Friday, July 31, 2009

Chapter1: Understanding Police Power & Other Tools of the Trade

During my eight years as a City of Atlanta police officer, I had the opportunity to experience things that people only dream about. It is no wonder that every movie, every book and every new television series attempts to dramatize the realities of policing. Some do a better job than others do. But, while society idolizes what the police do, it secretly feels a bit of scorn for what the power of police can do.

How many times did you not get your way with the police on a traffic stop? How did you feel? No matter how you felt about the police the day prior, you felt scorn on this occasion. Our relationship with the police is similar to that we had with our parents as children. We knew we could count on them and they were always available to deal with our personal bogey man.

The same is true with the police. We can count on them to deal with our grown up bogey men. But just like the problem we had with our parents, we want to have our way. We don’t want police officers telling us what to do, although it may be for our own benefit. After all, are we not grown adults capable of making our own decisions? Yes, we were once dependent on authority figures growing up, but do we need the same sense of authority as adults?

These issues go to the core of the premise of this book, Understanding Police Power & Other Tools of the Trade. At first glance, one might believe that this book is about taking advantage of the police. How to usurp their power and make them bend to our own personal will. On the contrary, this book is about understanding some of the motivations of police officers and how to engage effectively with them in gaining equity.

Equity or fairness is the operative word. Equity should be the predominate item we receive in all facets of life. Equity in love, equity in friendships, and equity in our rights to exist in society free of the encumbrances that may abridge those freedoms. This sounds a little different than what you might have anticipated, particularly those who might have had some criminal intent. This book is a bridge builder and a guide. A guide in a sense for readers to take note of what their responsibility in a civilized society should be. A guide in directing our energies into favorably impacting the world in a spirit of cooperation. By understanding the inner workings of the police, you can better handle situations no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation you find yourself.

Contemporary policing has changed in some respect but it has in other respects remained the same. The concept of a paramilitary organization that maintains peace and order in society with a cadre of highly skilled personnel has largely remained the same. The notion of an organized force to protect its citizens can be probably traced all the way back to the civilization of man. Advanced societies realized long ago that protecting property and maintaining civil order was the foundation of perpetuating its ideals. Policing has changed in that a changing society forces this inevitability. The "Information Age" has brought about a change in mores, mindsets, and ways of maneuvering throughout society. In would be safe to say that with the proliferation of technology, people are different. While there is a movement towards spiritual enlightenment and "back-to basics" concepts, this is a reaction to a changing world. Society is now saying, "wait a minute, we wanted growth and advancement, but the cost is getting too high. In some respect, we are losing as much as we are gaining." With such changes in society, the police profession had to change. Police Personnel have to be smarter, better trained, and more flexible than they were in the past. Officers are now required to be computer literate just to do the job that once required a pencil and pad. All this is important in understanding how citizens can gain better services and response from the police. Unfortunately, while policing has changed, it still is stuck in a rut of traditionalism.

Being the only team in town allows for complacency and stagnation. There is no competition among police departments in cities and states where citizens get to choose another department if theirs does not suit them. This monopolistic "hold" departments have on its citizens allows for stagnation, pride, and arrogance. It's like saying "if you don't like it, where are you going to go?" In every business in the United States, they have to listen to the demands of society and act accordingly. If these businesses do not give consumers what they want, another business will.

Police Departments respond to a small minority that's prompted by elected officials. The typical scenario may look like this: Candidate Bill Drone spends millions of dollars campaigning for the mayoral position in his city. He appealed to the interest of the affluent population to raise money and insures them that their interest will be protected. He gets elected based on these promises. Bill Drone has made many promises to many people. Who will he keep his allegiance and promises to? Some of the promises made were diametrically opposed to one another. He knows that people act on emotion and justify their actions with logic. He has to do two things. Keep those who voted for him based on emotions satisfied by feeding their emotions and maintain the promises he made with the affluent group who are less emotional and measure results by dollars and cents.

The first task is easy. Mayor Drone only has to "appear" to be concerned about the issues raised by the less affluent group. They are looking for a messiah or "saviour" who will protect and "give" them hope. This desire is intangible and can not be measured. Thus, as long as Mayor Drone says what he needs to keep this group content then they will continue to vote for him. The more affluent group keeps track of promises made and measures tangibly what was promised and what is delivered. Like most candidates, Mayor Drone, two days after his election is thinking about his re-election! To be re-elected, he has to deliver on the promises of the affluent group. It is this group that allows for Mayor Drone to purchase broadcast time to make these emotional pleas to the less affluent.

