Time to Make Systemic Changes to a Damaged Law Enforcement System

PoliceOfficers

The job of a police officer, county sheriff deputy or other member of the law enforcement community is not an easy nor a thankless job. Day in and day out, the men and women who stand the “Thin Blue Line” subject themselves to the scorn of criminals, politicians, and sometimes even the everyday person, all for a pretty small payday (the starting pay for a police officer in New York City is around $41,000; by comparison, the starting salary for a schoolteacher in New York City is around $57,000). To be honest, any job that you do that you might not return home from in the evening (or the morning) deserves to have some level of respect given to it.

The problem is that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) have pretty much pissed this goodwill away through their actions. Dating back to the days of Prohibition, when cops pretty much turned a blind eye to the wrongdoings of organized crime and bootleggers because they got a piece of the action, LEOs have frequently straddled the line between criminality and following their credo of “to protect and to serve.” While some might think it is a recent occurrence, a look back at history shows that “bad cops” have long been a problem in U. S. society.

Smithsonian Magazine looked at this ugly history and, in many instances, some of the examples they came up with could be transposed to today’s environment without much effort. The well-done article cites a 1929 study of the Chicago police force and found that, although blacks made up only 5% of the population of the Second City, they accounted for 30% of the police killings between 1927 and 1929. Further study by the administration of President Herbert Hoover acknowledged the plague of police brutality, summed up in a report in 1932 from the Wickersham Committee called “Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement.”

John Lewis

The advent of the civil rights movement only accentuated and accelerated the abuses by police against those they are supposed to protect. Violent race riots across the South and the usage of weapons, police canine units and fire hoses – because they didn’t have military style rifles, armored vehicles and tactical gear back in those days – became the norm as blacks sought equality, looked for the civil rights, the basic rights of humanity that were granted by President Abraham Lincoln 100 years earlier. These actions always seemed to have one note of difference – these actions weren’t taken against white offenders, usually just minorities.

It has only gotten worse since these days. It seems today that we can’t go but a few months without some sort of police shooting because a cop “feared for his life” (one of the most ludicrous things that I’ve ever heard – you don’t walk into a war expecting to find cotton candy waiting for you). The lineage of people who have died at the hands of inappropriate police shootings is a long one – Tamir Rice, a 12-year old BOY with a toy pistol; Philandro Castile, who was a licensed gun owner and TOLD cops he had a weapon in the car; Eric Gardner, choked out because he was selling singular cigarettes; and, most recently, George Floyd joined this list of infamy, having his larynx crushed because he MIGHT have passed a counterfeit $20 bill. In most of these cases, LEOs walked away with no punishment and those involved in the Floyd case are just beginning to answer for their actions.

George Floyd's Brother Holds Prayer Vigil At Memorial Site

It is time that there is change to the way that police, that law enforcement officers of ALL uniforms and organizations, perform their duties.

Some people have suggested that we require that anyone who joins a police or sheriff’s department has equivalent military experience before being considered. The problem there is that is where the “power issues” begin, in many cases. Handing a badge and a gun to a person barely eligible to drink, in most cases, isn’t the answer because they haven’t had adequate training. Others have thought that a college degree should be required, but we already have that in “Criminal Justice” majors that do not teach law enforcement.

No, it is time that there were some changes to the oversight of Law Enforcement Officers, monumental changes that are stringently held to and are completely and thoroughly implemented. First, the entirety of a police department must go through psychological exam YEARLY, from the Chief down to the newest rookie. Second, all LEO must report all their online social accounts and club memberships, both online and in their normal lives. Third, they would be subjected to a YEARLY review of their conduct professionally – arrest history, commendations, both the good and bad – and with the general public. If any LEO has a problem with these things, they are immediately dismissed from the force and not allowed to be licensed as a LEO, detective or security personnel anywhere in the U. S.

Additionally, each community, city and town would create a Citizens Review Board, a seven-member board with three people chosen by law enforcement officials, three people chosen by the people of the city and overseen by the mayor of each city. This board would have subpoena powers and could, if they deem so, force the District Attorney to file charges against those who have been determined to have done wrong. They would be a sitting Grand Jury that never recesses and holds the equivalent powers of such an organization.

Finally, there would be MANDATORY usage of body cameras by Law Enforcement Officers, and those cameras would be on 24/7. If, for any reason short of the camera being broke, that it is manually shut off (and these cameras are smart enough that they can tell when they are shut off through human action), the LEO is immediately fired. There would also be a disbandment of police unions who, although advocating for fair wages and treatment of their members, has devolved into a roadblock that tarnishes the “Thin Blue Line” into what the Mafia called omerta.

PoliceBuffalo

People are angry, and justifiably so. Law enforcement officers like the 57 pansies in Buffalo who resigned their positions on the Buffalo Emergency Deployment Force after two of their members were charged with assault for shoving a 75-year old man to the ground and cracking his skull open to the point he was bleeding on the concrete (and, to be honest, they should have turned over their badges right there instead of this pussy-ass demonstration) need to clean up their act. These suggestions aren’t as extreme as “defunding” police departments and LEOs across the nation and maybe even around the world should be smart enough to figure out that their shit isn’t going to be taken anymore.

What’s the Problem with Gambling? The U. S. Was Built On It!

(Author’s note:  With the uproar over daily fantasy sports – or DFS – in the news right now, there are folks discussing the issue of gambling. This is something that I wrote slightly more than a year ago that is as true now as it was then.)

