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|Learning Things the Hard Way
It is the nature of people to learn things the hard way. When you become a police officer, there’ll be times when you’ll give a person any number of
chances to walk away from his or her irrational and illegal behavior. In the end, Mr. or Ms. Hardhead will run out all the rope you’ve provided, and you’
ll arrest that person. This is an example where you’ve provided both positive and negative solutions with Hardhead choosing the latter.
When it comes to irrational and illegal behavior on a national or international scale involving special interest groups and nations respectively, a lot of
people get confused, and they endlessly argue about what is irrational or illegal. As a police officer, you’ll practice diplomacy everyday. When you think
about it, a police officer is the ultimate diplomat. When your effort at diplomacy begins to falter or fail, you are the sole decision maker on how and
when to exercise raw power to achieve an acceptable outcome that your diplomatic effort failed to produce. Unlike the generic diplomat, you’ll be the
one to personally exercise power.
As a police officer, you’ll learn sooner than anyone else the limitations of diplomacy. While I didn’t make too many mistakes during my career, one of
those mistakes nearly cost a man his life:
I responded to a call for a domestic disturbance where both the husband and wife were intoxicated. Both were small in stature, and it was clear that the
female was the dominant force in that household. A female officer responded as a back-up, and she stood by as I exercised my diplomatic resolution to
the disturbance. During the session of “conflict resolution,” the wife became frustrated at one point, and she slapped the husband’s face.
Now, remember this, had the husband slapped the wife, I wouldn’t have hesitated for a second in abandoning diplomacy and going straight to power in
the form of handcuffs on the husband. But, hey, this was a little woman, and the guy was so drunk, he probably didn’t even feel any pain from the
assault on him. In the end, both were calmed down, and I turned to leave the house. The female officer stopped me and asked, “Aren’t you going to
lock [her] up?” I replied with some it’s not a big deal response, and the female officer sighed and said, “Okay.”
No more than five minutes after clearing the call, a second call was dispatched to the same address for an assault. I, and the same female officer,
returned. We were met at the front door by the wife who started a rerun of her complaints about her “worthless” husband. When we entered the living
room of the home, we saw the husband sitting in a recliner. He didn’t look any different than when we’d left him expect for one thing; he had half the
blade of a steak knife planted firmly in the top of his head.
As I suffered the “I told you so” looks from the female officer, I was glad she had returned to back me up, for I needed a second pair of handcuffs for
the husband. Dumbo had no idea what had happened to him, and I was afraid he would pull the knife from his head. Fortunately, his injury turned out
to be much like those publicized from time to time where surgeons successfully remove a blade from a person’s brain with no resulting permanent
The lesson I learned from that experience so many years ago was to arrest anyone who had the nerve, drunk or sober, to assault another person right in
front of me.
Okay, I know that you might find it hard to compare or apply the carrot and stick / diplomacy and force boundaries of individual police officers on a
macro level. But, you should understand that diplomacy as a tool to achieve just ends is absolutely useless without the means and willingness to use
force at the right time. In the personal example I just described, my means and willingness were intact. It was the timing of my willingness that really
Force will always be problematic, whether micro or macro, to people who believe that force is never justified. While those people will insist that it is not
their belief, they never seem to be able to identify a situation or circumstance where they would approve of force. They’ll whine that the question is
hypothetical, and use of force is too important on which to hypothesize.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 brought a perpetual reality into clear focus. That reality demonstrated – again – that there are plenty of
people who will use any means to inflict death and destruction on massive scales to achieve their goals. It also brought into focus those nations which
support and protect terror and terrorists.
While 9/ll evoked a strong and forceful response from the United States, time influenced by success does fade the focus. If you do become a police
officer, you’re going to enjoy a special benefit. Your focus will not fade, and it will only sharpen as your career progresses. Your continual use of
diplomacy and force will provide you with a unique appreciation of both. That appreciation will give you the ability to avoid learning things the hard
way… again… and again.
When you become a police officer, you’ll be entering a career that will give you a unique insight on good and evil, government and politics, the
corrupting power of power, and the implementation of irrational solutions to problems complicated by inexperienced problem solvers.
So, what else is new? Well, what’s new in the United States is an unprecedented growth in government with no end in sight. Aside from all the folly
associated with bigger and bigger government, there are two indispensable functions of government that only government can address… the
maintenance of internal civil order and the defense of the nation from external threats of violence… or, more simply put, crime and war.
There’s been a lot of conversation and debate about the “war on terror.” Most of the discourse revolves around whether or not there is a real war and
whether or not that war can be won. When it comes to labels, there’s no question that the word war has been misused and overused… war on poverty;
war on crime; war on drugs.
Stay with me on this. A real war has a beginning and end. Some wars are short in duration while others may last many years. The real measure of war
is the continuation of armed conflict between or among groups of combatants using various levels of organized tactics to achieve political goals through
total victory. War cannot be logically applied to things like poverty, crime, and drugs since these are perpetual social conditions that can only be
suppressed to a level where their adverse effects will not overwhelm normal social progress.
Up until September 11, 2001, the United States treated terrorists and terrorism as a problem to be addressed by law enforcement. Of course, that
position strained logic after the massive loss of life and property which occurred on 9/11. Despite the fact that the current war on terror certainly looks
like war and worthy of the war label, FBI agents have read Miranda Warnings to terrorists captured on battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Let’s just hope that the dangers associated with international state sponsored terrorism are really figments of Americans’ collective imagination, and
the emerging policies of our government are not taking us on a journey into “The Twilight Zone.”
|Evidence is Evidence... but
There are so many reasons why every American should be grateful that he or she is an American. One of those reasons is a criminal justice system that
is fairer to those accused of crimes than any other justice system in the world. In fact, it’s so fair that even if a mountain of evidence exists to convict a
person, a portion of that evidence – or even the entire mountain – may not be admissible in court to be used against a criminal defendant.
