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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bad day at the office.

I'm going to just go out on a limb, reading this article about the three officers killed (and one critically wounded) in Oakland, CA, and declare that community-police relations are not what they should be.

People lingered at the scene of the first shooting. About 20 bystanders taunted police.
Tension between police and the community has risen steadily since the fatal shooting of unarmed 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a transit police officer at an Oakland train station on Jan. 1.
That former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday. Violent protests erupted on the streets of Oakland in the weeks after Grant's death, further inflaming tensions.


I know that Community Oriented Police is supposed to be all touchy-feelie stuff that violates the principles of good old basic policing, but it would seem that the second of Sir Robert Peel's Principles is being tested, here:

"The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions."

I feel for those officers. I can imagine the rage of the officers that were working the scene of the death and serious wounding of their brother officers, when the citizenry came out to taunt them. The community there is in trouble, and so are the officers.

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14 Comments:

At Sunday, March 22, 2009 7:00:00 AM, Blogger Hammer said...

I am saddened and infuriated by these senseless deaths.

The police chief is no help either.

I read a few months back about gangs of hundreds of LA "youths" wilding and terrorizing folks in and near that train station.

The chief said it was "just the culture of summer"

Compounding the problem is the fact they are releasing dozens of violent felons early due to lack of facilities.

I have a feeling we are going to see the LA riots all over again.

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:01:00 AM, Blogger Pawpaw said...

Oh, gawd. I hear that old canard all the time. Community Policing ain't about being touchy-feely. Community policing is about being in touch with the people. Gaining their trust and respect. Talking to folks during the shift, working the same zone, knowing the population.

It ain't touchy-feely. It's treating people with common courtesy and respect. Listening to their concerns and taking time during the day to drink a cup of coffee with them.

The problem with policing in larger cities is that the people have lost respect for the police and it's largely the police's fault. In the past decade we've gotten overly militarised, we view our work as an "us vs them" proposition, and we tend to ignore basic courtesy to the citizens we're supposed to serve.

I've walked the blue line for almost 30 years. Every police officer on the line can hurt the image of the police and it takes hundreds of hours of work to get it back.

Lots of folks hate us, many don't trust us, and some see us as government thugs. And, I'm sad to say we've brought it on ourselves.

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 8:22:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delurking to comment on this sad story.

I'm sorry for the Police Department's loss and I know you feel their pain too. I live in the US and I'm just appalled & disgusted that bystanders were booing the cops. We're in fucked up times.

Jane

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:00:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Oakland has been on a downhill slide for years... I predict this one is going to push the police over the edge, and things are going to get really nasty out there... Sad too, as Oakland used to be a nice place to go have dinner, and go see Carol Doda :-)

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:29:00 AM, Blogger Laughingdog said...

I find it highly unlikely that the police there didn't play a large part themselves in the negative attitude the citizens have towards them.

Here in Norfolk, VA, a large number of us showed up at a city council meeting to complain about the frequent harassment of gun owners by the local police. While there, we heard black citizens of the city complaining about the racist attitudes of the police. One of the more outrageous stories regarded a teenager who was detained without probable cause, and then charged with obstruction of justice for not providing his SSN to the police. It was also made clear that, if you're black and live in Norfolk, the following are some of the things considered to be probable cause for being a drug dealer: walking down the street, riding a bike, and sitting on your front porch.

It's horrible what happened to those officers. But when I read about the taunting from the people in the community, my first thought is that the department probably brought that lack of support on themselves.

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 11:23:00 AM, Blogger Sabra said...

Fall of Western Civilization, indeed. My two thoughts on this are: Geez, can we bring this guy back to life so we can kill him all over again, but worse this time? followed closely by: This is why I fully support Virginia's abolition of parole.

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 2:23:00 PM, Blogger perlhaqr said...

Chicken or egg?

Do the people hate the police (and I think it's safe to say that's an accurate assessment) because the police shoot them at random in BART stations? Or do the police shoot them randomly in BART stations because the people hate them?

Was this a "routine traffic stop" because they pull people over all the time for speeding, or was it routine because the Oakland police were pulling a Tenaha, TX on this fellow and pulling him over for "driving while black"? (This is not an accusation. I do not know the Oakland Police Department. I mention this only because I have heard it said by a number of black people that they are often unfairly targeted by the police, and the Tenaha incidents demonstrate that in at least some jurisdictions, the facts are absolutely with them.)

