his way he would have made a friend. Instead he alienated a good American who deserved the benefit of the doubt. Instead the old disabled vet on a fixed income now has to choose between his medicine refill and paying the seat belt fine. This type of action is the norm here, not the exception.

        So you can complain all you want about asshole Californians, but your admonition to look in the mirror most definitely cuts both ways!

        • 42 Patrick Aherne

          Most cops would not do traffic enforcement if we were not required to. I only do stops to see who’s who in the zoo after dark, or in response to citizen complaints about speeding or stop sign running. If you don’t like the laws, call your representative or form a PAC, start an initiative, etc.

          How do you know, or more importantly, how does the cop know who is in that car and that he’s a good guy, prior to walking up to the car? He doesn’t and you don’t , either. I know, why don’t you make a list of folks it’s ok to cite, and those it’s not ok to cite. Do 80 year old vets get a pass? How about grandmas? How about grandmas of parolees? I’m not trying to be overly facetious, but la ley es la ley.

          If your community votes down public safety tax increases, good for you! It’s your right to do so. You wonder why you have so many new, “badge heavy” officers? It’s probably because you have a high turnover rate because skilled officers leave to go work at better paying departments where the citizens support them. Where I work, the citizens overwhelmingly support us in elections renewing our public safety tax. They pay us very well and we have excellent employee retention. Your city gets the police you deserve.

          In my experience, conservative communities are all about the free market, unless it comes down to paying folks what they’re worth. See San Jose, CA, the most conservative city in the SF Bay Area, for an example of how city government can ruin a police department. Their current academy class has 60 lots, with only 24-26 filled. Starting salary is around $65k. Everybody that can leave, does. Good job, Mayor Reed!

          This is a complicated issue that involves feelings, not logic.

          • 43 Redleg

            Yeah, I know, “the law is the law” and “I’m just doing my job” and “Don’t blame me, blame the politicians” and “you will submit/comply or else.” If you think three cops responding to a seat belt infraction in a rural Podunk town on the central coast is justified then you are part of the problem. Heaven forbid a cop might exercise some discretion and use a little compassion and common sense and tell the old man that seat belts save lives and send him on his way with a warning. I know, I know, we’re all a bunch of whiny ingrates who just don’t understand how trying things are for you. Besides “you can’t jeopardize the job and pension because of the wife/kid/house/RV.” I’ve heard it all before, your responses are typical of most California cops. I think you are doing a fine job of illustrating the points Chris was trying to make.

            If things continue business as usual, someday it isn’t going to turn out well for anyone as a result. When the people have finally had enough of the arrogance and unaccountability and they just don’t give a damn anymore, when they’ve decided to no longer allow you your monopoly of force you’re going to wish you would have treated us mundanes better.

            This Army Combat Arms NCO (and the vast majority of his buddies) wholeheartedly agree with the Marine officer, “Police have become the standing army that the founders warned us of.”

            I feel bad for the good guys like Chris stuck in the middle and I appreciate what he’s trying to do…I just hope that more wake up before it’s too late.

          • 44 BobF

            “I only do stops to see who’s who in the zoo after dark…” Interesting phrase for what used to be thought of as a public servant. Any pay raise or assumed trust not likely to be headed your way with that mindset, at least from me. But then I’m not in California.

          • How about citing the mayor?
            How about citing the chief of police?
            How about citing your Watch Commander’s wife?
            How about citing your mom?
            How about citing your teenage child?

            They bounce idiots who reflexively answer “yes” on writing tickets to those people out of the screening process for departments everywhere, under the perfectly reasonable assessment that they lack any common sense and judgment.

            So the law isn’t the law, obviously.
            Vehicle code violations are mainly infractions, and precisely why it’s left to your discretion whether you write a cite or not.

            That’s why people with other jobs, as equally important as yours, entrust the day-to-day enforcement of the details to you, not because you’re special, but because you’re a reasonably intelligent and well-intentioned substitute for Everyone, aided not just by the rulebook, but by command guidance, supervision, some basic fund of intelligence, a modicum of common sense, and the ability to synthesize all of that in the one square foot of real estate under your hat, rather than just hiring you for using your lizard brain six inches lower.

