Tag Archives: police

Fearing that police will be scarred needlessly

I feel the need to defend law enforcement officers.

It’s not that they need me to defend them. I do fear that the fallout from the George Floyd story well might scar police officers wrongly as protests keep turning into riots.

George Floyd’s death at the hands of a rogue cop has stunned the nation and the world. I got an email from a friend in Australia who expressed concern about the culture that produced the conduct that led to Floyd’s hideous death in Minneapolis. My friend is a learned man and I will accept his analysis as legitimate.

My concern rests with the universal police community that comprises men and women who do their jobs with diligence and honor every hour each day they go to work.

My career as a journalist put me in touch with many fine law enforcement officers over the course of nearly four decades. I respected all of them; I “liked” most of them, but not all. As a reporter and an editor, the cops and I occasionally would butt heads, which is more or less the nature of police/media relationships.

However, they were almost to a person individuals with the greatest integrity. I haven’t spoken to any of them since the Floyd story exploded, but I know what they would say. They would say they are horrified at what that Minneapolis did, that they cannot fathom “restraining” someone the way the cop did to Floyd, snuffing the life out of him over the span of nine minutes.

Legitimate protests are warranted if they are aimed exclusively at the police agency in question; in this case it’s the Minneapolis Police Department. Indeed, all law enforcement agencies are being handed an opportunity to examine closely their own policies regarding the detention of suspects.

What happened in Minneapolis is horrifying in the extreme. It doesn’t get easier to watch the video of George Floyd being confronted by the police and then plead for his life as it is slipping away under the cop’s knee pressed against the back of his neck.

I will not accept that what occurred nearly a week ago is standard operating procedure among all law enforcement agencies and among all the men and women who suit up every day to “protect and serve” the public.

Did the AG actually suggest that the cops might not protect us?

U.S. Attorney General William Barr sought to buck up the nation’s law enforcement network, but in doing so he seems to have suggested something dire and dangerous if the cops don’t get the respect they deserve from the communities they serve.

“They have to start showing more respect than they do,” Barr said of the public. “If communities don’t give [law enforcement] the support and respect they deserve, they may find themselves without the services they need.”

It makes me go, “huh?”

Is the attorney general actually suggesting — if not encouraging — that police might not respond to calls for help? Is he saying that police officers might give citizens the short shrift if they need protection?

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Attorney General.

In a ceremony honoring the top police officers from around the nation, Barr noted that military veterans suffered years of scorn in the years immediately after the Vietnam War; that has changed dramatically since the time of the Persian Gulf War. This veteran thanks my fellow Americans for the change of heart.

Are the nation’s police officers feeling the same level of disrespect? Hmm. I don’t know for certain, but it seems as if that the AG’s comparison is a bit overcooked.

If the attorney general is encouraging cops to go slow on emergency responses because the communities they serve don’t love them as much as they should, then he is committing a profound disservice to the nation … and its police forces.

‘Routine’ traffic stop? Not even …

An Odessa police officer pulled someone over on a traffic stop.

What happened next defies human understanding. The motorist started firing an assault weapon.

Seven people died in the slaughter. The event lasted about an hour. The gunman died when police finally chased him down and shot him to death in a fire fight

My point? There ain’t nothing, not a damn thing , “routine” when a police officer pulls someone over on a traffic stop. I was schooled about that once in Oregon when I wrote a newspaper story and referred to a “routine traffic stop.”

The tragedy in Odessa, Texas, should fill us all with a keener understanding and appreciation of the heroic officers who suit up in police uniforms and go about their duties to “protect and serve” the rest of us.

A loud ‘no!’ on private prisons

Ten of the 25 Democrats running for president have touched tonight on an issue that hits one of my hot buttons: private prisons.

I oppose the concept, the principle, the very idea of farming out the incarceration of prisoners to for-profit companies. My reasons aren’t commonly expressed by politicians who share my views on private prisons.

My take is this:

If we’re going to spend public money to pay police officers to arrest criminal suspects, then spend public money to pay prosecuting attorneys to win convictions in publicly funded courtrooms, then we ought to finish that loop by spending public money to incarcerate these individuals.

