The majority of Americans, especially minority Americans, have seen more than enough to realize long before now, that it is high time for a sea change in the culture of law enforcement in America.
With a mind boggling and growing number of questionable police shootings of unarmed minorities and other similar incidents of abuse of force not just nationwide, but also reported here in our own Sacramento county…
And with Scott Jones, the current embattled Republican Sheriff of Sacramento County, so often publicly and unapologetically shown in the news acting in ‘Trump-like’ contention with his desire to enforce immigration law against Mexican immigrants…And most recently his similar unapologetic angry expression of disdain for the Sacramento advocacy chapter of ‘Black Lives Matter’…
And with Jones’ recently announcing that he is not running for another term in the upcoming election for Sheriff, now is the time to create and vote for that culture change that is long overdue, and that I am going to describe in more detail below.
But first, understand this important fact: Many who are a part of the current “good ole’ boy” law enforcement culture that so clearly has to change, are going to resist doing so kicking and screaming.
They are going to actively denigrate anyone who seeks to put an end to their “blue line” fraternal system that has served THEM so well, but has not served all of the public by any stretch of the imagination. It has been allowed to go unchecked for too many decades now…probably for close to a century to be honest.
Here in California’s charming capitol of Sacramento, we need to be the ones to finally lead by example and make that law enforcement cultural change happen now, especially with the corruption and ‘dog whistle’ race-baiting we are witnessing on almost a daily basis from the Trump administration.
Sir Robert Peel, a British peace officer in the late 19th Century, is widely credited as the ‘father of modern policing’. He is known for pioneering the ‘citizen oversight’ concept long swept under the rug by the current culture.
Peel effectively advocated that the CITIZENS are the police…not the long abused law enforcement culture currently being practiced of the police behaving as though they are ABOVE the citizenry, with their often ‘self-admitted’ philosophy of “us against them”.
On background, I have been a private investigator in Sacramento for the last several years. My law enforcement experience includes having been an NCO in the U.S. Air Force Security Police from 1982 to 1988 during the Cold War under Ronald Reagan.
After I left the Air Force with an honorable discharge, I worked for three different law enforcement agencies. The first being as a dispatcher for the Florida Highway Patrol. The other two agencies I worked as a deputy sheriff on routine road patrol.
Before going into the Air Force, I was in the “police explorers” program from the age of 15 years old, because very early on as a teenager I knew that I wanted to serve the public as a police officer. The police explorer program was very effective in helping me ‘explore’ and develop that passion and calling even further.
But when I completed the police academy in Orlando, Florida and began working as a deputy sheriff, I was shocked at the deeply entrenched anti-public servant, elitist and ‘abuse of authority culture’ that existed even back then. And it has only worsened exponentially ever since.
One story I recall not long after being hired involved witnessing an experienced K-9 handler who chose to violate department policy and release his dog on a ‘traffic charges only’ subject we had chased down on foot when he bailed from his vehicle.
As the K-9 handler was allowing the dog to so seriously violate department policy, attacking the subject who had surrendered on the ground, and as we were trying to handcuff the subject,(I was actually having to yell at the handler to call off his dog because until he did, we couldn’t handcuff the suspect for fear of being bitten as well) he intentionally delayed calling the dog off the subject in order to make the dog a more aggressive performer. This K-9 handler actually admitted this to all of us as we returned to our patrol cars.
After this abuse of authority occurrence, of course I felt I had no choice but to bring this to our lieutenant’s attention. He gave me 20 years of an education in one sentence when he looked at me sideways and said, “You aren’t really a ‘team player’ are you?” Looking back, I should have said, “Well I thought we were on the same team…I am on the team that is serving the community for the Sheriff…What team are you on sir?”
I have a lot of other anecdotes and stories I could share on this critical topic, but the majority of Americans have seen and heard enough for themselves, both in the news and in their own experiences with the current unhealthy, upside down culture in law enforcement. Suffice to say it is undeniable that police culture is to routinely see themselves NOT on the level as a citizen themselves, but generally speaking on a level set apart and above the citizenry.
This unchecked ‘cancer’ has been left unchecked for too long. It has metastasized over the years, and has produced much of the growing number of bad/excessive/over-reactive police shootings and general abuse of power that we as citizens have witnessed in the news overall, especially toward Blacks and Hispanics. It is an upside down police culture that is undeniably at the root cause of this growing, intolerable trend. The vast majority of us have grown despondent over reading about too much of this growing trend in our own Sacramento Bee in just the last few years alone.
It has never been more clear that NOW is the time to make some major organizational and philosophy changes from the top down in law enforcement here in our own community going forward.
Those changes must begin with retraining those that want to be police officers and deputy sheriffs, that if you want to remain in this career, then your dutiful and respectful actions and demeanor will DAILY demonstrate that you understand the following axiom loud and clear:
‘ALL Sacramento citizens are not just who you patrol…They ARE ‘the police’ and they have extended an honor to you to be their ‘citizen ambassadors’ in this career, on their behalf…The citizenry are who you WORK for. There is no more ‘blue line’. There is no more ‘us against them’ mentality.
This culture change begins with those who want to remain as police officers and deputies being retrained to understand that the CITIZENRY of Sacramento ARE the police, and they as law enforcement officers are given a badge and gun as ambassadors and employees who ANSWER to all of those citizens.
