As demonstrations play out across the country and the participants’ ever-changing message gets harder to justify, today’s anarchists have espoused their latest chant, “Defund the Police.” Yet, while city councilmembers in Minneapolis call for completely disbanding their police department, other voices around the country realize that the total elimination of local policing is not being well received by their constituents, so they soften the message with other less radical objectives.
Just last week, when I commented about how unrealistic it is to eliminate the police force, an individual responded by telling me that I did not understand the message and included a representation of “Campaign Zero.” You may have also seen it in the June 10 edition of the Signal (page 2), with the first objective being, “Ending Broken Window Policing.” Looking the concept up, I found the definition to be “a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes.”
Looking at where the country is headed today, “Broken Window Policing” sounds pretty good to me. That is, unless you favor vandalism, graffiti, and public intoxication, morphing into burning, looting and burglary. It makes sense because we are watching this type of criminal escalation unfold right before our eyes.
Just last Saturday, I rode through a part of Hollywood, which I had not visited for quite some time, and what I saw was very discouraging. At least half of the stores were encased in plywood covered in graffiti. Homeless encampments, surrounded by trash, were under freeway overpasses and in areas where construction is in process. The area looked far from the glamorous Hollywood I remember. This is a result of the “almost peaceful demonstrations” we have been watching, the decriminalization of unreasonable behavior, and governmental changes which prevent adequate law enforcement to take place. We need to be “very careful what we wish for,” or Hollywood-style happiness may be coming to Santa Clarita.
But shortly after came postings about the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms the Los Angeles County Supervisors were considering. While we all want a more effective and safer way of providing law enforcement, I hope the supervisors scrupulously consider the implications of what they may decide to implement. The changes need to be realistic, and not be just a politically correct way of pandering to appear sympathetic. Because the worst scenario, which could happen, is the changes cause a mass exodus of law enforcement professionals with anarchy resulting on our streets.
I believe the vast majority of Santa Clarita residents are not in favor of the police using excessive force. The horrific events causing Mr. Floyd’s death is an example of what should never happen. Yet at the same time, we need to understand law enforcement officers are people, too. They are as concerned with their safety as you are about yours. I know a lot of you in Facebook Land will not like hearing this, but there are times when we share an amount of the blame.
I also realize, I will never know what it is like to be pulled over for “Driving While Black,” yet at the same time I remember in the late ‘50s when LAPD used to regularly pull my friends and I over for “Driving While Young.” Those stops were normally justified by an officer telling us we matched the description of someone they were looking for. Then, we were typically patted down for weapons, our vehicles were searched, and when nothing was found, we were subsequently released. OK, it may be because hot rods with loud exhausts and car club plaques were in style. It was my time wrenching on Flathead Fords, getting parts at Hot Rod Henry’s, all with a goal of cruising Toluca Lake Bob’s, and another Sunday trip to the San Fernando Drag Strip. We may have been young and impetuous, but we learned how to act when interfacing with the cops in order to keep from getting hurt.
I still recall those incidents, so if you see a set of red lights behind you, please heed my advice. Start by slowing down and looking for a place to pull over. To be sure the officer behind you knows your intentions, put on your right turn signal. When you have stopped, roll down the driver and passenger side window, and if it is at night, turn on your dome light. Place your hands on the top half or your steering wheel, and if you have any passengers, tell them to make their hands visible as well. Then wait for the officer to approach you. Keep in mind; the officer does not know you or what your intentions are, so be polite and very businesslike. This is not the time for smart or comical comments. If you are asked for something, such as your license and registration, and the items must be retrieved from your pocket or glove box, explain what you are going to do and ask if it is OK for you to proceed. Normally, behaving that way is all it takes to allow for you to leave the scene without injury. Unfortunately, Officer Chauvin in Minneapolis was an example of a bad cop gone wild, yet the situation is also a vivid reminder that once an altercation with the police starts, you lose all control of the situation. So, if you have not counseled your children or grandchildren on this issue, it would be a good idea to do so. We want them all to stay safe.
While casual conversations with SCV law enforcement officers occur regularly at some of the monthly meetings I attend, my last two official interactions gave me an even greater appreciation for their service. It was in September of 2013, at about 11:00 in the evening. My wife had experienced a respiratory arrest and Station 107 paramedics were wheeling her to the ambulance, when I looked up and spotted two Sheriff’s cars waiting to help get us to Henry Mayo as fast as possible. With red lights and sirens blaring, the two officers broke traffic for us. Fortunately, my story ended well, in part because of the two officers’ involvement. Then in mid-march of this year, my 99-year-young mother left for heaven. Waiting patiently when I arrived was Officer Hernandez, who reverently reminded me of what needed to be done, and who’s duty it was to provide security for Mom until she was picked up for travel to her final resting place by the mortuary.
Police responsibilities go far beyond arresting perpetrators and giving out traffic tickets. Just like any other professions, if there are some who do not have the aptitude for the job, they should be weeded out. But, for the overwhelming majority of officers who keep us safe every day, they have the community’s support. Because we need them, a peaceful society wants them, and we should all defend those officers who are on the job each day with the best interest of the community foremost on their mind.