• Leave Us Alone!

         The tragedy in India this week once again brings to the forefront something that should never leave that position. Our current economic woes would become immediately dwarfed by a similar attack on our own country. I hear pundits criticizing Indian officials for not being properly prepared for this attack. That may be true, but who could possibly be prepared for such a sprawling, unprecedented, and unthinkable attack on multiple soft targets? Look at our own 9/11; how prepared were we? And we’re the greatest power on earth. Regardless, we must now endeavor to prepare for the unpreparable, as our enemy is quite creative in its ability to destroy.

         Sometimes great problems arise from simple premises: Some people just won’t leave other people alone. The primary philosophy that attracted me to libertarian thought was the concept that I’ll leave you alone to your peaceful pursuits as long as you leave me alone to mine. This is, after all, the quintessential notion our Founders handed down to their posterity–us. The magic of the concept is in its simplicity: Leave me be to pursue my happiness.

         It’s obvious that some folks simply cannot let others be. Whether it’s the soft-tyranny of American socialism or the hard brutality of corrupted religious zealots, there are some folks who are obsessed with imposing their beliefs on others. With regard to the soft-tyrants, we have available the political process and have to depend on the wisdom of the American voter to make eventual corrections.

         With regard to terrorism, the sad thing about the evil attacking the world today is that too many good men and women, or perhaps in this case more appropriately good countries, do nothing, or not enough. Think about it; if all of the world’s democracies truly put forth the diplomatic, financial, and military effort this global crisis requires and deserves, the problem would be reduced dramatically. Okay, I get not everyone agrees with the Iraq War; it is arguable, but it’s also a done deal. However, I’m confident that, like Germany, Japan, and Korea, in a couple decades we’ll have close relations with Iraq as the first functioning democracy in an Arab Muslim country, but I could be wrong.

         Having said that, let’s focus on Afghanistan. There seems to be much more of an international, and political, consensus for action here, but not much more cooperation. Can you believe that some of the nations who’ve provided forces still restrict them from fully participating in military actions? They allow others to be killed and wounded for their own security, although this is something nations such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, and Britain got quite used to in the 20th Century.  How much sooner would the war be over if we didn’t have to rely on limiting military actions to such a relative few countries such as, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, several eastern European countries, and now under President Sarkozy, France? Why aren’t China and Russsia here? It’s their fight too—or it should be!

         New York, London, Madrid, and now Mumbai, are among too many other past targets around the world of these terrorists. What will it finally take for the “good” countries of the world to truly unite against these people who, to make the intentional understatement of the century, simply won’t leave people alone?

  • How Many Cops does it Take?

     

         “How many of you does it take?” I’ve sure had that hurled at me more than a few times. I’ll be on a traffic stop, or detaining some suspicious person and either the person, or some nosey passer-by, snorts the above statement.

         This explanation is offered not for them, but for those folks who legitimately wonder about such things, but don’t snottily distract officers while they’re trying to work.

         First, there is the situation where the dispatcher will send multiple units dependent on the type of call. Most of these are two-man calls, but some “flags” on the address or person automatically designate the minimum number of officers required to respond. Next there’s the incident where, for whatever reason, the officer requests additional units to accomplish his goal, or most importantly, for officer safety reasons.

         The other occasions are more fluid and out of an officer’s control. Officers routinely head in the direction of another officer who’s gone out on a traffic stop, or to investigate some suspicious situation. This is simply prudent because any “routine” situation can go sideways without warning.

         There’s another time you may wonder why so many damned cops have shown up after you’ve been stopped for a traffic violation, making you wonder if they’ve pegged you as Osama bin Laden’s second cousin. For one thing the unit stopping you may already be a two-man car. The next car showing up may also be a two-man car or a car with a field training officer and a student officer, and voila, you’ve got four of your town’s finest surrounding your car all paying attention to lil’ ‘ol you.

         Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in this position, but if you do, don’t take it personally if you attract more, attention-in-blue, than you’d bargained for—it’s just the way we do things.   

