The thoughts that were thunk and the goings on of my life.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Peace Officers

One thing that really hacks me off is that police are often more of villains and thugs than even the crooks. Take your average day, would I rather walk by an Austin Police Officer or would I rather walk by some guy on 6th Street that's high? Well, given recent events, I would MUCH rather walk buy the drug addict. At least if I walk by them I'm not likely to be assumed of committing some crime, I probably won't be harassed, and even if I am harassed I can leave at my own free will...not so with the cop.

That got me to thinking though, because it's pretty sad that I would rather be near this supposedly 'bad' person than I would near the 'good' cop. What caused this change? There was a point in my life (my dad is a life-long officer), where I would happily trust a cop, and willingly go to them for assistance. But that naiveté has been replaced with suspicion and distrust due to almost every single point of contact with a peace officer to be a VERY negative experience. I'm not just talking tickets either. I'm talking about a complete disregard by police officers as a whole towards just being good people. It really seems that instead of being interested in keeping the peace, protecting and serving people, they are MUCH more focussed on the people serving them. Serving them time, serving them money, serving them humility to bolster their egos.

What caused this change? What made this huge shift in our police force since the 50s where we see images of the local police being friendly and helping people out in town? Just think to something like the Andy Griffith Show. You had a sheriff that just let Otis come in and out of jail. Today, you have Cops, where the highlight is chasing people down and throwing them on the ground while slapping on cuffs. Which isn't too far off from the real world of cops shooting unarmed people in the back (Austin, Texas) or busting down the door of grandmothers and then shooting them to death (Georgia).

I think the real problem is not necessarily that the world has gotten worse (my personal opinion is that the world is no worse/better now than at any time in history...just think on 'kids these days' comments), it's that our perceptions of the world have gotten worse, and that in all of this panic about security, somewhere in there, we decided that police should have free reign to lord over our lives. Combine this with the really unethical practice of using tickets to fund your own department (see New Rome, Ohio), police are really just a means of taxation and don't really serve the people in any meaningful way the majority of the time, and can never be questioned because they consider themselves to BE the law instead of simply enforcers of the law.

So how can we change all of this?

The first thing to do is to follow the money trail. We need to make sure that tickets through such events as traffic fines are NEVER spent on the department that creates those tickets. The reason. What's to put those people in check? What's to prevent an officer like the one I had a great chance to meet from simply piling up the fact, it's positive feedback. You ticket more, you get more money, so that you can ticket more, so that you can get more money, etc. This simply has to stop. There's no rational reason why cops have to sit around lurk for tickets for petty crimes when there's real problems out there that should be taken care of.

The second thing that needs to happen is there needs to be a fundamental change in attitude of our police forces. Instead of thinking of each person you meet as a criminal in the making. People should be thought of as what they are...generally good, but fallible. So how do you do this? Instead of having a system that essentially has quotas of how many tickets are issued, or who can generate the most money. Police forces around the country should really have much harder and stricter quotas...on how many people you directly helped/impacted in one day. Imagine how much that could help to change the attitudes people have towards police. Instead of simply rushing out to see what people are doing wrong, try to see where people could use some help and lend a hand. You'd be making the world a much better place, and if I did something wrong I could understand my guilt more because I would know your hobby isn't slapping people around, it's helping people.

I hate to see so many people's lives on a local level simply fall victim to an unapproachable and uncontainable foe that is our modern peace offices, but with a few changes like these I think it could really help our communities for the better and would help to make sure that instead of hiring thugs and deviants to assert their will on the people you could hire people that want to help make their community a better place for all.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I sure would like to comment (not all contrary to your view, mind you) on this topic. There are some valid reasons for such treatment, as well as reasons that encourage the worst in Law enforcement (bad apples in every basket)...Maybe sometime we can have time for a discussion about it, as it would take WAY too much space here to elaborate. There are two sides (or even three) to this contentious theme... Still wondering why old geezers tend to move to "Mayberry" instead of staying in "Gotham City?" Also, don't forget that "The human heart is most deceitful and desparately wicked..." (Jer.17:9 NLT) Only GOD can know it, not the local Cop, so many err on the side of caution in the interest of fulfilling the First Rule of Police Work: Go Home After Your Shift. This doesn't excuse Radar Rangers, Traffic Terminators, Beat ('em up) Cops, 'Roid Ragers (yeah, some do), and SWAT Comandos (etc.)... But there are some mitigating defenses to poor conduct. Again, too much for here, but I've learned a thing or two in my 30-plus years doing the Romans 13:1-5 thing... Hang in there - it'll work out...Looking forward to some good 2-way conversation!

Anonymous said...

Dude, this post rocks.