Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just Make Up Your Own Rules

It's too bad that time and resources preclude everyone in America spending a day with a law enforcement officer at least once in their lives.  We see a lot of law enforcement "experts" marching in the streets today--or appearing on the news networks--demanding a complete overhaul of the way we police ourselves.

It would be interesting to see what decisions some of those protesters would make when faced with the same situations officers run into on a daily basis.  Would they chase after the person that just stole a couple hundred dollars worth of items from a convenience store?  Or would they just tell the store owner "Sorry, chasing after that guy would just 'escalate' the situation--so you'll just have to take the loss."  Would they allow a car without its headlights on or no taillights to continue driving around city streets in the dark because such a "minor offense" doesn't need to lead to something like a drug or weapons bust or the arrest of someone wanted on a felony warrant? 

One phrase that gets tossed around a lot is "community control of policing".  "We want a say in how we are policed" is the new mantra.  But how does one with no background in the law or police techniques develop an effective means of law enforcement.  If ten people in my neighborhood don't want cars driving slowly past our houses at night checked out--but three of us do consider that activity suspicious who is right?  And can a "community" decide that it no longer wants drug possession or use crimes prosecuted--while other "communities" can?

Imagine a city where police techniques and law enforcement are done on a "community based" basis.  Officers would have to know in which neighborhoods pursuit of suspects and confrontation with suspicious actors is "acceptable"--and where such activities will not be "accepted" by the residents.  What if a pursuit spills over into a different "community" where the standards are not the same as where a crime or a violation takes place?  And who will accept the blame when such efforts to change law enforcement fail to improve public safety?

While we may not be able to give everyone a ride-along, maybe those who yell the loudest and post the most on social media can set aside a few days and nights to see what it's really like out there.  Maybe stand next to an officer during a high-risk traffic stop, or respond to a robbery complaint or break up a fight--and then come back with some informed opinions.

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