Clearly, the shooter in this scenario wasn't a nice guy. He probably didn't have "justice" in mind when he decided to shoot the officers who pulled him over. But as you say, the fact that people in his neighborhood taunted the cops who came to stay with the dead and dying officers at the scene indicates that there's animosity there. What is the genesis of that hatred? And how on earth can it be solved?

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 3:44:00 PM, Blogger GUYK said...

Yeah, I would say that the whole left coast is a time bomb and ticking
and when they find that Obama is not really going to give them new Caddies it is going to explode

 
At Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:34:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

"It's horrible what happened to those officers. But when I read about the taunting from the people in the community, my first thought is that the department probably brought that lack of support on themselves. "

Based on what? Reacting without reason seems to have gotten them there.

There certainly seems to be a positive feedback loop, doing its worst there.

I point you all to the comments of PawPaw, above. Specifically:
"Every police officer on the line can hurt the image of the police and it takes hundreds of hours of work to get it back."

 
At Monday, March 23, 2009 9:22:00 AM, Blogger Laughingdog said...

Based on what?

Based on personal experiences and first hand descriptions of encounters with law enforcement in urban areas.

I've lived everywhere from Washington D.C. to the sticks. As I've moved around, it's become very obvious that police in the cities tend to have a very different opinion of their role in the world than police in the country. In the country, most of the officers appear to focus on keeping people from harming their neighbors. In the city, they seem to have focused more on exerting control and keeping arrest numbers up.

Spend a little while living in Baltimore or Washington D.C., and you'd understand why I find it very likely that most of the police in a city like Oakland exacerbate the anger towards them on a daily basis. It's a really a sad little death spiral that seems to be occuring in so many cities, and I doubt it will change until the people far higher up in the totem pole change their attitudes about how to run the city and the police department.

 
At Monday, March 23, 2009 10:36:00 AM, Blogger kbarrett said...

Looks like the police are being used by their government as an occupying force in Oakland.

If I weren't making Blackwater Iraq grade wages while working that job, I'd be shopping my resume elsewhere.

 
At Monday, March 23, 2009 12:46:00 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Based on what?
Based on stories of police misconduct from family that has refused to leave Oakland because they have lived in neighborhoods for generations.

Some local insight. Oakland is a war zone. Like all war zones, some places are relatively safe (Jack London Square), others not so much (most of East Oakland).

The Oakland PD has recruiting and retention problems so bad that they will literally take almost anyone with a pulse and push them through the academy to get officers on the street. My personal opinion is that the officers are overworked and underpaid. A common problem, I know, but Oakland cops really are underpaid when you consider the housing costs of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The recent BART shooting (which was NOT done by an Oakland officer) that sparked riots had officers "gun shy." The goblin had murder in his heart and just got the drop on the motor officers. No official comment as to why SWAT went into the apartment so relatively soon, but speculation is that they were investigating a tip and trying to veify if the goblin was, in fact, there. Apparently the goblin was hiding in a closit and shot through the closit door hitting the two lead SWAT officers in the head before getting shot himself.

 
At Monday, March 23, 2009 3:29:00 PM, Blogger Sabra said...

I lived in Norfolk for four years, four years ago. It's always possible that it's gone seriously downhill in that time, but I never had a negative experience with NPD, or the officers in Portsmouth. As a matter of fact, I had exactly two interactions with NPD, neither adversarial. Now, I imagine my former neighbor in Portsmouth would have a different view of their PD...but my former neighbor in Portsmouth also sold drugs out of his home, and his interactions with the police were on a totally different level from mine. Not because he was black. Because he was a criminal.

 
At Thursday, March 26, 2009 12:37:00 PM, Anonymous Jerry said...

It is a sad situation. I've had very few encounters with LEOs. I've found most respond favorably to polite questions. They have never treated me with less than I gave them. (When I was a teenager stupid things happened, but nothing felonious.)

I can't help but believe that the attitude is a result of something I would call "hand me down" attitudes. "Cops always treat us bad." "They don't deserve no respect." Then they behave in a way that triggers the LEO sense that something isn't right. Gee, now we have a "self fulfilling prophecy."

That same attitude is usually found in people who believe someone else is going to solve their problems. They never cause their own problems so they aren't responsible to fix them, or even try.

I just hope that I can defend myself and not become a statistic.

 

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