            Otherwise we could (and should) take away your ticket books permanently, rewrite a bit of law, and replace that part of your job function entirely with cameras. And then all those questionable searches and seizures would go away. But you also wouldn’t catch most felons or fugitives, because you couldn’t pull them over for broken tail lights and run them for warrants. And on and on. It would cripple your job, and by and large, we’d need twice the cops we have for report taking when crime exploded, but only half as many outside the police station. Most of you would be nothing but clerks, some would roll on hot calls, and a bare few with promise would become investigators.

            But let’s please not pretend this concept of using their heads is alien to law enforcement, unless you really want to have that discussion on all the merits. The reason it’s a topic at all is precisely because too many of your brethren get caught in zero-tolerance, no judgment, no common sense mode, and on camera.

            That’s cause for a little embarrassment, not a selling point, and application of some logic would hardly go amiss.

        • 46 Mike

          I’m sorry but if your complaint is that someone got a citation because they committed a traffic violation, you need to get better talking points. I’m pretty sure this 80 year old man knew that seat belts save lives and that seat belts mandatory.

      • “People in California are dicks”
        I can’t speak to SoCal as I don’t live there”
        “The mirror can be a harsh instrument.”

        Your own words.
        Distilled for clarity.
        Assembly optional.

        If you meet nothing but dicks all day, have you ever considered that the one thing common in every interaction is you?

        Take some vacay. This topic is way too close to home.

  12. 48 Streit

    Ending the unconditional war on Drugs, in my humble opinion, is the best bet long term. Losing the MilBro attitude shouldn’t even have to be mentioned.

    There are benefits beyond just law enforcement to “legalizing it”. There could be actual education on drugs and I’m fairly certain that that would in the long run decrease drug use. Currently when children are taught that “one syringe of marijuana will INSTANTLY TURN YOU INTO A GOLLUM LIKE MONSTROSITY OHMYCHEESE” they are worried. Then they see their stoner classmate smoke a joint and lo and behold nothing of the sort happens. Suddenly all prior education on drugs (even the far me reasonable “bathsalts are bad. Really.”) is suspect. Admittedly this is a somewhat naive view of the processes involved but misinformation on drugs is, in my opinion, not a good strategy. The effects of drugs are chilling enough even without exaggerating their effects and addictivness.

    Also half of all criminal enterprise seems to be funded by illegal drugs so there is that. Cutting off funding helps.

    However I always see a couple of problems with becoming too liberal with drugs. Number one is of course always minors. I don’t know what to do but honestly its probably safer if a pharmacist sells them than lil j in the backstreet. The pharmacist will ask for ID (I hope). Also draconic punishments for selling to them.

    Two, when chains like Walmart manage to push amphetamines into legal territory and then unofficial policy turns into: “Sure you dont have to take this speed. But you’re fired if you cant hack these 12 hour double shifts every other day.”

    (I realize you are not advocating the legalization of Meth. I think. Slippery slopes in Politics and all that)

    • Streit,

      I think you’re exactly right about the counterproductive results of our “reefer madness” type of drug education. Most kids aren’t stupid, and like you say, they’ll see people smoking pot and not spontaneously decapitating. And now the drug education has lost its credibility.

      About legalizing Meth, well…I pretty much think we should legalize everything, then come down HARD on anyone who commits a crime while under the influence of drugs, or who does it in order to get drugs. I kinda feel like, “Fry yourself with whatever drug you want. But if you start hurting other people because of it, you get slammed. No mercy and no sympathy.”

      • 50 Streit

        I used to have the same exact opinion on the full on legalization (being young my statements about the punishments may have been slightly more graphic). However if somebody bites off my face while high, the fact that he got really harsh sentencing does not really help me. My face is still off.

        Realistically speaking though i doubt legalizing all the things would increase the amount of drug use long term. Maybe even decrease it if taxes on drugs were used for easily affordable and good rehabilitation facilities. Its just that my humble belief is that wide far reaching laws should be implemented step by little step. The results of a changed laws are sweeping and difficult to anticipate, and as such going full on ahead with them irks me to a degree. This may be a utopian process though. Thanks for answering.

      • 51 John Balog

        I’d say eliminating the BS mala prohibitum laws, then harshly punishing people who actually harm others (regardless of whether or not they are under the influence of anything) would be a reasonable step.

