Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not Enough Cops on Duty?

I read where a small town in New York, Deerpark, made the headlines; apparently there was a party at Hooter’s in an adjoining township and several off duty officers attended. According to the Fox website article , only two officers were scheduled to work that night; one was unavailable because he was on suspension and the other didn’t show up because he didn’t want to work by himself.

“That left a single state trooper on call to cover the town.”

I have to ask a few questions, the first; how big is the town? It couldn’t be all that big for them to have only two officers scheduled for an entire shift. Why couldn’t the shift commander, if there was one, why couldn’t he have filled in for the officer on suspension which would have made the lone officer, the one who didn’t feel comfortable working alone show up for duty. Was there only one police car; in other words, was it a two man unit or were there two “one man units” to cover the township? I don’t see how it would make much difference; but I’d have to wonder anyway.

Okay, or is that O-tay; back on night shift many years ago when I was with the Houston Police Department we had a visit from a newly assigned Assistant Chief. He came out one Friday, unannounced. It was about fifteen minutes prior to the beginning of our shift and I was in the kitchen enjoying a complimentary Crunch Bar, courtesy of the local Borden’s Ice Creamery. The freezer was generously stocked with a variety of ice cream products and there were five other night shift officers in the kitchen talking and taking advantage of the sack dragged morsels when the Assistant Chief poked his head in to say hello.

“Don’t bother getting up; I’ll let you enjoy your time here, what I have to say I want to keep until I address the entire shift in roll call.” There was a friendly spirit that accompanied his entrance to the kitchen, a relaxed demeanor not normally found when the “Ivory Towers” visited with the troops.

“Then you might as well tell us what’s on your mind, Sir; this IS the entire shift.” I was senior officer and knew that all six of us WAS all there would be on this Friday night. There were two geographic police districts, two “one man units” and two “two man units” for an area that covered the size of Rhode Island, other than that it was perfectly normal.

Think about that for a moment; the “two man units”, both of them, were normally sent on disturbance calls in order to have immediate back up while the one man units were sent on report calls. That looks great on paper; except that as soon as the first disturbance call is assigned that left the one man unit to cover the entire district; remembering that the other units are assigned to cover the other district until all units are on a call. Friday night calls generally meant that there were no available units for calls; so, for practical purposes there were no available units for service, for back up or any other reason.

There had been an energy level, an excitement that was visibly absent as soon as the Assistant Chief absorbed the information I’d given. The pep talk he’d planned for the “entire shift” seemed somehow irrelevant in light of the fact that our shift was considerably under staffed; so much so that it was, in my humble opinion, critically under staffed to the point of endangering individual officers, not to mention the public which believed the City had sufficiently provided for their safety. I couldn’t tell you what message had been important enough for an Assistant Chief to come out on a Friday night. The message that we gave him was more important, get us some back up.

You folks up in Deerpark, New York shouldn’t be all that upset; after all you still had the State Trooper to keep you safe. Would this be a good time to mention how much safer you would be if you had in your possession a working knowledge of firearms to defend yourself and your loved ones from the bad guys? Let’s take that a step beyond; maybe, if you had your trusty firearm and knew how to use it, were respectable and had a sense of community you could come to the aid of your local police officer when he/she comes across more than he/she’s able to handle alone; seeing as how the department is under staffed in order to keep from taxing the public into bankruptcy.

I’m long since retired from the Department and hadn’t given it much thought the last time I went to Hooter’s or considered my location with regard to the welfare and safety of the community. I did stop at Hooter’s a couple of weeks ago when one of the local girl’s soccer teams was using Hooter’s parking lot for a fund raiser; hoses stretched across the asphalt with buckets, sponges and towels washing cars with all the team members and their parents baking in the hot Texas sun. They did a reasonable wash job on my work truck; not as good as I do myself, but it beats those worthless imbeciles standing on the corner with a plastic jug asking for donations rather than providing some kind of service. I’m a sucker for fund raisers where the kids are taught to provide a product or service in return for helping them achieve some goal.

Saturdays are good for driving around looking for kids with the right attitude, those who’ve been taught how to work and how to fit into our American way of life; keeps me from having to wash my truck too, what a hoot!

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