Make the Police Great Again

by

Clint Rand

            What would the police officers who patrolled our cities and neighborhoods in the 1940s think if they could see the sad state of affairs that law enforcement is in today? I expect that those who had fought in World War II would be disgusted and the others shocked. The advances in technology and the military styled weapons and equipment would boggle their minds not to mention the six figure salaries paid to officers as well as the brass.

            Where are all the cops that should be out on the streets walking a beat? Why are cops sitting in their cruisers reading a newspaper with lights flashing while parked on highways at construction sites? The officers out of the cruisers talking to the workers have long hair over their ears and facial hair, un-pressed uniforms, un-shined shoes and are badly out of shape. What happened?

            They would learn that police executives have lost much authority to elected politicians and prosecutors overrule investigators and judges ignore the law to reach decisions that please themselves. Police are mocked and ridiculed, stoned and hosed and are expected to tolerate such behavior and not respond. This behavior instills attitudes that carry over to stops for traffic violations and criminal behavior often leading to a confrontation and ending with one of the individuals involved being injured or killed.

            To the 1940s cops who had fought the enemy in the towns and cities of Europe, confronting rioters night after night for weeks, untrained and outgunned and under orders to act with restraint would be incomprehensible. It’s time for a dramatic change. These are some changes that they might suggest:

            1. Get in shape and clean up your act! A healthy weight according to height and body type should be required of recruits when they’re admitted to the academy. Officers who exceed their maximum should be disciplined. Hair and fascial hair should be neat and trim. Uniforms should be clean and pressed, shoes shined and brass polished. In other words, military standards should be the norm. You’ll probably never look like a Marine unless you were one but you should try.

            2. Special details, where off duty officers are paid by private companies to provide safety at construction sites and security at special events, not only supplement the officer’s salary but it is also included in calculating the officer’s retirement income. Executive level officers, who wouldn’t ordinarily work special details, pad their retirements by working details their last year or two before retiring. Recently, it has been made public that there have been several instances where officers have been caught filing false claims for overtime that was never worked. The result of special details in any case is that the citizens of the town, city or state are getting screwed.

            3. Recruits who have not had military training should report to the academy two weeks early for intense boot camp style physical and psychological indoctrination conducted by former military instructors. It sure as hell won’t replace Parris Island but it will set the tone for the next few weeks of training and for what can be expected once the trainee is out in the field.

            4. Get out of the cruiser and get involved in the community. The only way to establish an effective working partnership with the community and to become aware of neighborhood problems is to interact with local residents. Neighborhoods have become more dangerous because of decades long “Distance Policing,” the redefinition of crime as a behavioral response to poverty and oppression and failing to adopt a temporary policing strategy that can work.  It’s time for a return to proactive policing aimed at restoring law and order to disadvantaged and low-income neighborhoods.   

            5. Rioting, looting, arson and shootings with police offering little opposition is frightening and a sign that police and citizens are facing a determined and formidable enemy. Protesters stand in the faces of officers screaming insults and obscenities while nearby rioters smash windows and burn cruisers and set fire to police precincts. On the rare occasions when police do clash with rioters it’s hard to discern one mob from the other. It does not appear that the police have been trained in riot and crowd control tactics and strategies nor as to when, how and to what degree force is to be used. Shotguns loaded with birdshot can quickly end a riot.  Law enforcement needs to fight tooth and nail against defunding the police, relinquishing military weapons and equipment and restructuring the criminal justice system.  Changes are necessary and inevitable but they need to be done by reasonable, credible authorities with input and sanctioned by representatives from law enforcement.

            This piece is not intended to denigrate individuals or the organizations that they belong to but rather to point out some of the observations that diminish the perception that many have of law enforcement today. It also lessens the pride that the men and women wearing the uniform have in themselves and the organization that they belong to. In these tragic times we should be doing everything that we can do to regain the respect that it took so much blood and sweat to achieve.

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