        Of course, I also advocate the .gov providing as much pure lab grade cocaine, meth, and heroin (and clean needles) as someone wants free of charge, so long as they sign a DNR order and local medical centers are allowed to not treat them. No need to steal from others to feed the habit, and ODing makes it a self correcting problem.

  13. 52 Oscar

    Chris, you should be a policy maker.

    From what I’ve read I get the impression (maybe I’m wrong) that you’re not interested and much less eager to deal with the politics of it.

    But you have a lot of experience in law enforcement and in my opinion you’re really good at making sense of issues related to it and articulating the details that people (including law makers) aren’t exposed to and don’t necessarily understand. Obtaining that detailed (shared) knowledge would really help understand why things are the way they are. That detailed knowledge could generate huge change for the better.

    As always it’s a pleasure reading you.

    • Thanks Oscar. You figured me out though, I really have no interest in writing policy (or, I’m about as interested in writing policy as I am in having my fingernails pulled out with pliers). And really, NOBODY is going to ask me to write policy. I don’t have a degree and have never been a police supervisor. Maybe my writing will influence some chief somewhere, but I doubt I’ll ever be at the policy level before I retire.

      • 54 RandyGC

        One of the unfortunate problems with a representative republic is that the fact someone wants to write policy (or hold elective office) should immediately disqualify that person from doing the same.

        But the folks that should be doing those jobs are too intelligent, have too much common sense and a lack the ego and hunger for power to want those jobs.

        Case in point the post to which I reply.

        Don’t have an answer, not that smart. I’m just a little too libertarian in my thinking to support a draft of random citizens to place in the White House, House and Senate, but it would be entertaining while it lasted!

  14. And for the Chris Hernandez “I Told You So” Moment:

    LAPD is accused of being “Racisssssssss!” because a black woman was kissing a white man, and they arrested her for suspicion of prostitution.

    Cue “Racism! Nazi! Gestapo! Cops Out Of Control!!!”

    Except in less than a day, the audio recording documents that the police made no assumptions nor cast any aspersions, did their jobs circumspectly while the alleged “victim” was the one throwing out both an entire dealer’s shoe of Race cards, plus the Fame Card, and as of this morning, cellphone cam shots and eyewitness descriptions have pretty well documented that, in fact, Ms. Hysterical was publicly doinking her friend-boy in public, precisely as 911 callers alleged, and for long enough for the LAPD officers to finally arrive at such a low-priority call.

    “More cameras, lotsa cameras” indeed, and more microphones, and the LAPD has unofficially cleared all three accused officers in record time.

    And it looks like someone’s maybe about to become an ex-actress, if not an orange-suited county inmate. Two-fer.

  15. The War On Drugs is our biggest problem, bigger than any of our other problems, and it will be the hardest one to solve because too many respectable appearing people are making too much money off of the drug trade

  16. 57 Carls

    Great article, but the apologia using videos to show how hard a cop’s life can, though not always, be somehow rings false. Else why are so many cops fighting so hard to stop lawful legal rightful recording of their actions?

    Please review the multitude of cases profiled at Photography Is Not A Crime ( http://photographyisnotacrime.com ), which includes links to – and copies of – DoJ rulings and Supreme Court rulings which state photography IS not a crime and police do not have lawful authority to seize cameras, delete recordings, arrest citizens for not obeying their unlawful orders, and otherwise act like thugs and tyrants.

    Yes, I know not all cops are like that. It’s a cliche, I know, but some of my best and closest friends are cops. I was one myself in an earlier career. Yet those who enable the bad cops, by ignoring or covering their actions, are just as problematic, just as guilty.

    Overall, I agree with your point of view, but claiming job stress and the like as a rationale is not going to fly. Many others have stress equally as bad, or worse. Having to respond to violence, use deadly force, watch people die, and deal with horror is not a police-only experience. Immunity needs to go away, period, and personal and group and organizational responsibility needs to be the standard.

    At least, that’s how I feel now that I’ve retired for the third time. Having survived tis long, I still can’t recall even once when I resorted to, nor would have been successful at claiming “the (use of indiscriminate) force may me do it”.

  17. 59 Corey

    Came over here from Tam’s blog, have read a few other good articles here and figured I will throw in my never been a cop opinion. I agree with most of what you said Chris, but have a few other thoughts.

