Behind the Badge

Smack. My. Head. (5/10/2018)

For nearly every good story of Law Enforcement Officers, some idiot comes out and creates a bad story of a Law Enforcement Officer.  I swear, this is almost a one for one ratio these days.  So this week, a friend of mine forwarded a story to me about an Austin PD officer that actually shut down (safely!) traffic on Northbound HWY 360 during rush hour to save a little chihuahua pup that had somehow gotten loose and was freaking out on the freeway.  Apparently this big ol’ APD motorcycle cop turned all huggy-bear with the scared little poochie as he calmed him with one hand while he drove him with the other to the Animal Shelter.  And this news came out the day of the funeral of Dallas PD Officer Rogelio Santander, EOW 4/25/2018, who was murdered at the hands of a shoplifting suspect at a Home Depot. 

And as I was getting my mind ready for the Texas Peace Officer Memorial Ride, a bike run from Ft. Worth to Austin this weekend, out comes word—with graphic video—of Miami/Dade County Officer Mario Figueroa comes running onto the scene of a cuffed, non-struggling, face-down black suspect and clearly and intentionally kicks the suspect in the head as he runs by.  Kicks his head HARD.  As if his head were a soccer ball and “Officer” Figueroa was trying to make a final goal in a FIFA championship game.  Here’s the CNN report:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/04/us/miami-police-kick-video/index.html

AAAARGH.  It’s incidents like this that make it extremely hard to convincingly make the argument that the Men and Women in Blue have the best of intentions and are not demons targeting people of color.  And in this instance, the Miami/Dade officer should be instantly charged with a whole host of abuse offenses.  But why does stuff like this keep happening?

Going out on a limb here, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, the fault doesn’t lie exclusively with the offending officers.  The fault lies higher upstream in their agencies.  Look, I don’t think anyone can argue against the fact that the job of being a Police Officer is a highly-charged, physically demanding, emotionally exhausting job.  But if the hiring boards don’t judiciously screen out the assholes and the crazies, and if the duty Supervisors aren’t watching behaviors and carefully listening to reports of poor or deteriorating behavior by officers on duty—and then taking appropriate action before something like the jackass Figueroa’s FIFA-ball goal head-kick happens—then YOU, ladies and gentlemen, are as much a part of the problem as the offending officers are.

PD Leaders—you have to help your supporters here.  We’ll gladly support you when you’re wrongly accused.  We will go to battle with you when your officers make a wrong call in a split-second while their lives are in jeopardy.  But it’s hard, harder than hell, to support you when you have a just, flat, bad seed that pulls a stunt like this.  Do your jobs.  Don’t hire the bad seeds, look for ones that are “souring” and get them OFF the streets, so that your GOOD officers can do THEIR jobs, better.

SMH.

Bill

Who’s the hunter? Who’s the hunted? (4/28/2018)

Everyone has read the headlines or seen the stories on the news.  Police kill an unarmed person under suspicious circumstances, and mayhem ensues.  Sometimes just the name of the deceased with the place the shooting happened are all you need to bring the memory back.  Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri.  Eric Garner, Staten Island, NYC, New York.  Walter Scott, North Charleston, South Carolina.  Stephon Clark, Sacramento, California.  Danny Ray Thomas, Houston, Texas.  We’ve heard all of those stories.  All are horrible stories, in which unarmed people, all of color, were shot and killed by police.  Lives of worth and promise, taken without reason.

But what if I said Rogelio Santander, Dallas, Texas?  Aubrey Hawkins, Irving, Texas?  Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, Westerville, Ohio?  Michael Johnson, San Jose California?  Brad Garafola,  Matthew Gerald, and Montrell Jackson, Baton Route, Louisiana?  Or Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, Dallas, Texas?  All are equally worthy and promising lives, and all horrible stories.   But these were all Police Officers that were indiscriminately slaughtered by criminals, and in the case of the last five in Dallas by a terrorist, in the last few years.

We can get into the “one begat the other” argument, with which I vehemently disagree.  I don’t think police officers start their shift thinking “I’m gonna go kill somebody today!” but there have been times when a police officer clearly freaks out and kills someone because of fear, prejudice, or something else.  And there is no question that there are criminals who have no problems killing a police officer, or anyone else, to try and get away with their crimes (and to extract revenge, perhaps?).  And ANY situation that ends in a loss of life is an affront to the gift we have that IS life.

 It worries me, and as the father of an officer I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about it.  But the reality of this is going to sound stupid (surprise!) but it came to me while I was watching the movie “Ghost” on the tv in the background.  Remember when Oda Mae tells Molly “Molly, you in trouble, girl!”

Well, America, we in trouble, girl.

Respect for each other has disappeared.  Rage is at an all-time high.  Shootings of ALL kinds are at unheard-of levels (want to feel ashamed?  Look at the numbers of deaths by shooting in America vs the rest of the “first world” and then tell me again how we’re so wonderful!).  People are scared of the police.  Police are scared of the people.  Conflict between EVERYONE is at an all-time high. Well, the highest levels of conflict since the 1860’s, anyway, and we all know how much fun the Civil War was for the country.

