WHERE’S A GOOD COP WHEN YOU NEED ONE? DEPT.
Having ridden with the police for more than a dozen years, I am one who understands that police work is tough and generally thankless, but also one of the most helpful and necessary professions in our society. But recently, thanks to declining standards and federal intrusions, police departments are becoming worrisome. There have always been problems with the police outlook of “you are either with us or against us.” But today it’s gotten worse. Now it seems to be “I’m the good guy and you are the bad guy until proven otherwise.” They also seem to have forgotten who pays their salary. But let L. Neil Smith explain. Then be sure and read the stories of cops who try to defend the public.
A Policeman’s Lot
By L. Neil Smith
The Libertarian Enterprise
April 29, 2012
An individual I know on the Internet—someone I have come to consider a good friend, although I’ve never met him face-to-face—recently expressed shock and horror upon learning that I was once a cop. Actually, for a time, I was a member of the local auxiliary police.
I have never made a secret of it. It’s in almost all of my various biographies floating around. I wanted to write my first book about a cop, and I wanted to make him as authentic as I could. My best friend at the time was a cop. Apparently, my research was successful. The character I created was Detective Lieutenant Edward William “Win” Bear, and everybody who reads The Probability Broach seems to love him.
Eventually, I met the famous libertarian thinker, writer, and lecturer Robert LeFevre at a seminar in Wichita, Kansas, one of the most significant events in my life, On learning that I was a police officer, Bob took me aside privately, “You know, someday you’re going to have to destroy somebody’s life over an issue you don’t believe in.”
I did know. I’d been evading it. When I got home, I resigned and told them why. They were unhappy. I’d made the highest score on the written test in the memory of anybody on the force. (These days, of course, they won’t hire anyone whose IQ is above some predetermined number.)
But another couple of things were gnawing at me, as well. One was a certain kind of squad room banter, in which my nominal superiors bragged to each other about the dents their heavy aircraft aluminum flashlights had acquired. They were a new thing at the time and were being used as batons. There was also an ongoing debate about whether it was more fun to beat up Mexicans, who fought back, or hippies, who didn’t.
Mostly though, Lefevre’s point to one side, it was about taking orders and acting on policies generated by people less intelligent than me. For example, there was the matter of weapons and ammunition. I was a ballistician and gunsmith by trade. I knew being forced to carry a .38 Special revolver, and not being allowed to use them newfangled speedloader thingies, was not conducive to health and long life. Nor was the edict against hollowpoint bullets, which was pure public relations garbage meant to mollify ignorant liberal activists. Hollowpoints are superior, not only in stopping-power, but public safety: they won’t go right through somebody you’re shooting and hurt somebody else. They’re far less likely to ricochet off buildings and sidewalks.
I think my best friend was the first officer on the local force to carry an automatic pistol, a matte nickel-plated Colt Combat Commander chambered for .38 Super, a much better cartridge than the .38 Special. He had to go through hell to get the damned thing certified as a duty weapon. Today, about 40 years later, most cops carry autopistols, most of them Glocks, most of them .40 caliber or better. That, and a great many other things about police work, have changed over the past four decades.
The cops are now the standing army the Founding Fathers feared.
How did we get here, to this ugly police state we find ourselves trapped in? Well, look at it this way: every uniformed public employee out there, with his Kevlar vest, his double-stacked autopistol on his hip, his can of Mace, his Taser, his little backup weapon wrapped around his ankle, not to mention the shotgun, scoped rifle, and/or submachinegun in his cruiser trunk, every single one has a salary in at least the middle five figure range that’s essentially inflation proof. He has full medical coverage for himself and his family, and good dental insurance, too. He has a pension almost as plush as a Congressman’s.
Unlike you and me, these days, he lives in a house that’s nicer than his parents’ was, possibly in a gated and guarded community, with an unlisted telephone phone number. And it all comes out of our hides, yours and mine, every bloody cent of it cut from our flesh, and the flesh of our children, as surely as if we were beef cattle being butchered.
Forget the President. Forget the Congressman. Well, don’t really forget them. But keep your eyes on the guy with the gun, because, in the final analysis, from both ends of the proposition, it’s all about him.
He knows who his masters are and he knows who’s his meat. He knows what his bosses require of him, and he’s been systematically trained—and more importantly, viscerally conditioned—to treat the people who pay his salary (and how he hates to hear that from them—he sees them as his lowly subjects) with more and more contempt and brutality every year, because the system he really works for—call it the New World Order, the United Nations, or Agenda 21—is designed to run on fear.