How does this translate into police services? The biggest challenge in business is finding an environment that allows for business prosperity. The perception of crime is as great as actual crime. At a point, our perception becomes our reality. If we feel that a particular locale will prevent potential customers or clients from doing business with us, we are less incline to develop a business in that area. A city makes a great deal of its revenue from the business that is generated within its borders. If business owners are reluctant to build business within a city for the fear of crime then the City's tax base and potential for revenue decreases. Many cities attract prosperous companies to its borders with the inducement of tax breaks and security. If the police department does not operate to effectively reduce crime then businesses will not move there for fear. Fear of security and fear of the loss of profits.

Revisiting our Mayor Drone, he has to actually cater to the affluent population to keep the city business prosperous and merely "appear" to keep the less affluent content. Consequently, the greater concentration of police resources such as police personnel, response time, citizens complaints, and visibility goes to the more affluent. The less affluent are often relegated to the illusion of safety and concern. You might say, the police must respond to emergency calls whenever they get them! As we discussed earlier, the perception of crime is just as great as actual crime. Police deployments in less affluent populations are "band-aids" for keeping these citizens from disturbing public order. The perception in this scenario is that the status quo is one of danger, violence, and mayhem. The police's role is to curtail it. This is not where the city makes its money.

Contrarily, in the more affluent areas, the object of policing is to maintain the status quo. The perception being that these areas have more value, bring in more money, and are controlled by individuals who control the "purse strings" of candidates for election. As a city for profit, where would you concentrate your efforts? Aside from the issue of morality, the business perspective is to concentrate resources where your investment gets the greatest return. The abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, once said that "power concedes to nothing but power, it never did and it never will." The major difference between the affluent and the less affluent is their mindset. The less affluent are given less value because they demand less. A good analogy would be the bankruptcy of an affluent person versus the poor conditions of the less affluent. Say for instance, they face similar economic challenges. The affluent person loses everything because of a bad business decision and the less affluent because of yet another unemployment situation that has been pervasive throughout his life. Who is more powerless?

While they both are down on their luck, it is the affluent person who has a setback that still maintains his power. His mind is programmed to achieve so that his situation is temporary and he can recoup the losses of his misstep. He sees his plight as an expensive lesson to be learned.

On the other hand, the less affluent has embarked on a pattern of behavior that is continuous and has defined his existence. The less affluent blames the system, bosses, and everyone but himself for his plight in life. He does not take any responsibility for his actions and feels justified in allowing external forces to rule his life. They both are ruled by the power of their minds, but the affluent is internally motivated by successful thinking, while the less affluent is internally motivated by self victimization. The one rule of law that shapes and defines the difference between humans and the rest of creation is our ability to reason our way out of any situation. Everything else in creation revolves around instinct and natural laws. The creative power of the human will allows for humans to be creators within themselves. As such, the affluent and less affluent are by-products of the creative process each have defined for themselves. The police and everything in society responds in favor or against the choices one has made.

In my book, The Liberating Factor: Unmasking the Truth About Life (Morris Publishing, 1999), it states in the chapter entitled "The Politics of Man" that "The individual must first be developed before he can be instrumental in a collaborative effort. A person who joins an organization without first developing himself will fail if the organization fails." No matter what lot in life you find yourself in, there is no escaping personal responsibility in developing yourself. The police can only provide services that the individual or individuals have demanded. The perception of these two realities of the affluent and less affluent dictate behavior and response. For the reality of the less affluent to gain equity, he has to change his thought patterns. Thinking does make it so! The greatest education a person can undergo is self-discovery and self
Mastery by understanding who you are, your gifts, talents, value, and contribution to the world. What do you contribute on the world stage? All these factors begin with the individual taking a hard look at himself. Most people shun this part of self-analysis because all our fears come out in the long run. Who hurt us in elementary school? Why was my father not in my life to be a good role model? Why do I abuse women/men to get what I want? Why have I suppressed these fears for so long? What will I do now?

All that we manifest is in direct correlation to how we exorcise our personal demons. We can start with self-analysis and continue educating ourselves with the thoughts of great philosophers, theologians, and statesmen in history. We can literally live vicariously through the thoughts and expressions of the thousands of experiences shaped in the annals of the Free Public Library. The more we delve into the mysteries that have plagued us, the greater clarity we uncover for our place in the universe. This is an important point, because despite the flaws in the judicial system, the "system" cannot become better until the citizenry becomes better. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and spousal abuse are choices that adults make with free will. The age-old question "Are humans inherently good or bad?" is a legitimate question that most people are too glad to put a happy face on it. We all would like to think that humans are inherently good, that we are good people making bad decisions.

A survey once asked serial killers if they believed that they were bad people. Overwhelmingly, the response was "no". These serial killers believed that they had used bad judgement, but that their judgement did not effect who they were. If a person's action at the time does not say who that person is, what does? By understanding what role you as an individual play in the grand scheme of things, you begin to see how relevant your actions based on your mindset help or hinder the services you get in society.

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