Monday, June 30, 2014

Are Police Public Relations in the Toilet?

This past Sunday a friend of mine at church asked me how I felt about police public relations.  He’s an active duty police officer and knew that I’d retired from the Department many years ago after he’d read some of my blog articles.  He challenged me to consider how to improve police public relations.

Here’ a chance to improve the public’s perceived image of police officers as our society evolves from days gone by, Norman Rockwell’s vision of a young boy in awe of the town hero, to a more threatening consideration, SWAT teams kicking down a door at the wrong address or police officers shooting the family dog that’s inside a fenced yard. 

A feeling exists among many citizens that there’s an ‘Us versus Them’ mentality that pits police officers against their neighbors; to a certain extent that might be true.  Does it have to be this way?

There was a political cartoon by Tom Blanton of the Project for the New American Revolution (, which caught my attention.  He created a cover of an old children’s magazine, Highlife; except instead of a non-threatening milk toast subject like the magazine normally included within their pages he picked up on the trend, real or not, that police officers are the enemy rather than your neighbor who happens to wear a uniform.  I remember reading Highlife magazines while waiting to see the dentist or doctor; something to kill time before being tortured, nice magazine.  I wonder; does Highlife approve of Blanton’s sense of sarcasm or does it even matter?

Some police officers have the natural ability to come off as pricks, sorry, that’s just about the only way to call it.  There’s actually a term associated with such cops, ‘badge happy’.  Come to think of it there are several terms to cover obnoxious cops who've forgotten they are only there to protect and serve; but some of these monikers are inappropriate in mixed company.

Most of us can relate to cops who set up radar traps where speed limits are ridiculously low or arbitrarily placed.  Are the tickets written protecting the public from dangerous drivers or simply filling the officer’s ‘quota’ for the day?  Take that a step further, does the officer’s driving habits match with the expectations he/she has of the public’s driving habits?  Probably not; so why issue tickets for violations which only tend to annoy the public?

Somewhere along the line police officers need to turn the public’s opinion back in the direction which puts them in a positive light.

Arrogance of office, being a power hungry prick, call it what you will; but when a police officer takes command of the conversation as if his/her opinion is the only opinion…well, let’s just say the public is ‘up to here’ with that attitude.

Police officers are paid to protect and serve, not dominate and demean.

Police officers are human beings, not robotic camera ticket systems hired to increase the revenue arm of government.  That might actually be enlightening to some police departments as they struggle to make ends meet.  

When I was a street cop, and I’m not making this up, our un-written quota was 2 per shift; two moving violations on the work card kept supervisors off your back.

I had a supervisor pull me aside one time and explain the reason I wasn’t getting a new patrol vehicle assigned to me was because I wasn’t being as ‘productive’ as officers who had less seniority.  If only I’d had a tape recording of that conversation…; it’s against the law to enforce a traffic ticket quota; at least it is here in Texas.

As far as SWAT teams kicking in doors, officers shooting the family dog or accidentally blowing up a child when a flash grenade goes off too close to the crib…what can I say?   There is a trend, for lack of a better term, especially among larger police departments to become more militarized. 

The choice of uniform color, choice of foot wear and a host of other seemingly minor appearance related decisions puts a subliminal message out there for the public. 

Here in Houston we used to have light blue uniform shirts that matched the paint on our patrol vehicles.  There is a change in the wind, a move toward black uniform shirts and black and white patrol vehicles.  A study was done that determined this change; police officers appear more powerful in black uniform shirts.  The light blue shirts didn’t command the proper authority from the public.  (not making this up either)

If you want to improve police public relations then go back to a less threatening uniform, remind officers that they are part of the community they serve and protect rather than the idea that police officers rule over their subjects; it’s that simple. 

Some folks are concerned that police departments will eventually be instructed to begin disarming the public, confiscating firearms from individuals as each ‘crisis’ dictates further restrictions on individual rights to own and bear arms.  

What will your local police officers do when such a directive comes down the pike?

Hopefully, and I say this with a knowledge that Most police officers really do understand the Bill of Rights and how it applies to Everyone; hopefully our police officers will recognize the need to stand up for what is right and refuse to follow such a directive.  While their Departments may cow tow to the State or Federal government, individual police officers have to live with themselves and what they do for a living.

We live in strange days, the kind that makes freedom loving individuals long for the past.  Watching the hand writing on the wall lends credence to the public’s fear of police in general.  

Painting police officers as ‘the enemy’ is just as bad as badge happy cops running rough shod over a public that deserves better; neither path leads to improved relations. 

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”.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wireless Emergency Alert

The advent of Smart Phones with fancy APPs, many of which I have no clue about, reminds me that I’m a dinosaur living beyond my time.  One that comes standard on most cell phones is the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA).   I know it works because it went off three times when I was in the shower. 

I remember having practice drills at school that coincided with a program sponsored by Civil Defense during the Cold War era.  Alert blasts would come over the school’s PA system  and we were taught to hide under our desks.  In actuality, and this is only my opinion, it was so that when the atomic blast occurred our charred bodies would be more easily identified if we died in our assigned seating area. 

When the WEA went off this morning I was in the middle of shampooing my hair.  Was I supposed to squat down low in the shower and hope nobody would be offended that I died naked?  If I’d been socially conscious and more responsible I could have thrown a towel over my birthday suit and crouched down under my oak desk.  In this way my remains would be less threatening to archeologists sifting through the debris a thousand years from now.

