By all accounts, Dallas Police Chief David Brown seems like a good man.
His life has been touched by turmoil and violence and he’s overcome all of that to become the Chief of Police of the Dallas Police Department.
I don’t know the man, and I don’t know what’s going on internally in the Dallas Police Department, so I have to stop short of saying he’s doing a great job there.
Maybe he is, but maybe he isn’t. I don’t know if the residents or officers he serves like him or not.
What I do know is that right now, he’s a media darling, and with the way things are right now nationally, we as law enforcement need somebody to be that for us. We need him to strike while his iron is hot so to speak.
As a black man, he can say things that white officers can only think.
That’s fact right there.
Many black people don’t want to hear what a white man has to say, and that’s understandable.
You think any white chief of police, even if he just had five officers on his force killed, could get away with talking about God’s tender mercy or saying that 70% of the African American community is being raised by single mothers without being dragged through the mud on social media?
What does it matter that single women are raising 70% of the African American community anyway?
I asked my recruits about the struggle of blacks in this country, and was surprised that I couldn’t get a lively debate going.
I just couldn’t.
The potential debate was squashed by the African Americans in the class. They bashed my attempt by pointing out that they, many of them, are from the very ghettos we’re talking about, and that they will someday serve.
Some were raised by single mothers and they are trying to make a difference. They’ve earned their place in the police academy. It’s where they want to be, and they don’t want to hear excuses from others. Wow.
I was impressed, but I shouldn’t be.
For the most part, in major urban cities, that’s who’s patrolling these black neighborhoods.
BLACK POLICE OFFICERS!
These are men and women who are from these cities.
They were pulled over by police when they were younger.
They were either treated well and drawn to police work, or maybe treated like crap and drawn to police work.
They have wives and husbands and sons and daughters. They worry about their family members just like any other black person does.
They’re also good police officers.
Now granted, the Dallas Chief hasn’t said anything new.
Remember Paul Harvey?
Police officers have always had to act as ministers and doctors and counselors, etc.
We’ve always shrugged it off as a part of the job, but should it be?
Isn’t Chief Brown right?
When you call the police for a person with mental problems, aren’t you asking for trouble, especially when there’s nowhere to take that person?
Many of the mental hospitals that used to serve these folks are closed.
When a person with mental problems sees a police uniform, they sometimes overreact and the whole ordeal turns into a clusterfuck that could have been avoided by leaving the police out of the picture altogether.
Why do we send the police when a family member calls and says that their loved one hasn’t taken their medicine and needs to go to the hospital?
Why? I’m not a psychologist, and if there’s no crime, why am I there?
It happens every single day.
It’s a recipe for disaster, and the results are often ugly.
When there are vicious dogs running loose in the city as Chief Brown says, and you call the police, what the fuck do you think is going to happen?
We do a great job with many strays. Most police officers love animals, but I don’t have a net and I’m not a dog whisperer. I have a taser and a pistol, but please, do expect me to peacefully wrangle your town’s pack of vicious dogs, John Q. Public.
Pfffft! That’s another issue altogether.
We are not drug counselors, we are members of the Executive branch of the government.
Remember history class?
The Executive branch of government enforces the laws. We don’t make these laws that everybody hates.
We put people into the criminal justice system. It should be people who make more money than cops like the judges and the probation officers and prosecutors who figure out the best course of action to take with people thereafter, but those folks are always let off the hook when the shit hits the fan.
It’s the police officer who bears the brunt of the public’s anger.
If probation is best, great. Do that.
If prison is best, great. Do that.
I don’t get paid any more if an arrestee goes to jail than I do if his charges are dropped, so I don’t give a fuck either way.
That isn’t a decision that police officers should have to make on the streets, when people are at their worst, but we’re forced to do so all the time.
I have to worry that if I arrest somebody I think shouldn’t go to prison for a minor drug infraction, the prosecutor will aggressively seek to put him or her there anyway. I also have to worry that if I don’t arrest somebody, they will victimize somebody else or hurt or maybe kill themselves because jail is maybe their best treatment option.
