Police. are we asking too much…?

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?

No way.

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.

IMG_0464

We do try and have a lot of success with many strays…

Drugs?

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.

Always!

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.

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.

Empathy.

We’re trying.

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.

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21 Responses to Police. are we asking too much…?

  1. Paul says:

    I agree Don. I’m sure that your perspective is not popular, especially amongst the older cops, but it is the way. At one point you say that those who are better educated are more likely to have a better developed social consciousness. I disagree Don. In my experience in university education,the higher the degree the more selfish and “me” centered are the graduates. That obviously would not likely apply to social degrees,but in general I found it to be so. When I was in my 40’s I met, for the first time, an older uncle who was an academic.My Mum set up a coffee meet with him and we sat out on a patio sipping coffee and chatting. He was brilliant – a professor of Quantum Mechanics who had discovered numerous atomic particles, a career that included working with the CERN particle accelerator in Switzerland; and then when he retired he developed blond splatter analysis and sold it first to Scotland Yard and then to other police departments. Refugees were in the news and the conversation switched to that topic after a while. He expressed the opinion that Canada was wasting money helping refugees and supplying food for the starving. His opinion was that they got themselves into that situation and it was their problem,starving children and all. We shouldn’t help any other countries and should redirect the money to Canada’s educational needs. The fact that they were dying for lack of food and health care, was immaterial to him. That lack of empathy and social sensitivity is typical of the highly educated in my experience Don. There are far far too many people of principle and far too few people of honor in academia.

    So, I think this is an excellent piece Don – go in Peace.

    • Anonymous says:

      “but there’s allegedly some difference in social consciousness between a high school drop out and a college graduate.”
      He said allegedly, which is implying that he does not believe that.

    • Thanks, Paul. You’re right about the especially intelligent people. They seem to lose touch with reality pretty regularly.

  2. Chief Brown is a dose of reality. And like the medicines we got years ago, that dose is’t masked with sweet additives to hide the bitter potion. Men and women of skill are piecing together, second by second, the last moments of the lives of the dead subjects in Louisiana and Minnesota. Other men and women of skill are doing the same for the all too many police officer murders. But the truths they find may not mean a thing to those who have already formed their own opinions. Protest and disorder is not fueled by reason and truth. It thrives on assumption and misconception. This too is then left for the police to resolve with bad things sometimes to follow.

    The simple ruth is that officers are sent out into their patrol zones to serve the needs of that community. Some do it well some not so well. We all hope the latter are few and far between. That officer sees and passes by hundreds if not thousands of people each tour. The officer has to ration their time between calls for service, patrol, assisting other officers and personal needs. Hundreds if not thousands of people. Crossing paths with that officer is statistically improbable unless either the officer is directed to you or you do something to draw attention to yourself.

    I know. I drove those streets and worked those tours. And on a few occasions, while in plain clothes, have been the focus of an officer’s attention myself. Clear communication and reasonable actions resolved those incidents to the benefit of all involved. I’m not sure both sides of the current protest/police confrontations understand that or want that. There seems no clear or reasonable path to a solution. Chief Brown offered one way: Join up. Barring a prior felony or substance abuse issues it may be a start for a few. But don’t hold your breath. Resolving does not seem to be the goal for many.

    As those men and women of skill do what they must do, the officers go from shift meeting to the parking lot and load up their cars to go out among those hundreds if not thousands in the community and try to make it to end of tour and home. Answers will come in time but will it matter? It won’t be sugar coated and may be bitter, it probably won’t be a cure but it will be a dose of reality.

  3. Ned's Blog says:

    Well said, Don. I think those in public service, particularly our police departments, have become the catch-all for a society that doesn’t want to take care of itself. The rising sense of entitlement, along with a lack of responsibility, leaves those in public service — police, firefighter’s, EMTs, etc. — in the position of being everything to everyone, and the ones who deal with the people and situations no one else wants to. Even as volunteer FFs and first responders, we get our share of domestic situations and excitable people who are either mentally challenged, drunk or on drugs. And I know we only deal with a small percentage of those situations compared to you and other police officers. Firefighters and police joke about each other (in good fun), but I feel confident when I say, deep down and all donuts aside, those of us in the fire service have tremendous respect and appreciation for what you do and the challenges you face on a daily basis, my friend.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I learn from each of your posts. And one of the things police departments need to do first is raise salaries, and politicians need to give them the money to do so!

