Monday, May 18, 2015

1033, Baby

"According to philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt, however, the 'essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony.'" William Voegeli, National Review, November 13, 2013.

"Breaking News: The White House announced that it will no longer allow federal programs to supply local police forces with some military-style equipment amid an outcry over police treatment of minority communities and protesters." Fox News, May 18, 2015.

It is colloquially called the 1033 Program. In a nutshell, it is intended to provide surplus military equipment to law enforcement organizations. According to Wiki: "The most commonly obtained item from the 1033 program is ammunition. Some of the other most commonly requested items include cold weather clothing, sand bags, medical supplies, sleeping bags, flashlights and electrical wiring. Grenade launchers and vehicles such as aircraft, watercraft and armored vehicles have also been obtained."

I have not personally seen in recent years airplanes, boats or tanks that were obtained from the military. Although a low pass in a formerly mothballed A-10 might discourage a persuadable hostage taker or two, generally it is cost prohibitive to obtain the really cool stuff. For example mechanized vehicles that are readily available are..."pre-owned," the replacement parts for which are not on a shelf at Auto Zone.

As for the other stuff... Puh-leeeze.

What ails law enforcement circa 2015? Partisans of all persuasion are available to cash grant checks, fill unreadable volumes and belly up to microphones to offer fabulous-sounding hogwash. "Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, told reporters he hoped the [President's Police Reform Task Force] report could be a 'key transformational document' in rebuilding trust that has been destroyed in recent years between police and minority communities," says Fox News. Davis is billed as a 30 veteran, once a California police chief. Their article has a helpful picture of a SWAT sniper overwatching a "relatively small crowd."

Well, here's the opinion of another 30 year veteran. Law enforcement as practiced in the United States in 2015, as a general statement, is the most professional it has ever been. Officers are more carefully selected, better trained, better equipped and held to a higher standard than ever before. The degree of scrutiny is closer than ever, and will become closer still. None of that is a bad thing.

Public support for law enforcement, despite breathless media coverage to the contrary, continues to be strong. Individuals who live and work in communities (as opposed to talking heads who arrive, do  few pithy interviews and depart for the next career-enhancing story) are familiar with the strengths and challenges of their officers. They accept that men and women are fallible, that sometimes there is inequity in the most reasonable soul. Plainly, people who see law enforcement as a basic good in their community don't demand perfection.

What can we do better? First, we can listen to our community. "(Citizens) call us half a million times a year," a retired police commander once commented. "You think maybe we should look at what they want, as a start?" 

Next, let's stop looking at citizens as a revenue enhancement stream. Enforcement action is meant to solve public safety problems. It is not designed to solve budget shortfalls. The Justice Department report on the Ferguson Police Department began that conversation.

Finally, let's stop listening to the loudest voice. "Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world," said Edward R. Murrow, "doesn't mean you are wiser than when it only reached the end of the bar." Grown men and women searching for real solutions don't have time to waddle in front of a microphone, proclaim themselves outraged, and then disappear to the next community. Media are not hoping to be part of the solution - they are hoping to increase readership and make money doing it. You want to know what should be done?

Lower voices. Turn off the TV. Stop listening to know-nothing social media (except Bikecopblog). Engage a police officer in a discussion and ask them. They will jokingly ask for more money, and then they will say, in their own way:

"Give us more of a say in how police services are delivered.Get the politicians, and the politics, out of our police cars. We know what makes our communities safer, and more just. We know the rules, who among us isn't following them (we want them gone as much as anyone). And then, when we make mistakes, treat us fairly and with dignity. We are doing our best."

It isn't about grenade launchers, MRAPs and BDUs. Anyone who tells you that is talking bullshit.

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