    On your first point, I think military gear is more of a symptom of the problem then the actual problem. The actual problem to me being attitude. I care less about what a cop is wearing than how he is acting.Two examples. In a third world country with serious drug war issues I was in a town where the local cops were wearing armor, helmets and balaclavas covering their faces, patrolling in groups and carrying M-16 rifles. They were also friendly and polite to the regular people in the area. When I asked them which areas I should avoid in looking for a place to it, I got several recommendations for restaurants in the area. While they were geared up for war, they still maintained an attitude that they were there to help the community and not be an occupying force. I will admit that it probably helped that we were in a nicer neighborhood and I spoke the local language fluently.

    Other end of the spectrum, in the U.S. I was once stopped for a minor traffic violation (I did it, no excuse) and ended up handcuffed, searched, and left in the back seat of a patrol car for over 2 hours because of a firearm being legally carried in the car. The cop had a serious attitude problem about it, sufficient that a supervisor finally showed up because he heard the officer make derogatory comments over the radio. After it was sorted out, I left with my ticket and the attitude that the cop was a jerk, but figured that was the end of it since the supervisor sorted it out. A few days later I got a call from the department. An officer from their internal affairs division was going over what had happened and had specific, detailed questions for me about the officers actions. Even down to the level of asking if the officer used any profanity with me. The end result was I may have thought that one officer was a jerk, but the department earned a lot respect from me because they made it clear that they did not want to be known for that type of attitude. It changed the situation from “XYZ police is a bunch of jerks” to “XYZ police does a good job policing their own.” That helps a lot when the press and professional protestors try to stir up trouble.

    On your second point, I agree 100%.

    Third point, I just don’t know. I think drugs have serious costs to society, but I also think the war on drugs has been a colossal failure. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it isn’t more of the same. I’m open to trying just about anything different at this point.

    • Corey,

      Sorry for the delayed response (I really wish I could respond to every single comment, but I’ve been slammed with life lately), but I wanted to thank you for sharing those stories. They were interesting, illuminating and well-told. And I agree with the principle behind each story: attitude is more important than appearance. Maybe the problem here is that too many officers think they have to act like “operators” when they have the operator gear on.

      And about drugs, I agree that drugs cause damage. I just think the drug war is causing more.

      Thanks again Corey, I hope you come back and comment more often.

  18. 61 Michael Best

    Maybe you can explain why the Ferguson cops were pointing guns at unarmed protestors? Without a reasonable belief that his life or someone else is threatened then the police officer is committing a crime.

  19. 63 John Balog

    Thanks for this, it’s an excellent perspective and I’ll be cross posting links.

    I think ultimately problems with the police are like any other political issue: a reflection of society. Cops are just average people, and they reflect their community. Which is why large departments that draw from shithole urban areas (Chicago, Philly, NY, NJ, New Orleans etc) tends to be full of abusive criminals in uniform. And why speed trap civil asset forfeiture departments exist: they prey on those traveling through and leave the locals alone, locals get a tax break as the local .gov gets funded through highway robbery etc.

    Ultimately, it’s an issue that society has to address. There is no top down political solution. This sort of thing will stop when the average person of the community wants it to, and not before.

  20. 64 Garrett

    There are two issues I’d like to bring up which I haven’t yet seen addressed above.

    1) Professionalism. I volunteer as an EMT in a white-bread wish-we-were-a-bedroom community. One of the types of calls I’m most likely to go on involves somebody with the sniffles discovering the joys of their first hangover. I frequently interact with the police as a part of calls. On occasion, members of the police on-scene are less than professional. Usually it involves a negative or aggressive attitude that they take with our patients. And yet, I am afraid to report this for fear that if I really need their help, I’ll be left out to dry in retribution.

    I’ve had a number of poor interactions with the suburban police force where I live. For example, I parked my car on a one-way street and later came out to find the exit blocked off by construction equipment. I went to ask a police officer standing nearby how I should go about leaving with my vehicle (I don’t recall this being covered in driver’s ed.) and both recieved an answer, and was treated with disrespect.

    2) Ethos of “just following orders”. This is an issue which I don’t have a definite conclusion on. What I’ve seen is that the police tend to treat something being illegal as being unethical. That is, doing something illegal justifies treating you as although you are evil. In contrast, there is the principle of “Due Process of Law” where everybody in a similar situation has an expectation of being treated similarily. In cases where illegal=wrong, the police have effectively given over their moral judgement to elected political officials. Fair enough – the military operates under similar principles. At the same time, we’ve also accepted that “just following orders” isn’t an acceptible defense for the military.

