I never thought this would be something that I would be doing, putting my thoughts on paper. Quite frankly I never viewed myself as being interesting or important enough that anyone would find what I have to say of any value. While that still holds true I am on a mission and that mission requires me to explore new ways to connect with the people we, police department, serve. My mission is to build a bridge, a bridge that allows this community to see who we are as public servants and the value that we bring to our community. I believe that it is my responsibility to find avenues with which the police department can be heard. A blog or personnel message is such an avenue. I had mentioned to those in attendance at the last town hall meeting that my first post would be a rant on Proposition 47. I believe that will still occur, just at a later date. What has preempted my Prop 47 rant is the rate in which the men and women in law enforcement are being killed in 2016. Last year, 2015, the first death of an officer did not occur until March. This year by March we have had twelve deaths. This is unacceptable!
When I first began contemplating a blog several topics ran through my head. I had a piece that was already developed, reword it a little and I had my first blog. So here is the first of what I hope to be many communications from your Police Chief, a little lengthy but a worthy read none the less.
The Character of Policing
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy –
We are at a cross roads in law enforcement, public outrage over actions of law enforcement, retaliatory rhetoric by the Black Lives Matter movement and the apparent disdain for officers lives are faced by the 900,000 law enforcement officers who serve in one capacity or another across this great nation. In light of these events I owe the 57 City of Madera officers and the other 899,954 my best effort to point out the true character of policing. Too often the media wants to assign blame or make an incident one of race or use titles that paint law enforcement as racially insensitive, heavy handed, violence prone or inept. I hope to redirect that thought process.
Their names should be familiar, Michael Brown, Shot and killed by a Ferguson Missouri police officer, Eric Garner, killed by NYPD in application of carotid restraint, Francis Jared Pusok beaten by 10 San Bernardino deputies, Freddie Gray, suffered injuries and died in Baltimore MD, and Walter Scott shot and killed while running from a North Carolina officer. These are the events that are shaping the landscape of policing today. Mainstream media has ensured that we will not forget and quite frankly as a profession we should not forget. These individuals and the actions of the officer were the tip of the spear that has led to an all time low in police community trust and add an element of challenge and controversy to the law enforcement profession. Can you put a price on a human life? Absolutely Not! Certainly our actions in these events are controversial and if wrong there should be consequences for those actions. But what we see are wholesale demands for police reform and active defiance to policing efforts all based upon a miniscule percentage of events. How many officer involved deaths, nationally, have we had this year that resulted in the death of a perpetrator? You probably don’t know because justified shootings/ incidents aren’t sensational enough to be picked up by mainstream media… Hold on to your seat because the number is astounding and if you are not aware that we live in violent times, quit reading!!! ….1,205…. 1,205 deaths at the hands of law enforcement in 2015, January through December. In July of 2015….125 deaths…I know right!!!! Again that number seems astoundingly high but let’s put this in perspective, 1,205 represents less than 1% or about .13388%, of the 900,000 officers who serve, a minuscule percentage but alarming none the less. So let’s drill down a little further, of those 900,000 how many citizen contacts do they have on a daily basis, let’s keep the math simple and say that our 900,000 officers contact 10 people a day which equates to 9 million citizen contacts a day. Multiply by 365 days a year…equals…. an awful lot of opportunity for things to go bad….(3,285,000,000 if you want to know) and we had 1,205 deaths…. Please don’t misunderstand me we have already established that you cannot put a price on a life and any life lost is a tragedy. But the odds are that you are more likely to be struck by lightning…….three thousand times…., than to be killed by law enforcement. Here is another qualifier, these are not random acts by law enforcement, such as a lightning strike, but are a response by law enforcement to perpetrator actions, (the data is there and available, look at http://killedbypolice.net/). so by and large my brothers and sisters in uniform have a pretty good track record. It is a sad note that the law enforcement profession will be judged as a whole based only on the actions of a very very few, <1%. Enough of this drudge… My focus is not lamenting the fact that we are judged right or wrong for the actions of a few but to redirect the focus from those few to the many men and women who provide a significant service to our community. I am reminded of a quote that I see on the bottom of Brad Dorr’s emails (Brad is a Madera County Sheriff’s Deputy) “Good People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because strong men/women stand ready to do violence in their behalf” a quote by ~George Orwell~
I know that since becoming chief and receiving the perfunctory lobotomy that comes with the position I have gained a greater appreciation for the law enforcement profession. Perhaps in this position I am more on the outside looking in…what I see are men and women of outstanding character who are worthy of our admiration. It has been said that law enforcement is the cornerstone to our society and the defender of democracy. My good friend Plato said “it does not matter if the cobblers and the masons fail to do their jobs well, but if the guardians fail, the democracy will crumble.” Is that still true today? We saw in Ferguson and most recently Baltimore that when law enforcement withdraws or is restricted in their activity, anarchy can reign… I think it is truer today than ever… No other profession can have the life changing impact, good and bad, that a police officer can have on the people they serve. Given this realization I understand the reaction when law enforcement unjustifiably harms someone or does something that is contrary to law. Our focus needs to always be on what is important, service, justice and fundamental fairness.
Law enforcement is not your typical 8-5 job, or the job that you take in order to make ends meet… This is a profession that asks and takes a great deal from you, so much so that Officers such as Doug Barnes, Thomas Cottrell, Jason Goodding, Patrick Daily, Mark Logsden, Derek Geer, Greg Barney, Jason Moszer, Lee Tartt, Nate Carrigan, Ashley Guindon (first day on the job) and David Hofer in 2016 paid the ultimate price and lost their lives in service to their community (http://www.officer.com/features/honoring-the-fallen)
…….. President Calvin Coolidge Stated “No one is compelled to choose the profession of a police officer; but having chosen it; everyone is obligated to perform its duties and live up to the high standards of its requirements.” 900,000 swore an oath to protect and serve, swore allegiance to a code of ethics that requires Service, Justice and Fundamental Fairness and by accepting these testaments of their profession agreed to put their life on the line… for you!!! What other job makes such a request of its employees? Day in and day out, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, our law enforcement works to keep you safe, when you sleep they are on the streets, when you are opening Christmas presents Christmas morning officers are out patrolling, no other profession asks its employees to take risks, secure the safety of its citizens, and tolerate such inconveniences… on behalf of strangers. Equally so…. we endow officers with a great deal of responsibility and power. The power to enforce the law, the power to use force, up to and including deadly force, and the Power to restrict and take away the freedom of those they serve. No other job in this nation bestows such power on an individual. Abraham Lincoln said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”.
“Character”……. defined in the dictionary as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.
Character is what guides the decisions of law enforcement. We hire… based on character… we build/refine our competencies…. on character. In the split second, life and death, decisions it will be the character of the officer that will ultimately prevail. Men and women of character are what you ask of your police department. Character is the foundation of trust that we seek to instill in our communities. Is character infallible….. No…. it is not…, we will make mistakes… in the future, as we have in the past. What we do now in order to survive those mistakes is communicate who we are as a profession to those we serve, demonstrating our Character and Competency by establishing relationships…so that… when we fail we fail as a community and when we succeed we do so as a community. As your Chief of Police and I can with no reservation include every law enforcement leader in this county, assure you that your Officers are held to the highest standards of accountability and that your officers in this City and County are men and women of character, worthy of your trust and admiration.
Chief of Police