If attention to detail is a must in the field of law enforcement, it’s even more important for the everyday citizen.
Look around you, the main stream media uses exclusive words and phrases every day to draw lines that divide us more and more. You see news stories on the local station telling you how dangerous inner city black youths are, but you don’t see stories about the youth group who runs a food pantry and provides free lunch during the summer to those kids. You see stories on national media about Mike Brown’s death or other questionable police action. But you don’t see the stories about the officer that adopted two homeless inner city kids or the police chief that told the secret service “NO” when they wanted to violate someone’s rights.
Just like there are efforts to divide us by color, religion, and social class; there is a deliberate effort to divide you from your local police. The media wants you to focus on every negative action taken by officers across the country. From rural Indiana to New York City, and the same media wants you to believe that every badge out there wants to kick down your door and kill you because you’re black, poor, muslim or smoke marijuana. They want you to believe that police work simply revolves around harassing minorities and violating people’s rights. They want you to think that every officer is chomping at the bit to put on his SWAT gear and gun you down with his brand new M4.
All the while, the reality is that the vast majority of real police work is taking reports and dealing with domestic/civil problems. The reality is that only about 3% of officers are part of a tactical team. But the media and the people holding their purse strings want you to believe otherwise.
So what can be done?
If you don’t like the direction your agency is heading, get involved. Keyboard warriors and Monday morning quarterbacks are no longer acceptable forms of activism. Most agencies have steering committees or public safety boards. Go to these meetings and make your voice be heard. If your local agency doesn’t have an over-site committee or merit board start a movement to get an ordinance passed and create one. On a smaller scale, if you are having a neighborhood BBQ call dispatch and invite the officers that work your neighborhood. Be sure to invite their sergeant too. The goal is to bring your police from the fringes of our society, and back into our communities. How could you have a neighborhood BBQ, invite the nearby businesses and residents, and forget the people that work in your neighborhood 40 hours a week?
To our Sheriffs, Chiefs, Town Marshals, and various law enforcement administrators and leaders:
While I may have tips for the citizens we serve, the responsibility lies with you. It’s up to you to reach out to the communities we serve. It’s up to you to make your officers jobs just a little safer, and prove to your community that your officers work for them and in their best interest. It’s up to you became a part of your communities again.
Stop discouraging your officers from proactive work. Last year my area had an attempted abduction of a young girl at a bus stop. The next day, the suspect vehicle was seen in the area again. On the third day, without being ordered to do so by their supervisors, officers on that side of town were marking out of service and standing at bus stops in the morning. This continued for two weeks until the suspect, who was wanted on unrelated warrants, was caught. Not a word of the officers actions was spoken to on the local media. But the appreciation of the citizenry was overwhelming. It’s not only the kind of service our communities expect from us, but what you as administrators must encourage.
Re-introducing the era of community-based policing may have to start with you. Don’t be hesitant to check on a victim you took a report from a week ago. If you see some guys at your local park playing a game of football don’t be afraid to grab five dollar cases of water and go pass them out in between games. Take the time to talk to folks and find that the people in your beat are people. Administrators, establish a fund so you can reimburse your officers for doing such things. Any officer worth his salt knows that rapport can be everything.
The day may come when that five dollars may be the difference between your officer having to struggle with one of those guys or being able to talk him down.
Back when I worked in our jail we had an irate inmate with a shank who didn’t want to go to his sentencing hearing. I was able to talk him down and get the shank from him without issue. Why? Because on one of his bad days I gave him some extra time out of his cell to talk to his girlfriend on the phone, and he remembered that. Though to me, and to you, it was just another day on the job, that little action reaped benefits in the future.
Officers and deputies: it may fall on our shoulders to be welcomed back into our communities. And as we do so our neighborhoods and communities will reach back out to us. And together we will drag our administrations with us. We can bring ourselves, as a whole, back from the fringes of our society and back into our communities.
Featured image: Prowers County Sheriff’s Office
Greg Mcwhirter is a ten year veteran of the Marion County Sheriffs Office In Indianapolis, In. Not only is he an SI adviser, he is also the PIO for Indiana Oath Keepers and a elected Board Member.
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