Tag Archives: police

Perils of Policing

Thanks to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras, Americans these days get treated to a lot of stories about police misconduct–so much so that we sometimes forget that–troubling as they are– misbehaving officers represent a small percentage of the men in blue.

We’ve all recently seen the graphic and unsettling evidence of cops mistreating black teenagers at a pool party. But Juanita Jean–proprietor of the World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.–has provided us a glimpse of the other side of the equation, namely, what happens when a perfectly reasonable police officer confronts a self-important “Sovereign Citizen” spouting bizarre legal theories about why the state of Texas lacks the authority to ticket him.

The video shows the May 2 arrest of 49-year-old Scott Richardson after being pulled over for allegedly driving 50 mph in a 40 mph zone. Recorded by Richardson on his cell phone, it shows him arguing with the Addison officer for over four minutes before the policeman gets out his baton and breaks the driver’s side window and pulls the man from the car. …

During the course of the interchange, the officer requests the man show him his driver’s license and proof of insurance a total of 15 times before he gets out his baton, makes the same request a final time, and begins breaking the window.

I think my favorite part of the exchange was Richardson demanding of the officer “As a man, what right do you have to stop another man?” (I guess it would be okay to stop a woman??)

You really need to click through and see the entire confrontation.

A day in the life…..


Good Cop/Bad Cop

The long-simmering tensions between police and the communities they serve have erupted in a series of protests and confrontations, triggered by events in Ferguson and New York. I’ve posted about this before, and I don’t intend to belabor the very different points of view expressed by the protestors and those sympathetic to them, on the one hand, and (some) citizens and police, on the other.

I will say that the officers who turned their backs on Mayor DeBlasio during the funeral of the two policemen shot by a mentally-deranged man in New York dishonored themselves and their colleagues, and disrespected the officers whose memorials should have been the focus of the day.

Fortunately, those childish displays are not typical of the men in blue, nor are the disheartening reports of police officers who belong to the KKK, who use disproportionate force, and who otherwise display “conduct unbecoming.” Many more officers are like Steve Anderson, Chief of Police in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Chief recently responded–point by point– to an email from a citizen critical of official restraint during peaceful demonstrations in Nashville. His response went viral. You really need to click the link and read the entire exchange, but here is a representative sample:

• “I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.”

I have to admit, I am somewhat puzzled by this announcement. None of the demonstrators in this city have in any way exhibited any propensity for violence or indicated, even verbally, that they would harm anyone. I can understand how you may feel that your ideologies have been questioned but I am not aware of any occurrence that would give reason for someone to feel physically threatened.

• “I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.”

It is somewhat perplexing when children are injected into the conversation as an attempt to bolster a position or as an attempt to thwart the position of another. While this is not the type of conversation I ordinarily engage in, here are some thoughts you may find useful as you talk with your son.

First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.

Police officers like Chief Anderson–and there are many like him, fortunately– understand their constitutional and public safety duties, even if some of the citizens they serve do not.

Crazy Has Its Own Logic

Like many Americans, I have been following the protests in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the reactions of police and others. I was particularly impressed by the thoughtful statement issued by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the wake of the mounting tensions between police and the communities they serve.

Jabbar began by noting that his father and his grandfather were both police officers. He then addressed the recent assassination of the two officers in New York.

We need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

Shaming and blaming, unfortunately, are the currency of the day.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult to see the difference between criticism of inappropriate police behavior, on the one hand, and antagonism to police and policing on the other. I can complain about service at a restaurant without being labeled “anti-restaurant.”  I can criticize a schoolteacher without being anti-education. If I punish misbehavior by my children, that is actually evidence that I love my children enough to raise them properly.

Most police officers are good guys. Some, however, aren’t.

Police who get angry and defensive when someone points that out are probably part of the problem.

Woe is Mayor

These are rough days to be a mayor. If you don’t believe me, look at just two of the issues bedeviling Mayor Ballard right now: police and parking.

In both cases, the Mayor has correctly identified a problem. But in both cases, there are substantial questions about his chosen solutions.

Managing the police is a perennial problem for mayors. Controlling crime and keeping citizens safe is an essential foundation for all the other things a mayor must do. It is no exaggeration to suggest that economic development, service delivery and a city’s quality of life all depend upon the safety of its citizens.

Given the importance of public safety, it’s understandable that Ballard wanted to control IMPD. When he assumed office and wrested control from Sheriff Frank Anderson, he made clear his belief that the Mayor should be the one held accountable for the department’s performance.

Those of us who disagreed pointed out that, in Indiana, the Sheriff is a constitutional office. Unlike the Director of Public Safety, he is elected by and answerable to the voters. Unlike mayors, who have multiple responsibilities, a Sheriffs’ duties and focus all involve law enforcement. If the Sheriff has responsibility for police behavior and public safety, and scandals erupt, voters can express their disapproval quite clearly at the ballot box. If the Mayor controls IMPD, voters must balance approval or disapproval of his public safety performance against their approval or disapproval of other initiatives, sending an inevitably mixed signal.      

The Mayor’s current policing woes stem from that decision to seize control early in his term. Both that decision and his current proposal to privatize parking enforcement will hamstring future mayors as well.

Once again, the Mayor has identified a legitimate issue. Our parking meters are old and outdated; our parking fees have not been raised in many years. It is time to take a holistic look at all aspects of downtown parking—revenue to the city, the effect on downtown businesses, the placement of meters and so on. None of the solutions identified for existing problems, however, requires the City to give a private company control of our parking decisions—and a significant portion of our parking revenues—for fifty years.

As several people have pointed out, had a contract of this sort been in effect a few years ago, the City would not have been able to give permission to build the Cultural Trail. 

The Mayor’s office defends the proposed privatization by pointing to the large capital outlay needed for new equipment, but the City could easily issue a twenty-year revenue bond for that purpose, and keep both control and all revenues in excess of those needed for bond repayment.

One of the most significant leadership challenges mayors face is deciding when to keep control of a public service and when to vest that control elsewhere. These are structural decisions, and they are especially consequential because they tie the hands of future administrations.

They are ultimately the decisions that determine a Mayor’s legacy.