Law Enforcement In Crisis

Police in Crisis
Police in Crisis

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing; I am not now, nor have I ever been associated with the Communist Party.  Oh wait; that’s the wrong disclaimer.

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing; I am not now, nor have I ever been a law enforcement officer.

But, I am, and I have always been a member of a community.

Community Police Officers:

It’s difficult to follow the recent media articles about law enforcement without making a judgement call; very difficult.  In fact; most of us will do so quite automatically, and unlikely as it sounds, that’s exactly what we need to do.

However, the judgement calls required to fix the problem are not the one-liners on blogs and news articles such as “the cops are pigs,” “the blacks are animals,” or “the kid deserved to be beaten.”  We need sound judgement, not sound bites.  This is not about individual police officers, or an opportunity to espouse your racially-motivated hate.  It is, however, about organizational change and management.

Are we truly witnessing, en masse, rogue police officers behaving as thugs?

Absolutely not!  Certainly, in some very remote cases, there are problematic officers; either some who have forgotten their training, or some who have made it through the rigorous process designed to weed out the undesirables, but that doesn’t address the rapid rise in negative interactions community members have with their police departments.

Are our communities becoming more dangerous?

Again, no!  In the last fifteen years, violent crime has steadily decreased.

So what is happening?  Why are we finding ourselves at odds with those who have the overwhelming responsibility to “serve and protect?”

Enter; the need for critical thinking and problem resolution:

The judgement call we need to make now is far more intense and involved than the often juvenile responses we see on the Net.  We desperately need to look deeply at the changing and increasingly violent atmosphere in which our law enforcement officers and communities find themselves.

And, by “atmosphere,” I’m not referring to the violence on the streets, that violence has always been present, and is in fact dissipating.  Rather; it’s the atmosphere brought upon our community law enforcement departments by paranoia-driven fear.

As I said, I am not a police officer, but I did stay at the Holiday Inn last night.  Oh, and, I did spend thirty years in increasing management levels, from a supervisory role to a corporate/administrative role in health care.

Health care, as is law enforcement, is a crisis management world.  Few people see a law enforcement officer, or a health care professional, unless they’re already embroiled in crisis, and those they seek help from are instantly drawn as well, into the same tense, chaotic, and dynamic maelstrom.

For law enforcement individuals, a day at the office without extreme tension is rare.  The scenarios in which they do their thing are almost always unique and frequently on the verge of exploding into an out-of-control fireball.  A highly combustible mixture of chaos, stress and the unknown is the world they enter, instantaneously at the call of duty, and is already on the verge of ruination for many.

It is a world in which peace officers need every advantage they can garner in order to alleviate danger to others and to themselves.  So they are often at the mercy of community leaders for the tools and policies designed to give them the necessary edge.

Just as is health care, guiding effective and sound police department strategy is nowhere near simple, but that strategy can be simply developed.  And, developing an errant strategy is just as simple as developing one with quality outcomes, therefore, it’s very easy to direct a department from meritorious valor to dishonor.

Militarization policies:

The militarization of our police departments shows a distinct direction our men and women in blue are heading; not of their own volition, but at the behest of our community leaders, leaders who have swallowed the hooks dropped to them, loaded with the bait for fools – “defend your communities from terror, doing so comes CHEAP.”

The direction set upon our police departments by our community leaders should, at the very least, take the vast majority of the blame for the situation with which we find ourselves straddled; a direction screaming for reversal.

From “to serve and protect” to “oppose and defeat” is a very easy step to make in their world, and the attempt to turn our police departments into an extension of Homeland Security, or perhaps even worse, a civilian military to protect us from the evil terrorists has us one foot into that step already.

That direction, coupled with the intensity of their jobs, is about to combine to make a disaster simply waiting for the radio call, giving the approval to transition; from red and blue lights, to Humvees and fifty-caliber machine-guns.

Our men and women in blue did not pursue this direction, they did not seek assignment to the anti-terrorism task force, but they are there and they need to be reassigned, before we find it close to impossible to do so.

Rather than succumbing to finger-pointing and the blame game, it is incumbent upon our community leaders to redirect our police departments; to manage them in a way in which our communities can, once again, enjoy the security of community policing, not anti-terrorism.  And those two worlds are distinctly different from one another.

The politics guiding our departments are at the most basic level, community politics.  And, local/community politics provides with us a very potent voice in community direction.  We have a far stronger voice in local affairs than we do in state and national.

With that voice, we can insist that our law enforcement departments be a part of the communities they serve, rather than the divisive force driven by ill-advised policy and paranoia which has completely engulfed our national policy-making.

But, we must now!  Get involved and tell your community leaders to return our police officers.  Homeland Security has all the staff they need.

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