Those are hard choices to make on the streets, where there’s always another call waiting to be addressed, so time is of the essence.
The point isn’t that it’s an issue to deal with animal control, mental health, drug addiction, juvenile, family and other issues, PLUS criminal matters, the point is that at some point, it adds up.
It adds up mentally.
It becomes draining.
To become a police officer, one mustn’t be a rocket scientist. In fact, far from it.
You simply have to graduate high school or, barring that, to have achieved a GED.
Think about that.
We let people who struggled to get out of high school decide when they can use deadly force and then we lament when it goes horribly wrong.
Granted, intelligence isn’t a great gauge for one’s ability to discern when deadly force is a good idea or not, but there’s allegedly some difference in social consciousness between a high school drop out and a college graduate.
If society believes, rightly or wrongly, that race is the determining factor in whether or not the police are aggressively using deadly force, then maybe a higher standard for hiring and pay is in order. Theoretically, the public would get a more “enlightened” police officer, right?
Good luck with that though.
Who is drawn to law enforcement?
I was drawn to it because my dad and some of his pals did it.
That is the ONLY reason that I dared try this job, and when I signed up, even though eighteen years ago I told my then girlfriend and now wife, that I wanted to help people, I only wanted to do it for a couple of years.
I was too smart for policing.
My academy instructors told me as much.
“Why are you here,” they asked. “You left a job at Anheuser-Busch?”
Yes, I did. I tried the business world and hated it, so I went to the police academy.
Long story short, I fell in love with the stupid ass job. Lots of people do.
I meet new people every day, whether they be white or black or gay or Asian or whatever.
It’s been a great almost eighteen years.
Still, when this shit happens, I feel sad. When a police officer I have nothing to do with in some other part of the country does something that people judge to be wrong, I feel shame.
Maybe even when I shouldn’t, but I oftentimes do.
So many of the police citizen encounters that cause us such chaos can be avoided. They can be avoided by the bad guy complying, yes, but they can also be avoided by officers using better tactics, and that’s where we as the police need to look at ourselves and ask how we can fix things.
We are the ones who say we hold ourselves to a higher standard, so we need to do that by taking blame when we DO fuck up. It happens.
How can we train officers so that they’re not pulling alongside a large teenager they think may have robbed a store allowing him the ability to lean in and grab the officer?
How do we keep officers from pulling alongside a twelve year old boy alleged to have a firearm so that the only option in the officer’s mind upon seeing the gun from two feet away is to shoot?
How do we train officers so they don’t actively try to tackle an over 200 pound man they believe has a gun?
These aren’t murders in my mind, but they are terrible tactical mistakes that led to the deaths of people that law enforcement officers swore to protect. I know that every one of these officers regrets that they felt as though they had to pull the trigger of their gun.
I feel their pain and their hurt, I really do.
Maybe more of us need to be able to feel the pain and the hurt of the suspect’s family too.
Your police departments really are trying.
Deescalation is being taught across the country. Officers will hopefully see that standing down may be the better course of action. It’s not being a pussy, as some officers insist.
It’s being smart.
At the end of the day, an officer’s highest oath is to preserve life.
All life, even that of the bad guy, the shitbag, if you will.
If that means doing something crazy like pulling over a block from a suspect instead of two feet away from him, then so be it.
Killing is never the the best outcome, justified or not. Nobody wins when a police officer has to kill a citizen, even if it’s right or just or whatever.
If it can be avoided, it must be. I won’t argue this point with any of my fellow officers. If the option is either a person gets away or a crime is solved by taking a person’s life, the answer is always the person gets away. Always, unless there’s probable cause to believe escape means other lives are endangered, which is another story altogether.
We’re doing our best to train officers to avoid those situations. Maybe my opinion on this is bunk, especially with my coworkers.
Either way, maybe Chief David Brown is right.
Maybe we’re asking too much of our men and women in blue.