Sunday, September 22, 2013

To Protect and Serve

Everyone knows the mission of police departments; it’s emblazoned on almost every police cruiser from small towns with only a handful of officers to major metropolitan forces with thousands, “To Protect and Serve”.  I ought to know, being a retired police officer; but what does it mean, “To Protect and Serve”?

The Sunday afternoon movie was, The Blues Brothers; Jake and Elwood as played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.   Watching the chase scenes was painful as time and time again police were portrayed as incompetent imbeciles intent on destroying as much equipment as possible with no regard for public safety. 

Here in Houston there was a Chase Policy written as part of Standard Operating Procedures which spelled out how many police units could be part of an active pursuit without bringing down the wrath of the Ivory Towers.  I’m pretty sure the chase scene showing thirty or more police cars driving at break neck speed through downtown Chicago as they piled up, skidded and flipped into heaps might have had a part in forming the Chase Policy; that and a few law suits costing big bucks, ya’ think?

As a matter of fact, and this goes back to the 80s when I was an active duty officer working for the Houston Police Department, The Blues Brothers movie at one time was included as part of In-Service Training.   I can only surmise it was to point out numerous ways police work should Not be done; but that is speculation on my part.

I remember another video shown at an earlier In-Service training regarding negative public relations, things police officers might do that annoy citizens.   There was one part of the video, portrayed as if it were an official recording, of a desk officer working at one of the sub-stations that had officers watching it slapping knees. 

A citizen walked in off the street to report his car stolen; but before he can get the officer’s attention he’s directed to sit on the bench while the officer finishes a phone call.  The fellow dutifully sits down figuring the call must be at least as important as his car being stolen; but that’s not at all the case.

“So, Herb, are we taking your Bass boat or mine this time?”  The officer goes on talking into the phone, “Yea, I’ll spring for a couple of six packs and some chips; but you’re gonna’ have to be on time or we’ll leave you sitting on the dock.”

As the minutes click by the good citizen becomes ticked off, enough to approach the desk.  The features on the citizen’s face match the slow burn that’s going on inside him.  The officer puts his hand over the receiver and redirects his attention to the citizen, “I told you to wait over there on the bench; are you deaf or just stupid?”  It’s been quite a number of years since I watched that video so I’m filling in the blanks without regard to accuracy; but you get the point.

“So we’ll be meeting at Jack’s place at 4:30 and then driving over together from there?”  The officer notices the citizen starting to get back up from the bench, “Hold on a second, Herb, I’ve got some moron walked in off the street who won’t follow simple instructions”, saying it loud enough for anyone with ears to hear.

The officer then glares at the fellow, “If you want me to, I’ll come over there and put the cuffs on; now sit down and shut up unless you want to spend the night in the tank.”  This goes on for a few more minutes; but instead of officers being embarrassed by the film, most everyone was too busy laughing.

My partner and I were still fairly new at being cops so we were taking notes, mostly of things we’d yet to have pulled off.  You can see how certain kinds of activity might annoy the good citizens.  Maybe some of the anti-police sites on the internet have gone a bit far; but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the barrel.  The purpose of that block of training was to remind officers of their mission, To Protect and Serve.   

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

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