Whether they commit white-collar crimes, or any sort of violent crime — and that includes capital crimes — a society that insists on spending enough money to arrest and prosecute criminals should also insist on providing sufficient funds to hold them behind bars for as long as their sentence allows.

Some politicians — and that includes the president of the United States — keep espousing in public the idea that private prisons are somehow OK.

They are not OK, in my humble view. We need to ensure full public accountability for the manner in which they are housed. Private prisons certainly are subject to public review. I just believe it is imperative that we keep that duty in the hands of public institutions, whether it’s at the county, state or federal level.

I’ve never had a problem with building prisons when the lockups get too crowded. Nor do I have a problem with ensuring that the public fulfills its responsibility to the individuals who have paid for their arrest and prosecution.

President makes point about his support of cops

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went to the White House to take part in a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama.

The subject: police relations with communities that might not always believe police officers are their friends.

Patrick stood up and asked Obama to express his support for the police in a way that conveys such support for the men and women who protect us.

I believe the president answered Patrick appropriately by telling him that he — Obama — has been “unequivocal” in his stated support of law enforcement.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/07/15/brief-july-15-2016/?mc_cid=398044d66b&mc_eid=c01508274f

Lt. Gov. Patrick did not distinguish himself — or the state — when he derided the Black Lives Matter marchers as “hypocrites” when they fled the gunfire that erupted in Dallas the other evening. They were marching to protest police activities in other communities but then sought protection when the gunman opened fire. Thus, according to Patrick, they behaved hypocritically.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “In response to Patrick’s question at the discussion on Thursday, Obama countered that he had ‘been unequivocal in condemning any rhetoric directed at police officers’ and offered to send Patrick examples of him expressing the sentiment ‘in case you missed it.’”

Indeed, I have heard our head of state say repeatedly that he condemns those who have struck out against police officers. I am not sure what Lt. Gov. Patrick actually wants the president to say that he hasn’t said already.

Perhaps it’s that President Obama has talked openly about the incidents in which the police at times have treated African-Americans and other racial minorities differently than they way they react to others.

Obama also said that “data shows there are disparities in how police treated people of different races, and that pointing out those disparities should not be viewed as anti-police.”

We all know the police have difficult and profoundly stressful jobs. Barack Obama knows it as well as does Dan Patrick.

The president said so — yet again! — at the White House town hall.

Heroes wear firefighter uniforms

Popular culture is fond of bandying about the word “hero.”

We ascribe that title to athletes and to movie stars who play heroic figures on the big screen.

One of our communities caught fire in recent days. Fritch, in Hutchinson County, has been battling wildfires. You want a definition of a real hero? Look to the people who plunge into the fire to battle it face to face.

We know all this, of course. We know about the heroism our firefighters exhibit all the time. The same can be said of police officers, who answer calls that should be “routine,” but too often prove to be anything but.

Today, let’s single out the firefighters for hero recognition.

I ran into one of them just yesterday. He was mowing a lawn two doors west of where my wife and I live. I walked over just to visit with him and to get a price on lawn mowing services. He said he’s been cutting grass part time for 22 years. His real job? He’s an Amarillo firefighter stationed at the River Road station just north of Thompson Park.

The fellow has had his hands full in recent days, battling the Fritch fire along with firefighters from other departments all across the northern Panhandle.

It’s good to understand, too, that those rural firefighters — the folks who work in our small farming and ranching communities — are volunteers who don’t get paid to suit up and plunge into the inferno.

The 9/11 tragedy nearly 13 years ago educated many Americans about the heroism our firefighters exhibit. Remember the stories of those individuals running upstairs into the Twin Towers to rescue those who were trapped?

Does that define a hero? You bet it does.

The fire season has arrived a bit early this year. Our firefighters are going have a busy time of it, particularly if the region remains as dry as it’s been.

They will put their lives on the line as they fight to protect people from the flames. They are heroes who should make us proud.

Godspeed, y’all.