At the beginning here, let me make something critically clear: Nothing is going to change…Let me repeat that…NOTHING is going to change with the culture of racism, bigotry and abuse of power in law enforcement, unless the protests and angry citizens’ voices are SUSTAINED LONG ENOUGH to force an entire revolutionary overhaul to the longstanding current corrupt, ‘US AGAINST THEM’ model of law enforcement. And as I have done before, in this article I am once again going to detail those exact changes that must be implemented to finally end that corrupt police culture.
But before I do, I want to address some of the weak link traits of Progressives and those generally on the Left who, when we have seen these countless, repetitive abuse of power injustices by the police in the recent past, they start off strong demanding ‘change’ for a week at the most, and then get bored and lose interest.
I heard a reporter mention how when a group of protesters on behalf of George Floyd were recently asked to describe their anger, they quickly denied any ‘anger’ at all, and told him everyone was just ‘passionate’. You’ve got to be kidding me!
That kind of ‘fakeness’…That kind of obsession on the Left with ‘political correctness’ over truth is what actually makes Progressives and Liberals their OWN WORSE ENEMY in effecting the change that We the People desperately need to create in America, now more than ever before.
I am prior law enforcement, having served as a deputy sheriff in Florida, and I was an NCO in the U.S. Air Force Security Police. The reason I left law enforcement was entirely due to the corrupt, unethical abuse of power and deeply entrenched racism and bigotry that I witnessed on a daily basis by most others I had to work with on the job, and whose mindsets were in direct opposition to mine.
I could see what desperately needed to be changed in the culture of law enforcement then, and that was years ago. It’s only gotten worse ever since.
I have addressed this topic in specific detail on multiple occasions, especially not long ago here in Sacramento after the death of Stefan Clark, an unarmed black youth who was needlessly shot to death while surrendering and holding his cell phone on a misdemeanor call.
Sadly now, with yet another senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, and others across the country on a predictably repeating basis, it’s time to once AGAIN address what needs to CHANGE…Maybe at some point people will finally listen.
You can’t watch that video of that Minneapolis police officer and NOT see what appeared to be a certain degree of ‘satisfaction’ all over his face, his body language and his demeanor, as he continued to unnecessarily grind his knee into the back of handcuffed George Floyd’s neck, while Mr. Floyd repeatedly begged for help, exclaiming that he ‘couldn’t breathe’.
It is routine training in law enforcement that ‘reasonable pressure’ with your knee to someone’s back can be effective when trying to control them and keep them on the ground while trying to get them handcuffed and under control. (The key word of course being the ‘back’ not the neck. And Mr. Floyd was under control and handcuffed.)
It is also routinely taught that pressure to the back of the neck is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, and even then it must be done very CAREFULLY and BRIEFLY, without too much body pressure, because of the obvious delicate and vulnerable spot that it is on the top of the spinal chord of a human being. There is also the carotid artery that can easily be blocked like in a ‘choke hold’ technique, with such extended knee pressure for such a ridiculously long period of several minutes.
This is common sense. Such abuse of power happens not because many officers do not have that common sense. It happens regularly DESPITE that common sense.
I was watching a newscast tonight in which a protester was interviewed on the street by the roving reporter. He said he thought a lot of the cops were just ‘following orders’. The more accurate understanding of what is at the root cause of such rampant, routine and never ending police abuse of power is not that they are following orders, it is that they are FOLLOWING A CULTURE that is deeply entrenched in law enforcement, and that the vast MAJORITY of officers are attracted to.
The general public – meaning the average, relatively ‘comfortable’ white person – ignorantly wants to hold on to the notion that all of these deaths of unarmed minorities, and all the abuse we see growing across our nation in law enforcement is all done by a ‘few bad apples’. That of course is absurd. Because the constant repetitive legacy of these continuing needless deaths only keeps happening because of an institutional culture and mindset effecting the majority within the ranks of the police.
