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FIXING A BROKEN SOCIETY


October 13, 2015
By Michael Soden

949 words – MR

Community policing can be a community crutch

by Michael Soden

Baltimore was very tense this spring after the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. There were many unanswered questions and multitudes of unhappy people. Protests led to civil disorder, then violent rioting and looting.

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Working for a large neighboring jurisdiction, we were immediately sent to the city in a civil disturbance capacity and I witnessed firsthand the breakdown of societal standards. With 12 years of dealing with disturbances at the University of Maryland, I was somewhat used to the events.

On the surface there were many more questions than answers. Baltimore’s newly elected State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby immediately decided to charge six officers after receiving the police investigative report. Not having read the report or knowing all the details, I was not about to pass judgement.

As time went by, however, her decision seemed to be more about appeasing the community or improving her political standing. Many relationships and issues began coming to light which called into question the validity and ethics of immediately charging the officers.

The case weighed heavily on my mind as I began studying for my next promotional examination. One of the books I read in my preparation, stressed how police and the community have to work together to resolve issues. Concentrating on enforcement and arrest numbers isn’t necessarily where we should be putting our emphasis, the book suggested.

Police are not here to be community partners. Forces are, and were, established to enforce laws made by elected officials, maintain peace and order and protect persons and property. I feel that the community needs to take responsibility for itself.

A person in one newspaper article claimed that the only reason officers were charged was because of the widespread rioting. Despite some political misgivings, few objective observers would argue that the charges were levied as a reaction to citizen behavior.

The responsibility of “community policing” needs to fall squarely on the community and family unit. Why is this a police problem? The police are not here to raise your children and teach them how to be responsible, productive citizens; neither is the government.

Programs such as work assistance are great but the first step is the home. Adults/parents need to first take responsibility for themselves, and then for their children. They are the first and most influential role models in the lives of their children. If the parent can’t behave to societal norms then why would we expect anything different from their children.

Some communities are much better off than others. Why? The broken windows theory suggests that the more run down the community, the less civic pride and the more crime; it all goes hand in hand. People want and have come to expect that police, social services, private business and the government will invest in their community, start programs and fix things.

This only teaches laziness and reliance on others. It’s YOUR community, you fix it. Tired of living in crime and squalor? Do something about it. You cannot expect businesses to put money into a community where the residents are unwilling to invest their own time and effort.

You have a right to be angry if you feel oppressed or that police are against you but there is a way to handle things. The country was founded on the belief that the people run the government through elected officials. You have a vote and can get involved. The system isn’t perfect – what system is? – but it does work.

If you’re upset by the police clamping down on your illegal or unsociable behavior, then you do NOT have a complaint. It is the job of police to arrest those who loot stores, sell drugs and engage in gang wars. They don’t make the laws, just enforce them. Elected officials write laws and come up with consequences for actions/behaviors deemed to hurt society. If street drug dealing is made legal and police stop you for doing it, then you have a valid complaint; until then focus your efforts elsewhere.

The media and Hollywood have to shoulder their share of the blame. After the Baltimore riots died down a person dropped his illegal gun and it went off. A local television station immediately reported that police shot someone. This is poor reporting in and of itself, but at the time Baltimore was still a powder keg, just waiting to again be set off. The station apologized, of course, but the damage had been done. The reporter, and station, needs to be held accountable for its false reporting. Only then will reporters feel pressure to get their facts right.

The entertainment industry glorifies impoverished, high crime areas filled with poorly educated children They are exposed to “for real” violence everyday, which Hollywood glorifies in movies and music, teaching them that it is acceptable, appropriate even, to behave against societal norms. The difference is that the people doing the glorifying don’t live in the squalor or experience the reality and heartbreak that comes with everyday violence.

The time has come for each person to take responsibility for their actions and how it affect others. Hollywood is quick to jump on the bandwagon of police brutality but takes no responsibility for encouraging illegal behaviour which breaks down their community.

The Amish shun and ostracize those in their community who do wrong. We do the reverse, rewarding those who do wrong or blaming others for the circumstances they have created.

The way to fix our broken society is simple – and it all starts with personal responsibility.

BIO

Michael Soden is a Prince Georges County Police sergeant and owner of Gladius Training. Contact: soden@gladiustraining.net