Saturday, February 26, 2011

Violence against Law Enforcement and possible solutions

Release Sunday, January 30, 2011, Violence against police officers, and possible solutions proposed

c Talk of the Town: 919 610-5255

For sometime now there has been a dearth of incidents involving police shootings, attacks on the police, and government officials. The shooting of Arizona Representative Gabriella Giffords has culminated in a review of security practice surrounding government officials and violence against police in general though out the United States.

It has been 12 years since the violent death of Davina Jones, which the state has been able to hush up. Jones was Baldhead Island's female police officer killed while investigating suspicious activity at the Baldhead Island Lighthouse in 1999. The Island is only accessible by ferry.  Wasn't Hunt still governor?

The medical examiner for the State of N.C. first ruled the death a suicide, but later it was determined to be a homicide. No arrest has been reportedly made in the death, though the State did pay some damages to the family after first refusing to do so.

William J. Bennett, former Education Secretary, and Al Roker the meteorologist, as well as a former Pittsburgh Stealers Football Coach are purported to have owned property on the Island.

As this blog is posted, police have defused a Greyhound Bus Hi-jacking safely and without incident so police encounters don't always have to end in violence.

This essay will hope to focus on likely causes of violence against the police and where blame might be assessed. It seems that history is replete with those who are bent on breaking the law, taking the law into their own hands as they deem it justified. Thus was the feud between the West Virginia families the Hatfields and the McCoys. This was apparently a private feud.

It was less than 200 years ago that voiced differences of opinion that brought discredit, dishonor or ridicule, or humiliation, was settled my dueling with swords or pistols. We have long since dropped the practice of dueling and Stock Block, used in medieval times as a form of physical punishment, and humanity is better off for it.

Today, in the United States, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but therein lies the catch. Many don’t get to trial, or proven guilty or innocent because they are often involved in a shootout with a police officer, or they are waving around a water pistol that a police officer took to be a weapon, and the officer is able to claim he shot in self-defense.

Likewise police chases have often led to the loss of innocent lives because the officer used less than better judgement, when seeking to apprehend a known suspect. However, often with the identification of the original owner of the automobile, the identity of the driver involved can often be determined, even if the car has been stolen.

In England and in New Zealand, a debate has been raging about arming their police officers. The British, Bobby, have long had a tradition of not carrying a weapon, while some European officers carry a weapon in a car that is locked in a case for emergency use as needed.

Even given today’s claimant of criminal activity, many in the UK feel the police should remain unarmed. Why would the British have such an attitude and confidence in their police? One reason is that their law enforcement personnel are better trained in public relations, and negotiations, as well as being able to safely fire a weapon when necessary.

In the United States, many who gravitate towards police work often come from the ranks of our military, which is not surprising. If not, then often young men, and women, whom life has given an ultimatum and they become residents, and often graduates of military academies because they may have been incorrigible as teenagers, and this was a way of starting over.

The branch of the service that has most often in the past accepted recruits of questionable backgrounds has usually been the Army or the Marines, both combat organizations.

One thing an individual learns early in the military--which police officers, who were formerly with the military know--is respect for authority, or superior.

Businesses that hire former police officers for security personnel are not looking for public relations personnel, but are instead looking for the protection of their employees, their business assets, and property. Many employment agencies require that the security personnel have firearms training, and this often becomes one of the reasons that a former military candidate will most likely get the job.

In the military you are taught to obey the command of your superior. Putting a combat veteran in the position of authority such as the police, or security guard without prior debriefing and psychological testing for mental disorders sets the stage for deadly confrontation with the public, or superiors who may, or may not have been military.
You might ask: "Why would that lead to violence against police?" My reasoning is as follows: Following our young nation’s previous wars, servicemen returned to their small hometowns as heroes. This has not been so with the returning veterans of Viet Nam, or the soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange, in Iraq.

A lot of animosity was built up during the Viet Nam era, when the public became more aware of the counting of body bags containing the remains of a fallen soldier. Military-age young men would leave the country, or seek college deferment to avoid military service.

Those sons of military families who did go on to serve, and are now back in the United States, are seeing, and become aware of the change that is taking place politically, and socially in our society, and are witnessing unwarranted bitterness toward the military.

In my opinion, a select few of the former military personnel turned police officers may feel society owes them. These may well be those law enforcement personnel who abuse the authority of their position as some members of the N.C. State Highway Patrol have done, or feel they deserve special treatment if they are caught driving, while under the influence of alcohol, because of the brotherhood they share with other officers.

What’s the solution? Of course, there is no real solution. However, former military personnel seeking employment as a police officer should be well tested and screened. That screening should be born by the government. Consideration should also be given to law enforcement training in education beyond high school, with firearms training course at the college level.

Additionally, to assist the police in their arduous task, legislation should be passed requiring two license plate per vehicle, this would prevent those seeking to avoid detection from backing a car into a parking space so the license could not be discerned by an officer just driving by. As the D.C. Snipers: Lee Boyd Malvo, and John Allen Muhammad in 2002.

In the field, attempting an apprehension, after a certain amount of negotiation has proven unsuccessful, the predicable violent use of a swat team might be avoided with some form of tear gas or other chemical substance disabling the perpetrator. Nothing of use is learned from a dead suspect.

Additionally, during traffic stops it would be prudent if police cars could be equipped with the ability to conduct a surveillance of a vehicle it is following with a video camera that can magnify the license plate from a distance, which permits the officer to run a license check, and monitor the car’s activity before calling for backup and attempting a stop; by this time, the officer has an idea of the danger he and his fellow officers could be facing.
Finally, that [dreaded] flashing light of a cruiser behind you should also include a digital message readable by the suspect driver in their rear view mirror requesting that they please pull over. This might set a cooperative tone for the stop. I also believe 1) blacken windows should be outlawed, or their use registered; further, 2) Officers’ encounter with the driving public should be changed in the following manner.

Officers are greatly exposed by exiting their cars first to approach a suspect. I believe it would be proven safer to have the suspect open his car door, turning in his seat putting his feet out of the car first, then being asked to stand, and put his hands on the opened door framed in clear view.
Should the suspect attempt to run, the officer would be authorized to tase the suspect.

In conclusion, only those in law enforcement and through experience could determine if such procedures would work, but the fact that police work is a dangerous profession, the public should be taught though ongoing public relations to see the officer as a public servant, a friend, a family member, a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, grandfather, and a person in service to the public and the community--first of all--and needing the support of the community to do an effective job.

c Talk of the Town, 919-610-5255

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