The roots are socio-economic, racial, and now we have a religious aspect coming back into it.  I refuse to be live in fear, but I’m also not an ostrich—my head is NOT buried in the sand, nor am I a Pollyanna.  But the way things are simply can’t sustain.

So how do we get out of, and through, this?

Only one way.  Together.  We have to find a way to understand each other, defuse the conflict, and regain some civility!  Parents have to parent, preferably together, but always from love yet with strength.  Neighborhoods need to partner with police to eliminate drug and gang crap.  Police need to better monitor their officers for alarming behavior and take action before something bad happens.  (A bad cop on the force is not better than a vacancy, folks.)  And something—SOMETHING—has to occur to disarm the whole situation.

Kennedy tried.  Dr. King tried.  Lyndon tried.  (We call him Lyndon in Texas.)  Barack tried.  There is still tremendous goodness in this great nation, and there remains hope.  We have to nurture both.  So I’m going to show the success, and the fails here.  And we all have to hope, together, that somehow we can all get our collective poopoo together and depressurize this nation, and turn this shit show around.  Otherwise, we don’t need Kim Jung Fatass, Putin, Isis, or anyone else to blow us up.  We’ll do it ourselves.

By looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of law enforcement—and there is far more good than I think ever gets press—we may figure this out.  And we can solve this, ourselves.  I’ll be posting on this as I get material which is pretty much all the time.  So join me—let’s figure this out, together.  I hope you go on this journey with me.  I have no problems with different ideas—as long as they are IDEAS.  Great things can happen when the minds meet and hate is kept at bay!

Hoping for good things,

Bill

BEHIND THE STORY OF BEHIND THE BADGE (4/23/2018)

It’s a very difficult time to be a police officer.  The men and women who choose this profession know what they are signing up for, but it’s become a different proposition in the last decade.  Yet our Men and Women in blue haven’t really changed—they’re still human, subject to the same stresses and emotions that we all are, are subject to extreme on-the-job situations and dangers that none of us are, and in the end, most of them only want to do good.   Behind the badge, everything magnified—for the officers *and* for their families.  My son is a Police Officer and while I am extremely proud of the path he’s chosen I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t cost me many a night’s sleep.  Trust me, it has.

When I grew up (when dinosaurs roamed the earth and God was a young whippersnapper), police were people to be respected, somewhat feared (i.e., don’t screw up in front of them or they’d take you home to your parents and MAN would you get in trouble!).  But I grew up a white guy in a white suburb, and while we had rules, I’m learning they were very different in other areas and were different if your skin was of a different color.  Wake-up call for me.

Talking about this with friends of other races I’ve learned about parents having “The Talk” with their children, and I mean “the talk” about interacting with police officers, not the other one about the birds and the bees.  Hispanic parents, even those whose great-grandparents were born in this country, advising their children to carry their birth certificate or even their passport with them at all times.  In their own country.  Black families must go even deeper, explaining the exact way to behave and interact with Law Enforcement, including answering yes sir/no sir, keeping your empty hands in plain view, and most important, complying with direction even if you’ve done no wrong.

But the stresses on police officers have escalated, as well.  Guns and gun violence has never been more prevalent, and many if not most officers feel as if there is a target on the back of those ever-present (and necessary) Kevlar vests at all times, metaphorically if not literally.  Baiting an officer through use of disrespect, lack of civility, and failure to follow requests/commands leads to a host of videos which may or may not back up the now-omnipresent OfficerCams.  (Don’t forget, even those with bad intent can edit video)  And it even extends into their own Agencies–men and women who are required to trust each other in the field to have each other’s “six” can’t trust each other back in the office due to politics, career climbing, and individual me-vs.-you agendas.  How can anyone function in that kind of  schizophrenic job situation?

Our entire society is hyper-pressurized, violence is the norm, concern for human life is waning, yet the duty of a Police Officer has never changed—they are there to make sure laws are followed, the bad guys get caught, and your home doesn’t get robbed, you don’t kill yourself or someone else, and that peace reigns….if an Officer can help it.  And not only do *I* not want to do that job–I have no idea how they do it.

This page will run the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly of what it’s like to be a Police Officer in the late twenty-teens.  I also plan to try to get into the psyche of being a police offcer, as well as the why behind the current and dysfunctional interaction between our Protectors and the Protected.  We should never forget that behind the badge, there is a heart. Granted, some are bigger than others, but these people have chosen to put their lives, hearts, and bodies between us and the ever-growing criminal element. Sometimes they feel the love and support from those they serve.  Other times they feel the mistrust hatred from those that they serve.  And most times, they just feel the unease.  Hopefully by sharing what I hope will be a balanced list of Police Officer news, we can spark a debate to make a change.  Because whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together.  Let’s think, and debate, together.  Please make this a conversation.  Post  comment and you can believe I will resond.  Because that’s how we all can understand each other.  Deal?

Bill