Friday, January 24, 2003

See The Similarities?

The London (Ontario) Free Press has this story about a cop dog-shooting incident up there, and the results of an investigation.

In this case, the cops were entering an apartment on a drug raid. The dog was inside and "barking and running toward them." Officers also attempted to subdue the dog with a CO2 fire extinguisher.

What's disturbing is the similarities to the Cookeville shooting. Cops in both cases were relying on bad information, in which miscommunication played a part, and lied in their reports on the shootings. Both found no instance of wrong-doing by the officer. There is stonewalling and defensiveness on the part of the police.

The deputy police chief "said he won't name the shooter lest he and his family are subjected to 'the wrath of extremist animal rights activists.'" Yeah, right. I'm sure that's it. All us "extremists" out there who are upset with needless animal death.

We need a good re-examination of the purpose and role of police officers in our communities. At present, they serve as the "thin blue line" separating criminals and citizens. In the present-day violence of America it tends to create an us vs. them mentality that's corrosive to police sympathy (both theirs and ours).

Perhaps we need to re-examine the things we ask police to do, like stopping crimes with no victim. For one, the drug war needs a serious rethinking. Perhaps prostitution and the criminalisation of homelessness, too. Asking the police to be the morality that we don't have within ourselves is part of the problem.

Crimes against property shouldn't always result in jail time. This is one area where community service, of the meaningful, reconstructive variety, can serve two needs. One, the criminal either repairs his damage or the community has neglect needs addressed (cleaning up vacant lots, buildings, etc.). Two, we free up jail space for those who commit crimes against people, to keep them segregated, which is the greater need. A byproduct of this is that police are dealing with fewer criminals "in the wild," and have more time for community needs.

Also, we should think about the Japanese model of having officers live in the areas they police. It fosters more of that community thing I've been talking about and encourages the citizens to identify with, and build sympathy for, their officers. I know Memphis tried something like this with a program to offer low-cost housing to officers. And that the program was abused by some officers. I personally know of two instances in my area alone.

It's clear that our police continue to grow disaffected from their communities and retreat into their "blue home." We need to stop this, or we'll continue to have more Cookevilles.

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