And such ongoing abuse of power by so called ‘bad apples’ has only been allowed to go virtually unchecked because the majority of the other cops are dutifully CONFORMING to that culture, and not calling it out. I consider that ‘silent majority’ to be just as ‘bad’ if not worse in some ways, than those who pull the trigger unjustly or grind their knee for almost 9 minutes into someone’s neck while they are begging for air.
The truth that the police do not want the public to know is that it is the opposite…There are generally only a few good, non-conforming cops on every agency, and it is very hard for them to make it to retirement without getting pushed out of the job.
The vast majority of cops are NOT going to say a word when they see abuse happening, just like we saw with the cops standing by watching and listening to George Floyd asking for help to breathe, and they did nothing to help him, while standing only a few feet away. That is a mindset of the majority who are attracted to not just the job, but the ‘US AGAINST THEM’ CULTURE they strongly want to conform to and be a part of.
This was one of the hardest things for me to face when I got on the force as a deputy sheriff in Florida. I have written about this before, but I will briefly repeat it here as just one of many examples…
I had only been on the job less than a year, so I was still on probation at the time, and I had to report serious abuse by a K-9 handler. The handler let his dog bite a subject repeatedly, who was not a threat, and it was on a traffic related case where the subject ran on foot because of a suspended license. The department strictly forbid the releasing of a K-9 to attack a person you might chase in such a situation.
Myself and about 4 other deputies were present on the call, and after all of us had chased the subject, he was on the ground giving up. But we couldn’t get in to put the handcuffs on him because the K-9 handler would not call his dog off, and was relishing in letting the dog attack the person who was screaming from the dog biting at him repeatedly. We knew we’d also get bit if we tried to get between the dog and the subject.
I immediately was yelling repeatedly at the handler to call his dog off, and finally he did and we handcuffed the cooperative subject. Afterward the K-9 handler expressed his delight that his dog would be a more aggressive dog on the job now that he got a ‘bite’ and the taste of blood.
Of course, I had an ethical obligation to report this to the lieutenant in charge of the K-9 unit. It was also critical to report such a flagrant violation of department policy, just from a department liability standpoint. But the ethical obligation was the driving reason. When I told him the details as I have described them here, can you guess the likely response I received?
Remember what I shared above…This is a mass culture of like-minded people, ALL THE WAY UP the chain of command.
I remember his shocking response to me like it was yesterday. He said, “Fishbaugh, you’re not a real team player are you?”
It was a shock to me at the time, because I went into the career thinking that most cops were like me, and were there to protect and serve all citizens equally. Like I said, this was just one example of countless others, and without the changes that are critically necessary, this shameful reality in law enforcement will continue to run rampant across our nation UNTIL the appropriate overhaul of changes are finally implemented.
Sir Robert Peel, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is also said to have been the ‘FATHER OF MODERN POLICING’.
He is known to have said, “The citizens ARE the police”. He rightly understood that the correct model for any community policing effort was for the police officers to understand they WORK FOR the citizens who are also the police, just as much as they are.
Remember the wild west small town sheriffs and marshals? Did they have an ‘us against them’ mentality? With very rare exception, like in Wyatt Earp’s case and a handful of other cases, absolutely not. And even in Wyatt Earp’s famous case, the citizens of the towns where he abused his power did in fact rise up and remove him from office eventually.
But back then, town sheriffs, marshals and their deputies knew they were the employees of the town citizens who put them there, and who would remove them at the drop of a hat. And if ever there was a serious threat requiring more than the sheriff and his deputies, the town folk were right there and mounted up as a sworn law enforcement POSSE.
Why? Because the citizens are the police first and foremost, DELEGATING the day to day law enforcement duties to an appointed individual who reported to them, thereby freeing them up to focus more on the important business of running and building the town.
And those who are given the job to perform those daily duties are properly understood as AMBASSADORS OF THE CITIZENS…They represent the citizens.