One has to wonder when a good thing becomes too much of a good thing. When you become a police officer
you’re going to lose cases simply because of inadmissibility of evidence you’ve seized or collected. The inadmissibility of the evidence need not have
anything to do with the quality or veracity of the evidence. In most instances the inadmissibility will be determined by how, and under what
circumstances, you seized or collected the evidence.
In the beginning, your lack of knowledge and experience may cause you some confusion in understanding why some evidence is excluded from a
prosecution. As time goes by and your knowledge and experience expands,
you’ll master the constitutional processes that dictate how you collect and seize evidence. You should, and I emphasis should, also come to appreciate
the rights guaranteed under the 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
However… as you become grounded in the rational applications of evidence collection and admissibility, you will experience some frustration when you
see how some lawyers and judges apply their own theories and interpretations to admissibility issues. Politics has everything to do with every aspect of
the criminal justice system, and it’s always been that way. When I began my police career in the early 1970’s, everything was subject to hyper-technical
interpretations. As the years passed and crime rates dictated a more rational application of criminal justice, things got a lot better.
However… everything is cyclical, and I fear that you’ll be facing a repeat of the hyper-technical interpretations of the past. When I began my career,
the debilitating debate was rehabilitation versus punishment. Today, political correctness is the monster in the room where everything is what it is, but
it’s something different. An illegal alien has become an undocumented immigrant, and the term “enemy combatant” has been ceremoniously removed
from the lexicon. It won’t be long before the television pundits will be identifying terrorists and terrorism as the “T Word.”
When it comes to the terrorists… er… detainees still in custody, the problem of admissibility of evidence really
won't be a problem. You see, the War on Terror ended on January 20th, 2009, and nobody even noticed.
It’s not fair, but you, as a police officer, will be the face of a police state to the elitist intellectual – and others who think they’re intellectual – at one end
of the social scale and to those along various levels on the scale who will always resist conforming to polite social behavior. The career criminal will give
little, if any, thought to the issue of a police state, because he’ll be putting all of his intellectual power into avoiding you. The terrorist will either avoid
you or kill you depending upon strategic and tactical considerations and his current desired target for destruction.
The good news is that most Americans have a favorable view of the police officers in their communities. The single most important reason why
Americans have favorable views toward their police is because there are over 40,000 police departments in the United States. The majority of law
enforcement agencies in the United States are controlled by state and local governments – not an all powerful central government.
America looked a lot different over two centuries ago when a group of men came together to form a new nation. While times may have been different
then, the people weren’t any different than they are today. Some of the Founding Fathers argued for a strong central government; however, the
majority opted for limited powers for the central government. The majority of that time would be appalled to see how the clear, simple meanings of their
words in their new nation’s Constitution would, over time, be twisted or ignored to create some of the most absurd interpretations by politicians and
judges to expand the powers of the Federal [central] government.
While no one can foresee the future, America’s Founding Fathers knew that time and progress would change a lot of things. However, they knew what
wouldn’t change… some people’s addiction to power. Why do you think the Constitution’s First Amendment ensures free speech? Why do you think
they paid so much attention to a framework for separation of powers among co-equal branches of the Federal government? They created the best
system they could to ensure that no one or group of ideologues could simultaneously be in control of speech and all branches of the central government.
They knew that America could never become a police state as long as power existed to check power.
Now, let’s look at the issue of Islamist terrorism. Don’t you just love the view “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter?” I suppose if
you take the view that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are fighting to deny others their freedom, you could in some perverted way argue that simplistic view.
The truth is that America is the target of Islamist terrorism precisely because America projects the human benefits of freedom. The last thing Al
Qaeda, the Taliban, and any dictator wants is any impediments to their pursuit of totalitarianism. The Islamist part to today’s foremost terrorists is
simply a cloak of religion to obfuscate their criminality and pure political power motives.
Aside from the obvious physical dangers from terrorism are the dangers resulting from how a free society responds to acts of terrorism. The Patriot Act
is a good example of actions resulting in unintended consequences… or… at least I hope are unintended. I’m sure many of the Founding Fathers would
be scratching their heads and asking, “Why?” After all, they already made it pretty clear that the executive branch of government is responsible for
protecting the country from foreign attack. Why should the legislative branch corrupt their clear language regarding something as important as search
and seizure by codifying into law actions that clearly violate the Constitution? But… wait a minute – silly me and those silly Founding Fathers. Today’s
Constitutional revisionists have decided that terrorist attacks planned, financed and implemented by foreign terrorists are not acts of war but simply
criminal acts to be addressed by law enforcement. So, it should be obvious to anyone that some freedoms for Americans need be altered in order to
combat terrorism. The truth is that the Patriot Act was a result of one branch of government encroaching on the power of another branch with
American citizens paying the price for power and influence with freedoms.
Americans don’t understand the true nature of a police state, because they’ve not yet had to live in one. The beginning of the 21st Century is turning
out to be a true test for the Republic. There’s no question that the Federal government’s quest for more power began long ago even before the ink was
dry on the Constitution. The big question is when that quest will be checked.
If the American police officer ever does become the true face of a police state, you’ll know that all has been lost, because America’s police will be the
last building block put in place to complete an all powerful central government.