One of the best ways to learn about whatever country you live in is to take a lengthy drive. Last month, as part of a move from the Midwest to the East Coast, I sat behind the wheel of the family’s Mercedes-Benz and did just that, covering about 1000 miles along the way. When the only conversation that you can have in a sports car is the cat that is riding along with you (after the first ten minutes of meowing, they tend to go to sleep and, even if they are listening, aren’t exactly someone to bounce ideas off of), you have time to notice some of the oddities of the United States.

As I went by such strange things as the Creation Museum (would have loved a stop there for just the simple comedy), roadside vegetable sales and various Appalachian curios, one of the things that I noticed as the miles began to pile up was the roadside billboards that popped up as I drove. Easing out of Illinois into Indiana, I was hit with those billboards from many of the popular gaming destinations in the Hoosier State. A quick hit into Ohio saw those billboards change over to the new destinations that have been opened in Cincinnati. In Kentucky, the billboards changed over from casino gaming to racetracks and horse farms that promoted the Bluegrass State’s main industry. Even in Tennessee (where there isn’t a casino scene), the billboards promoting North Carolina’s Harrah’s Cherokee casino disturbed the natural beauty that the Great Smoky Mountains provided.

Mind you, it wasn’t just one billboard. There were more than a hundred of them, ticking down the miles until you reached the exit of said casino/racetrack/etc. It got my mind thinking (as my cat companion slumbered quietly in the passenger seat)…what’s the problem with gambling? The United States was (and is) built on it!

All you have to do to reach this conclusion is have a basic understanding of U. S. history. The very first gamble was performed from the European continent as several explorers including Leif Erickson in the 11th century and Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, decided that there was “something” where the sun was setting and (in Columbus’ case) that the earth just didn’t drop off into the Great Unknown. Erickson’s gamble was a bit bolder in that he bankrolled himself for the trip; Columbus, on the other hand, was able to get Spanish Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand II to pay for his trip (potentially the first act of “backing” in a gambling setting).

As the “New World” began to garner attention, even the bastions of religious piety showed they weren’t above taking a chance. England was the location for this as first the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke (the ultimate gamble as the residents “disappeared” in 1590) was settled. Following that, the Puritans – who were so religious they were considered more restrictive than the Church of England and whose very name means ‘against pleasure’ – rolled the dice and settled at Plymouth Colony in 1620.

By the end of the 17th century, the Colonies were thriving and so was gambling. Lotteries were the prevalent form of gambling (and were used to fund several prominent colleges such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton), but dice, cards and horse racing were also popular (even the more unpalatable gambling escapades as cockfighting and dogfighting had their audience). As the rumblings of revolution came to a head in the mid-18th century, our country’s Founding Fathers – most notably George Washington and Benjamin Franklin – enjoyed a good card game. Playing cards was so popular that the Stamp Act (one of the catapults for the American Revolution) included a clause that taxed every deck of cards.

After the Revolution, however, some of the old “puritanical” ideas began to set in. Gambling was banned in some of the fledgling states, but legal (and illegal) lotteries still flourished. The lotteries even came under attack, however, so that by the time of the Civil War, only three states permitted them. The “War Between The States” would prove to be the next catalyst for gambling in the United States.

Locked in a battle for the soul of the country, both Union and Confederate soldiers would pass the time playing poker (a recent immigrant to the United States through the port city of New Orleans) with their brothers in arms as they waited for the next wager for their lives. After the conclusion of the Civil War, that gambling mentality continues as citizens pushed westward and poker came along for the ride. Nearly every Western town could be found to have a casino (legal or otherwise), where a game of faro or poker would be ongoing, and the Mississippi River bustled with commerce and the “riverboat gamblers” that plied their trade on the paddleboats.

Although it was attempted many times, gambling still found a way around banishment. The actions of Prohibition in the early 20th century saw gambling and alcohol usage pushed underground and into the hands of organized crime. Laws to make gambling illegal in the Eastern part of the U. S. saw those organized crime figures move westward to Nevada and California, with the first casinos opened in 1931 as the Boulder Dam was being built near Las Vegas. Today, only two states (Hawaii and Utah) don’t have some sort of casino or card room in their jurisdictions.

Presidents of the United States have actively taken up the game of poker and, for some of them, been advocates for the game. Harry Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” is directly related to his love of a game of poker. Richard Nixon allegedly financed his first political campaign with money won from playing Seven Card Stud. Even Barack Obama is thought to have an affinity for the game, playing in a weekly Senate poker game prior to entering the White House.

This is only looking at gambling as it relates to cards, dice, table games, etc. U. S. citizens have taken a gamble throughout the country’s history, dating from the Puritans to the signers of the Declaration of Independence (a bold gamble, you might say) to the westward expansion of the country into areas once thought to be foreboding and unsuitable for human habitat. Americans start businesses, sometimes failing but, most of the time, successful (Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, the Rockefellers and Bill Gates (to name a few) ring any bells?). Americans gamble on innovations that have improved the world through industry, scientific discovery and even traveling to space. Even war, the most unfortunate invention of human society, has been impacted by American gambles.

Gambling is as inherent to the American persona as the flag, our National Anthem and our basic premise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Without that inner drive to take a risk, to take a chance on an unknown outcome, much of what the country has become today would have not been achieved, let alone even attempted. The United States – and much of the world, to be honest – always has to have those “dreamers,” “schemers” and gamblers to move society forward, otherwise we stagnate and, eventually, devolve.

So, as my drive ended by pulling up to our family’s new house, once again I’ll ask…why do we, not only as U. S. citizens but as an evolving species, have a problem with gambling?