Of course they’d get it all wrong…  “Here’s a skeleton wrapped in a special religious cloth, pointing to a fragment of burned bath towel.  This must have been a personal prayer uniform as he clearly was in the attitude of prayer when his body was consumed by extreme temperatures.”  Archeologists always assume that unknown objects have some kind of religious significance.

After shaving and putting clothes on I glanced at the WEA text message.  Apparently some kid on Cuero, Texas…   As soon as I read Cuero, Texas I lost interest.  Why the hell was I getting an alert message for something in Cuero, Texas?

"WEA enables government officials to target emergency alerts to specific geographic areas (e.g. lower Manhattan) through cell towers. The cell towers broadcast the emergency alerts for reception by WEA-enabled mobile devices.”

Some kid ran away from home in Cuero, Texas, got kidnapped or forgot to take his medicine; exactly why is this important to anyone living a hundred miles away?   

“How does WEA work?

Pre-authorized national, state or local government may send emergency alerts regarding public safety emergencies, such as evacuation orders or shelter in place orders due to severe weather, a terrorist threat or chemical spill, to WEA. 

Alerts from authenticated public safety officials are sent through FEMA’s IPAWS to participating wireless carriers.

Participating wireless carriers push the alerts from cell towers to mobile devices in the affected area. The alerts appear like text messages on mobile devices.”

Maybe that kid from Cuero had a pocket knife and should be considered a potential terrorist; or worse, the kid was a member of a known terrorist organization like the Cuero Catholic Boys Choir. 

Homeland Security has been notifying local police departments about potential terrorist activity based on political, religious affiliation or extremist organizations like the Tea Party movement who support following the Constitution; that must be it.  The kid’s from a rural community and there’s a high probability of his being a conservative knife wielding terrorist who just went ballistic.

Put out an all points bulletin for a scruffy looking 10 year old wearing a plaid short sleeve shirt, blue jeans and cowboy boots headed on foot in an unknown direction.  Notify all police departments that this kid may or may not be armed with a genuine Buck folding knife and has a history of twirling his pencil in an aggressive manner.  Get this out to all WEA equipped cell phones and continue sending the alert until the cows come home.  That is all…

Never mind sending alerts about thousands of illegal aliens crossing our southern border, some are known gang bangers and these potential terrorists are welcomed with open arms by the Obama administration.  

“As detailed by the Washington Times this week, the US Border Patrol’s employee union is trying to warn the American people what is occurring at their nation’s southern border right now. Chris Cabrera, the union’s Vice President, tells media outlets that thousands of known terrorists have streamed across the US border over the past couple weeks. The border patrol agents know they’re terrorists, but insist the Obama administration won’t allow them to take the anti-American fighters into custody or even stop them from entering.”  

Where’s my WEA distress signal for a real terroristic threat?  Maybe this is a modern day version of the Boy Who Cried Wolf; send out so many worthless alerts, enough so that when something important happens the public has already deactivated their WEA APP. 

Government agencies can’t exist without an abbreviated name, DOE, EPA, ICE and so on.  After a while you begin to wonder what the letters stand for.  Take the EPA for example.  At one time the letters stood for Environmental Protection Agency; but as they are being used now, End Productivity in America.   Maybe the same holds true for WEA, We Endeavor to Annoy.

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”.

Friday, June 06, 2014

What if D-Day had failed?

As a nation we look back and celebrate the efforts of the Allied invasion forces on the beaches of Normandy, often referred to as D-Day.  Very few dates in history draw more attention; as reason tells us, had they failed the world would be a much different place.   But they didn’t fail and our debt of gratitude is enormous, so much so that it’s difficult to express in words. 

While on the phone with my mother this morning we talked about the significance of D-Day.  In my mind’s eye I could see her pointing to an American Flag fastened to a short wooden pole she keeps next to the front door in the umbrella stand.  “Should we put the flag out on display?”

Dad walked by as we were on the phone, “Hey Kid, how’re you doing?”

“Okay, Sir”, Dad doesn’t hear very well so that sums up our conversations as mom acknowledged our mutual respect for each other.

She then continued explaining her experience from the stand point of a young girl in high school listening to the public address system during her economics class.   For a few minutes she recalled how that particular class wasn’t her favorite, that the woman teaching it lacked social skills and was flat out rude to most students.   “I think she was a communist”, but so many economics teachers tend to lean to the left.

“The invasion of Europe has begun…”, her voice recalled the announcement over the intercom as her throat tightened, tears welling up in her eyes as the moment played out one more time in her thoughts.   It isn’t difficult to picture a classroom of students intently listening as the message was delivered, each word carrying the fate of the civilized world, each knowing family members and close friends could be involved in the invasion and the great risks they would face.

Eisenhower delivered a now famous address to the troops, one which was intended to boost moral and spirit; that's what my mother likely heard as she reached back through the years telling me about her D-Day memories.  She remembered the solemnity of the address and how Eisenhower took full responsibility for any failure which might give NAZI Germany total and complete victory.

I found another document stored away in the National Archives, a letter written by Eisenhower in the event of total failure at Normandy.

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

It’s not a pleasant thought, wondering if everything you believe in, everything you stand for and have placed on the line, all the men who have gone to the front lines, men who would be slaughtered or sustain injuries beyond imagination; to consider that your decision and yours alone might be the end of freedom and liberty.   

Thank Providence and Heaven’s help that day for letting the Allied invasion forces accomplish their task.  Had they not won more folks would be aware of Eisenhower’s letter of failure instead of his words of encouragement to the troops.

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”.