  • Damned Either Way.

     

     

    Well, here we go again.

     

         A police officer answers a call while at home off duty, to come into work and risk his life and safety to help save a suicidal stranger and for his efforts he gets hammered by some media and second-guessed by local politicians. What a strange way to say thank you.

         The other day a detective, with whom I’d worked for several years in patrol, was called out to engage a forty-eight year old suicidal man apparently preparing to jump off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. The detective serves voluntarily as a hostage negotiator and often responds to such incidents. I know this detective to be an exceedingly competent and empathetic officer.

         During the two-hour effort to keep a distraught man from taking his own life, the man maintained a precarious perch on the outside of the bridge railing, but was rapidly losing his hand-hold. The detective attempted a last-ditch effort to secure him to the railing with handcuffs, but the man pulled away, kicked out from the bridge, lost his grip and plummeted to his death. Now the cop, after hours of trying to communicate with the man who hadn’t spoken a single word, has to live with this horrific image and his own personal second-guessing.

         There’s far too much emphasis on, “happy endings,” these days, but this is real life—no one is guaranteed a happy ending; cops know this better than most. Too often the prevailing attitude is, if something goes wrong, it’s the officer’s fault. The suspect refuses to drop the gun or knife and the officer is forced to kill him; of course it’s the officer’s fault for not defusing the situation or disarming the suspect—or my personal favorite: for not shooting to wound. Or, the severely depressed man refuses to listen to reason and succeeds in committing suicide; of course it’s the officer’s fault for not convincing the man that life is worth living after all.

         Listen up folks: some people are unreachable, some folks suffer from severe mental illness, and, listen especially carefully to this reality: some folks are just plain evil. My point is, not every situation can be remedied peacefully. In fact, if you think about it for a moment, isn’t that why the police exist? If every situation had an easy, non-violent solution, we wouldn’t need the police—anyone could do it.

         My friend is now being second-guessed about his methods in attempting to rescue this man, who was obviously intent on ending his life. Any officer will tell you that even though we learn that there are certain commonalities in similar situations, each situation, and individual, is different, and you can’t predict anything with complete accuracy. The media, administrators, and politicians have days, weeks, and months to dissect what the officer had seconds to decide. And since the police no longer enjoy society’s benefit of the doubt, the situation is discouraging for cops.

         Folks who create or exacerbate this situation by armchair-quarterbacking officers, will suffer along with the rest of society when potential officers choose different career paths, and if/when those who do enter the profession, along with those of us already here, hesitate in similar situations in the future. It’s just human nature to run through that mental rolodex of acquired knowledge for those situations we’d best avoid. What happens when that officer hesitates to pull his gun on an armed suspect, or hesitates to even attempt to prevent a person from hurting themselves for fear of appearing to have assisted the person in committing suicide?

         Think! Think! Think! As a society we have to think seriously about our attitudes toward our cops. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t—quite literally in this case. The cops stand off and the guy jumps: “The cops didn’t do anything!” The cops attempt to rescue the guy and he slips, falls, jumps—whatever: “The cops killed the guy!”

         How can the cops ever win?

  • Congratulations!

    This may come as a surprise, considering my past blogs, however I’d like to congratulate President-elect Obama. One of the things I love about our nation is our history of peaceful transitions of power. No matter how contentious, the losing party, often quite graciously as in this case, hands the reigns over to his successor.

     

    The significance of this campaign is not lost on me. I understand that, although many black people who voted for Barack Obama do not side with him politically, the meaning of an American of African decent rising to the presidency is remarkably poignant and emotional. Yes, it was about race for them, but in this case I’m not sure that was such a bad thing. No matter what else now occurs, no child of any race—and thanks to Hillary and Sarah—gender, can ever look in the mirror and think that any part of the American Dream is not possible for him or her.

     

    I will offer other thoughts and opinions on the past election and on our new president in upcoming blogs, but for now I’d just like to wish Barack Obama and his beautiful family my sincere best wishes as the leader of all Americans.