It is the citizens who CREATED the laws for their respective states, counties and cities. And just because the full time job of the police is to enforce those laws, and to be ready to responsibly arrest those criminals who break those laws implemented by the citizens, that DOES NOT equate to the police having a position of elevated authority OVER the citizens they serve.
However, in this current model of law enforcement, the corruption we are seeing is entirely because the police have replaced that proper perspective with one that sees themselves as SUPERIOR TO the citizens they are supposed to be ‘serving’ and subject to.
One of the biggest changes that must be made to overhaul the GOOD OLE’ BOY, ‘us against them’ culture rampant in law enforcement, is something very specific along the lines of what I just described.
Community sheriff departments and police departments need to have their culture overhauled entirely with a new sheriff and a new chief who has NOT been in the career all their life. The top administrator needs to be someone who has predominantly been just a citizen and/or a business owner in the community.
This is the first step of a much bigger and extensive overhaul from the ground up, to rid every department of the sick culture that has attracted the wrong kind of police officer who does not see the citizens as even EQUAL to them, let alone sees them as their ‘boss’.
The next step after replacing the head of every department with a respected local citizen from the community, is to establish a CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMISSION made up of 12 local citizens of the community who would serve a one or two year term on that commission.
When the police and the deputies realize for the first time that EVERYTHING they do and say will be closely scrutinized by a chief or sheriff who is not a ‘career cop’, but who is a town citizen…
And when the police and the deputies realize that EVERYTHING they do and say will also be scrutinized not just by the chief or the sheriff, but that their continued employment as a law enforcement officer hangs entirely in the balance by a thread connected to the pleasure or lack thereof by the citizens commission, you will almost miraculously see an overnight change in police conduct on the job for MOST cops.
There will obviously be many who won’t be able to cope with such citizen oversight, transparent accountability and ethical obligation, and they will quickly be exposed and terminated.
Another element in the massive changes that are critically needed in the overhaul of the culture of law enforcement involves the presence of social workers and citizens appointed by the commission, who would be assigned to every squad and every shift on patrol, 24/7.
Any call for service of any significance, especially if it is of a sensitive nature involving the need for a trained social worker or mental health care worker, every shift and squad will have someone working with them who can respond to such a call.
But more generally speaking, citizens appointed by the commission, and/or actual citizen commission members would routinely patrol along with the officers and deputies on every shift, so that their oversight would be IMMEDIATE, not only as a review body after the fact.
Another critical aspect of the changes that must be implemented to overhaul the corrupt culture rampant in law enforcement across our country is that all employment on any police agency is entirely contingent on the officer or deputy RESIDING IN the community they will be policing.
Also, the citizens commission and the citizen head of every department would strongly prioritize determining the demographic population percentages of all races and various minority groups, including their community’s LGBT population, so they would be closely replicated with the same approximate ratio of representation on the respective police department or sheriff’s office in that community.
Of course body camera footage would be immediately available for timely transparent review by the press after any serious incident or shooting.
These changes are what have been needed for many years now. The problem started a long time back at some point when the words ‘SWORN OFFICER’ vs ‘NON-SWORN CIVILIAN’ found their way into the modern police lexicon and mindset.
When that happened, police officers felt all the more empowered by such a dubious distinction, and began falsely interpreting their ‘SWORN OFFICER’ title as equating to an elevated position OVER the so-called ‘NON-SWORN CIVILIAN’ citizens they were always meant to serve and be subject to, as mentioned above.
In other words, at some point along the way, the term ‘SWORN OFFICER’ became a coveted term of superiority in the mind of the police. But the truth, as Sir Robert Peel pioneered, is that the police are subject to the community’s general citizenry…The truth that we need to return to is that there are no ‘CIVILIANS’ who are subject to ‘OFFICERS’ in law enforcement.
In fact, one of the specific changes we need to make is to replace the term ‘police officer’ with the term ‘police ambassador’. And if you are a deputy, your title would be ‘deputy ambassador’. This would go a long way to remind the police that they are merely an ambassador representing the citizens who gave them that ambassadorship, and who can remove it at will.
