The Huffington Post recently published my two part article examining The Crisis In Law Enforcement.
THE CRISIS IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
Because of my 35-year career as a sworn, gun-toting, member of the Los Angeles Police Department, I am often accosted by friends and acquaintances demanding explanations for the recent flood of police abuses across the country. Many of these inquiries are genuine. However, the aggressive tone of many others clearly shows the questioners have already judged me as complicit in these events -- guilty by association. While I am not privy to any insider information regarding these events, I do have the experience to provide a different perspective on the current crisis in law enforcement from the inside.
Law enforcement nationwide is currently in crisis. I believe much of this crisis is caused by a failure of leadership, a failure of training, a failure to address the issues regarding the homeless and the mentally ill, and a failure to understand the changing needs of the public, which law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve. Law enforcement, at its best, should reflect the concerns and desires of society. When these things are out of balance, tragedy always follows.
The law enforcement/public misconnect begins with the basic academy training philosophy. Law enforcement recruits are taught how to shoot guns, how to drive in pursuits, self-defense, and just enough of the Penal Code to get themselves in trouble. While all of these things are essential there is a significant oversight -- recruits are not trained how to talk to people. Communicating with the public comprises the overwhelming majority of what will be required of officers once they are on the streets. When communication and conflict resolution training are superseded by use of force and traffic accident avoidance, the shortfall leads to many of the tragedies we are faced with today. This isn't to say officer safety issues should not be tantamount, they should, but there must be a balance.
Furthermore, continued in-service training has fallen into the political kneejerk of training by litigation. Often, wanting to show a hardline response to getting sued, too many departments fall back on training programs that tell officers what they are doing wrong, but provide little in how to avoid the situations in the future. Officers are mandated to attend such training, which usually consists of two hours of specifics stretched out over eight hours to meet arbitrary standards.
There is also a distinct disconnect between the two ends of the political landscape charged with administrating city policies and response. One faction is driven by fear of crime and anarchy. To them, a police department is to be wielded as a militarized weapon of oppression -- a force designed to stamp out crime and civil disobedience not only when it occurs, but before it occurs.
The other faction is driven by guilt, wishing to give no offense to anyone. To them, the police are an antagonistic force which must be kept in its place. Political correctness is their top priority. This results in mandates such as those faced by Welfare Fraud investigators who are no longer able to interview those who are suspected of fraud let alone interrogate them. Instead, these investigators -- most often working alone in some of the most dangerous parts of the city -- are allowed only to have conversations with those they suspect of criminal activity.
Neither of these approaches is correct nor do they even display an ounce of common sense. However, the constant flow of mixed messages driven alternately by political fear or guilt has a direct effect on police personnel coming under criticism for finding themselves caught in the middle.
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