  5. Jen Mann says:

    Well said, Don! You can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing ovation. Pleas keep writing and sharing. It’s important to see your thoughts on this whole thing and I’m grateful that you share them with all of us.

    • Hahaha, standing Jen Mann made me chuckle for some reason. I’m sure you were saying fuck or something as well. I’m just hoping to add my two cents to a discussion that needs to be had ASAP. Thanks, lady!

  6. claywatkins says:

    Don, I read last night and liked. I wish readers would respond and add their thoughts instead of clicking like and moving on…. just sayin.’ Our country’s got problems and in a way it’s linked to the ‘like’ issue. The easy way out, somebody else’s problem, not in my backyard and whole lot of other excuses and reasons for disengagement. I love reading your posts – they are honest, open, and transparent – you say what you mean and mean what you say. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a couple of law enforcement officers the past couple of weeks – they’ve been helpful and above all, they cared. It was clear. We’ve got to find a way to listen to each other and find way out of this mess. Thanks for what you do, I know it sounds trite – I hear it, too. I teach 8th grade, but I mean it. I am grateful to you and countless other officers who are policeman because they care and want to make a difference. I am going to do a good turn and pay it forward. Peace.

    • Yeah, you’re right that it would help to gauge what people are thinking better, if they comment. The first person to “like” the post liked it almost immediately after I posted it. There was no way they read the whole thing, so there’s that too.

      I appreciate your input, Clay. I think most of us are trying our best. Of course we all have our own unique personalities and prejudices, but there’s no place for those in policing. Follow the law and go home safe.

      Thanks as always, sir!

  7. julie says:

    Have I mentioned I love reading what you write Don? I agree with claywatkins. I also thank you. I thanked a police woman who was leaving the grocery store I work at today. It almost made me cry. This whole thing is very emotional for me, there are so many questions I’d like to have answered. I also would like to believe that an encounter between police and either of my children would never have these kinds of results. Then again, my children would be respectful and compliant with the officers directions.

    Really Don, thank you for what you do. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for you!

  8. Maggie O'C says:

    Reblogged this on Misc. Maggie and commented:
    This is good. I’m going to share another one which is harsher and better. Officer Don of All Trades is my law enforcement blogging hero!

  9. acflory says:

    I don’t understand why first responders have to be armed to the teeth? I know the stock answer – because the bad guys have guns too – but many countries have police who are not armed with guns – not until there is a just reason to be. I’m Australian so I know I shouldn’t butt in, but having seen the video of a policeman firing his gun into the chest of a man /already immobilised on the ground/…five times…has shocked the hell out of me. How can anyone justify an execution like that?
    I understand anger. I understand flash points, but if that officer had not had a gun, /he/ would have been given the chance to cool down. To think. To realise that fatal violence was not required.
    I just don’t understand.

  10. Margarita says:

    Yes, we are asking too much of them because we’re not giving them the tools they need to do the job differently. Given the training and skills police departments give their officers across the country, the officers are doing an amazing job. Their departments are failing them.

  11. I wish my son had you as a teacher, Don. I really appreciate how you can see all sides of a situation. It’s not all or nothing. It’s not one thing or the other, things are much more complex than than. The more empathy and understanding, the better. I can only hope that my son learns that you have to put yourself in other’s shoes and understand where they are coming from. It’s not black or white or blue. I empathize with what blacks have had to endure for so many years. As a Puerto Rican woman, I have experienced some racism as well (not nearly as much as many blacks do every single day). One thing that I wish is that the very important movement bringing attention to the race issue did not choose to call it, Black Lives Matter. I understand that it warrants its own recognition but I honestly feel that the phrase has contributed to the divide in this country. It’s a side effect of the wording. Why couldn’t we have said that, All Lives Matter – Including Black Lives? All Black Lives Matter is interpreted by too many as a an all or nothing phrase. It creates the defensive response that Blue Lives Matter as well, etc. It’s not one or the other! Sigh. Very complex. I hope the media shows more examples of unity amongst groups instead of divisiveness. xoxo

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