Make no mistake, this is a very unpopular change for those who are currently in the career field. There will be many who likely will not last in the wake of such retraining and oversight. And that is actually a necessary result, because they will be replaced by public servants who resonate with this ethical, transparent cultural change.
It is very important for me to stress here that this Progressive and critically needed overhaul of the current fraternal and out of balance law enforcement mindset does not in any way need to detract from being uncompromisingly tough on crime.
Teaching police that they will be held accountable by daily citizen oversight, and that they will behave ethically, and that they will see themselves as working at the discretion of all the citizens in the communities they patrol, has nothing to do with effectiveness in fighting crime.
On the contrary, it will result in more of a focus on real crime rather than abuse of authority that often is the only major crime that was committed.
I mentioned I have other stories…here’s a very recent and relevant example:
I was in a California police academy refresher course not long ago. On the very first break during the required ‘Ethics’ curriculum of the law enforcement training course, I overheard the very young 20-something male recruit sitting next to me, angrily expressing his disgust for the topic, and calling the ethics class a total waste of his time.
This individual had never been a police officer, was there with us because he was seeking to become a road deputy, but had only worked so far as a corrections officer for a major Sheriff’s Office which will remain unnamed.
As a result I immediately addressed this individual, asking him why he would say such a thing if he wanted to pursue a career as a law enforcement officer. I took the opportunity to remind him, or possibly educate him, that ethics are the most important foundation and prerequisite for entering such a career.
The look of utter disgust on his face toward me as I asked him that question caught me even more by surprise. He lashed out at me with an aura of impunity that I wasn’t expecting.
It was as though he knew he was in good company with not only some of the others in the class, but with the entire culture of his agency where he worked as a corrections officer, and for whom he was slated to begin working as a road patrol deputy contingent upon his successful completion of this academy course.
He proceeded to tell me that ‘community policing’,(which emphasizes ethics and rapport building with the community, especially in problem oriented and high crime areas) was “total bullshit”. He then added, and I am quoting him pretty closely here: “I don’t care about the people in my community. I know what they think about me, and they know what I think about them.” His context was clearly referring to minorities.
This was of course a gigantic red flag that this individual had no business being a corrections officer where he worked, let alone a deputy sheriff patrolling for the general public. But again, his angry comments were unapologetic because he knew his disdain for such ‘community ethics’ was reflecting the commonly held mindset in the culture of his agency.
There’s an even more relevant and disturbing reason why I am sharing this story with you. It goes beyond just this clearly unsuitable candidate for the career that I encountered. When you are in a police academy setting, and someone reveals such a red flag about something that important which can involve life or death consequences for the public, ironically ‘ethics’ requires that it be brought to someone’s attention. We can all agree on that, right?
Well, awkward as it was, and yet knowing that was necessary, I was even more blindsided by the shock of what I encountered when I privately tried to bring it to the academy director’s attention. Instead of being even remotely concerned, his reaction was to be irritated that I was taking his time to inform him about the matter.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he chose to tell me to “mind my own business” in the class from then on. I explained that this person’s comments were loudly being expressed immediately next to me in the academy classroom on the Ethics course break, and they were not comments that I was somehow seeking to eavesdrop on.
The academy director became more adversarial the more I showed how surprised I was at his reaction. I of course took it over his head, but long story short, no one cared.
There is absolutely no excuse that such apathy toward such a critical thing would take place at the early police academy level, and in our neck of the woods in Northern California no less…
This story is but one of many that are emblematic of how badly we need to lead by example with a thorough and complete overhaul of this unethical and upside down law enforcement culture that has gone unchecked for way too long, beginning with this upcoming election for Sacramento Sheriff.
As I mentioned earlier above, the model of change that the next Sheriff needs to implement is first and foremost a citizen’s control emphasis…
This is accomplished with a citizens’ board/advisory panel led by the Sheriff as the citizen’s top elected ambassador. All the deputies are then retrained and educated to understand that their continued employment on the agency is at the direct will of the citizenry and that board.
Working body cameras will be worn by all deputies at ALL times. Dash cameras will be operational at ALL times during ALL traffic stops, and during ALL responses to calls for service. All actions taken by deputies in the performance of their duties will be constantly subject to review by the citizen oversight board.
In addition, every week citizens in the community who are selected as volunteers by the department’s citizen board and the Sheriff, will conduct regular, ongoing ride-alongs with deputies in order to maintain not only transparency, but also to develop the important community rapport that is emphasized in the concept of ‘community policing’.
Deputies will be reminded by their sergeants at the beginning of these weekly ride-alongs that the citizen who is accompanying them on their shift represents their employer, that being the department’s citizen oversight board and the Sheriff.
These changes are long overdue to be implemented, not just locally but nationwide. They will be wildly unpopular and resisted by many of those currently on the job.
As such, all the more for that very reason, the right candidate for Sheriff of Sacramento in the upcoming election will lead by example DESPITE the lack of popularity with those on the agency resistant to it.
The right candidate will promise to implement and prioritize these transparent, ethics driven, CITIZEN OVERSIGHT changes…
The right candidate for Sacramento Sheriff will begin to create and pioneer a new ‘citizens culture’ of policing, as it was originally intended…a culture that uses such citizen management and oversight to equally ensure justice for ALL residents, irrespective of race, color, creed, sexual orientation or housing/income status.