Monday, February 22, 2010

"Calling all cars, calling all cars, Idiot on Main Street"

Every once in awhile I post something past my purview about cop work. It’s going to happen, because I read about police work every day. I have always reflected back what I learn. It’s the extroverted way of learning—to check my understanding out loud. Sometimes it makes me look like an utter fool. But I always end up in a better place.

Every time I post on policing, I wonder if I have done wrong, offended people. I perceive a great privacy in the LE profession. Only two kinds of comments on that profession are expected:

A. The one that every LEO seems to expect, which does not concede any virtue to law enforcement, is selfish, mean, self-righteous, and unmerciful.
B. The one that every LEO will accept, which is an unquestioningly thankful comment, and too often left out of an officer’s day.

But between these is a spectrum of half-informed or trying-to-be-informed comments and questions. A fool’s questions are clumsy, phrased poorly, or miss the point. These are frequently met with silence. I have learned there are good reasons for the silence:

1. Tired of justifying one’s existence after shift, prefer to do something else.

2. Same idiot questions always come up. Read a book and find out.
3. TV is not true, especially CSI. See number 2.

4. The explanation opens a can of worms—more questions. (Ann T.'s category.)
5. The explanation opens a can of snakes--leaves the LEO to further calumny and ammunition against him from group A.

6. Explaining stuff in public forums is against agency rules.
7. Each situation is different. There is not always an over-abiding principle from agency to agency, officer to officer, dumbass civilian to hostile civilian to courteous one.

So, I think I dimly perceive. At the same time, I do think there has to be a way to educate the public in law enforcement matters. No police officer wants to give information that gives thugs knowledge. But why not teach people what you wish to heck they knew? And some police blogs are doing this, which seems largely unappreciated by the agency. They're wrong. They should be pleased, and following suit:

1. You want better information from 911 calls, but agencies don’t teach how to make them.
2. You want relevant 911 calls, but agencies rarely teach what is relevant.

3. You should be able to expect courteous exchanges, hmmm. There’s got to be a way to frame expectations for that. If you’re parenting on the curb, can’t you parent on the Web site? You only have to do the Web site once.

There’s got to be a way. A lot of people who start out dumb can get smart. If they knew more, they would support their police more intelligently. Or support them anew.

Underneath this whole issue I have presented, I see a profession sometimes teetering toward despair. Their despair, if not alleviated, will be despair of our country. We are based on law, and an informed citizenry must pay attention to it: not just idealistic policies, but the reality on the ground. A statistic tells a civilian some things, but they are often poorly-presented. And even correct statistics do not tell us everything.

Those of us who want to be better citizens are only getting a limited chance to improve the debate for us all. We need each other. So I think first responders should say what they need, and we civilans should find out what we need to give.

Here's one fun example. Hat tip to Ten-80 blog, from last October--and it's just the beginning. I would take the bicycle repair out, or, add gunfire or hecklers, and then make a series out of it--


Christopher said...

I could wax philisophical about this topic all day, but I think I can summarize it fairly succintly. In my view-

Sincere questions to gain understanding are always welcome. Questions for purely entertainment value are not. "Hey, have you ever shot anybody?"

Questions without prior reflection become tedious. Many questions, if the person thought through the question, applied the laws of economics (not finance, mind you, but economics), the principles of logic, and some familiarity with human behavior, would be able to obtain fairly reasonable responses on their own.

And finally, as you already succintly pointed out, often times, there are as many different answers as there are police officers to answer them.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
You may wax philosophy all over this post, and I would take it as a huge favor.

The entertainment questions are yes, way out of line. I'm sure it is infuriating and about as insensitive as it could get.

One thing I have read is that you can wait and eventually your answer will turn up--Actually, it was a post on police tactics, enjoining a team not to just rush into a room blindly. Also to be prepared. I have tried to apply this kind of tactics to my quest for lessons, too.

So far, only good advice.
Thank you very much for responding.

Ann T.