As long as the police are continued to be allowed to classify and refer to themselves as ‘sworn officers’ versus the citizens being ‘unsworn civilians’, they will NATURALLY continue to have an ‘us against them’ or ‘us ABOVE them’ mentality.
The citizens are not just the police, they are the AUTHORITY OVER the police, and every department needs to have their administration completely changed to reflect that new ever present citizen authority over the police at all times.
It is not enough to have career cops who have come up through those ranks to be the Chief of Police, just making occasional promises to city mayors and commissioners about better training on arrest techniques and use of force. All of that is for the most part, meaningless rhetoric because it doesn’t address the underlying CULTURE that has to be ended. You end such a corrupt culture with a complete citizen’s oversight control from the top all the way down to the line officer level.
When the officers and deputies are told that the town citizens assigned to patrol with them and oversee their actions are ALSO SWORN to enforce the law…and not only that, but those sworn local citizens have been given the authority on the street to take their badge and gun for review by the citizen chief, sheriff and citizens advisory commission, we will not have this shameful abuse of power by the police any longer.
There has been massive resistance by law enforcement to any such transparent control by the community for too long now. It’s time for these specific ‘citizen model’ changes to be implemented, despite the obvious B.S. excuses the current corrupt model likes to use, such as ‘we know how to be tough on crime’ and the ‘average civilian’ does not.
There again, such an excuse is an elitist, ‘we are above the citizenry’ mentality that tries to hold on to that abuse of power at all costs. And that is why we keep seeing needless deaths at the hands of this ‘us against them’ culture.
The average DRAFTED American citizen fought, kicked ass and won World War 1 and 2, and would have won The Vietnam War if we had been allowed to actually fight a war there.
The average American citizen took care of what needed to be done in the Gulf War and in the Iraq War as well, so the average citizenry can handle fighting crime and enforcing its OWN community’s laws with no problem, and do it much more JUSTLY, ETHICALLY and EQUALLY than this corrupt ‘us against them’ model we have had for way too long.
If we don’t decide to maintain the protests and the righteous anger until these citizen oversight changes are made to oversee the police on a DAILY operational basis, the status quo of our current corrupt police culture will once again be allowed to remain. At this point, after all the abuse we have witnessed, there is no excuse for that.
Yet already we are seeing the protests and the righteous, non-violent anger subsiding in recent days, and being replaced with more and more images in the mainstream media of groups of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs organizing photo ops of themselves ‘going down to a knee’ to appease the public’s anger.
As brave as many of you have been, this is how dumb they think you are, and this is how afraid THEY have become…They are doing such a photo op because the initial righteous anger from the masses got their attention in a big way, and made them fear for losing their precious jobs and their coveted system.
They expect that with the help of the mainstream media promoting that image to the public, everyone will be emotionally moved at how the police chiefs are finally getting it…Look at how they all are going down to a knee in ‘solidarity’.
As I said above…after all the history of abuse we’ve seen over and over again, there is no excuse to be that naive today. We have an obligation to our children and our grandchildren to maintain the righteous anger and tell those Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs that it’s TOO LATE NOW to make such an ’empathetic photo op’…Especially after many if not all of those Chiefs and Sheriffs applauded the NFL’s blackballing of Colin Kaepernick for years now, for his choosing to reverently go to a knee during the national anthem, for the SAME REASON.
We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to call out such pretense and ‘ACTING’ by those career law enforcement officials at the top of such a corrupt system, and to demand a complete overhaul of that corrupt system, replaced from the top down by an entire CITIZEN OVERSIGHT MODEL as detailed above.
(Connie Bryan is a writer in Sacramento, CA…She is also the producer and host of “The Connie Bryan Show” airing in 15 cable markets nationwide, including Washington D.C. Check out all of her material on her website and blog at conniebryan.com, or subscribe to her channel at Youtube/ConnieBryan.)