  21. 65 Veritas

    I can agree with most of the points except the drugs. Just as ignorning small crimes leads to bigger and better crimes, drugs are a cancer. No one can justify how they make America a better place or one live improved by them (unless you a drug seller). But nations have been destroyed and we have seen the nations ruined by it on our border.

    I’d siooner give up the war on rapists than give up the war on drugs. Because one leads to the other and not vice versa.

  22. 66 Michael Best

    I’m glad to hear that you agree that pointing guns at unarmed protestors is illegal. Any officer who points one at me will have me hunting a lawyer. I keep my cell phone handy and record any transaction with a cop. I would advise others to do the same.

  23. 67 Shilah

    wow…
    well, Sir, I agree “If a cop’s guilty, he’s guilty”. Wrong is wrong, regardless of who does it. Yet —- I shudder to imagine any cop, even a guilty one, in prison. Worse than Hell, IMHO. Can’t we just do 20 years of house arrest with chemical castration, and no TV/videos or internet, and forced chapel attendance in-home every day, a boring all-vegan diet (this week’s special: eggplant, 13 different ways), and make them rehab rescue dogs and knit socks in their spare time??? (I’m only half teasing)
    Agreed, the zero-tolerance for “drugs” is a drain on manpower & resources. But think of the little kids who grow up inhaling their parents’ marijuana smoke second-hand, the good drivers killed by idjits who were driving while on meth, etc. (I do find the idea of not allowing hospitals to treat addicts, intriguing.) I prefer the carrot approach to the stick, but the majority here are dimocrats so that won’t fly.
    I am however blessed to live where the cops are diligent, brave, kind, trustworthy, loyal— no, i’m not kidding. We are in a small town plopped in a rural area. Most of our cops grew up nearby & live right here. We see them at the grocery store & at high school band concerts. We know they don’t want their pictures taken because they want to keep their families safe — there are a few morons who peddle drugs (heroin, etc. Try to get your landlord to pay the building’s utility bill when he’s spending every penny of rental income on his damn habit. You are GONNA get your lights turned off.) About 25% of the population “Like”s our local PD Facebook page. And at the local Caribou, cops in uniform never have to pay for their coffee – the locals donate to a gift card kept at the register.
    Now, not all is rosy in Mudville. There are parents (breeders?) who think parenting consists of giving the kid food, water, clothes, electronic toys, and telling them “be good or I’ll have the cops arrest you”. (rolling my eyes)& yes, they dose the kids with beer or wine to make them sleep so the adults can do what they want…. But these are not the rule, they are the exception. We honor our troops & our vets. Yes, there are jerks who resent being pulled over for driving while pickled (.11 BAC twice in 3 hours & they can’t see anything wrong with that?!) but they know their views are not the majority & they know they’re wrong. They won’t admit it — until someone drunk demolishes THEIR car – but they know they are the minority. Our area has higher auto insurance rates, even for teetotalers, because of the many who drive pickled.
    Our biggest problem is our city council & our school board! they’re so resistant to change, they refuse to cancel “open campus” for grades 10-12 at the high school- even though it is well known that students leave during “lunch” to go have sex, get high, get drunk, etc. The mayor is an alcoholic & refused to allow stricter alcohol control during summer events, even though the bar owners had no objections. A group of us have managed to persuade the local tobbacconists to stop selling “spice” (aka ‘synthetic marijuana’– which a local meth-head declared “worse than meth”). But yeah – opposition sometimes comes from odd places.
    As of this time, we are respectful of our LE & they are the same toward us. I feel so sorry for people in places like CA etc who have no positive expereinces with the police. They’re not all like that !!! honest!!! most of them are good people!
    So, thank you Chris for all you have done & continue to do. May you be safe & well. Thanks for being a voice of sense in a crazy world. I’m sure at times it seems no one hears you, but we do.


  1. 1 In The Rabbit Hole – Episode 115: Ferguson, Police Militarization, and Liberty
  2. 2 From a Cop… | Starvin Larry
  3. 3 Separating Facts From Propaganda in the Ferguson Case | Sex, Relationships, Life, and Politics

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