But here’s the humor of it: if only a few—history says three in a hundred—of his comrades, his colleagues, his accomplices in the imposition of state terrorism, the men and women he trusts to watch his back and help keep him alive, if they don’t agree with him, if, instead, they determine to keep the solemn promises they made when they signed on, to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic (there’s a list of illegal orders they won’t obey, and, implicitly, certain actions on the part of other officers they’ll interfere with), then everything that he has sold his soul for is at risk.
He knows this and it fills him with the same fear and dread he’s supposed to make others all around him feel. It’s why his masters have to protect him whenever, with increasing frequency, he breaks the law. It’s why they have to try to comfort him with more—and more deadly and powerful—weapons, bulletproof underwear, armored cars, eyesight destroying lasers, sonic disruptors, agonizing heat-rays, and even tanks. All of it while armed drones circle overhead like mechanical vultures.
He has stopped being a keeper of the peace, a friendly, protecive neighborhood patrolman (to any extent he ever was) and become part of an occupying military force, imposing the will of outsiders on his neighbors. He is as thoroughly miserable and out of place as a Roman legionary, stuck in Britain with the cold, the drizzle, the mud, and with women who don’t bathe twice a day like the girls back home. He is miserable and out of place, and his rates of divorce and suicide prove it.
When he was a goodguy, he didn’t need a union—or a shrink.
This situation isn’t stable. It has to change, to get better or get worse. How do I know this? Because once, to the continuing shock of many libertarians who learn about it (my Internet friend is not the first) a long time ago, I tried being a policeman for a while. Even way back then, they were driven by a siege mentality, a “them vs. us” mentality, deeply embedded in what even then was called a “police culture”.
The first time I ever saw the word “asshole” in print was in one of Joseph Wambaugh’s books. He was another writer who had been a cop, but much longer and in a rougher town than I was. He explained that the word was reserved for those who are not part of the police culture, and that “civilian” was a word for criminals who hadn’t been arrested yet.
But, as always, I digress.
Can we fix this situation before it kills us? Certainly we have a great deal of work to do, even if we successfully jettison Obama next November, and even if we avoid the faux president’s nightmare mirror image Romney, who makes up the other half of Batman’s mortal enemy Two-Face. Even if we elect Ron Paul, we have a great deal of work to do.
A good start would be legislation forbidding state, county, and municipal governments from accepting money or “gifts” (like armored personnel carriers) from the federal government for purposes of “law enforcement”. Another would be banning city police forces altogether, leaving peacekeeping in the hands of an elected offical, the county sheriff.
At the least, there should be a continuous series of compulsory oath-keeping seminars for all police personnel and other civil servants.
Miss a class, flunk a test, violate a right, you’re out.
L. Neil Smith is the Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE, as well as the author of 33 freedom-oriented books, the most recent of which is DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis.
NOW FOR ANOTHER STORY WHICH ILLUSTRATES THE SCARY SLIDE OF POLICE FROM PUBLIC PROTECTORS TO GESTAPO THUGS AND WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO DON’T GO ALONG WITH THE PROGRAM:
Officer Regina Tasca Goes “Rogue”
April 27, 2012
Regina Tasca is a “rogue cop” – and God bless her for it.
Tasca is in the middle of disciplinary hearings that may result in her termination from the Bogota, New Jersey Police Department. She stands accused of “bizarre and outlandish” behavior in two incidents a year ago during which she revealed herself to be “A danger to other police officers.”
Her first supposed offense — which wasn’t mentioned until after the second — was a failure to assist another officer who was “attacked” by a drunken woman who was roughly half his weight and barely five feet tall. Her second was was to intervene when a police officer from another jurisdiction viciously assaulted an emotionally troubled young man who was not suspected of a crime.
“I consider myself a peace officer,” Tasca told Pro Libertate. “My thing is to help make sure that people are safe, and that they don’t have a reason to fear the police – that we treat them like human beings. The incident that started all of this was one in which I intervened to prevent excessive force against a kid who was the subject of a medical call, not a criminal suspect.”
On April 29, 2011, Tasca was on patrol when she got a call for medical assistance. Former Bogota Council Member Tara Sharp, concerned about the erratic behavior of her 22-year-old son Kyle, called the police to take him to the hospital for a psychological evaluation. Requesting police intervention, particularly in cases of this kind, is never a good idea. Sharp was exceptionally fortunate that Officer Tasca was the first to respond: She has years of experience as an EMT and had just completed specialized training on situations involving psychologically disturbed people.
Once on the scene, Tasca acted quickly to calm down the distraught young man.
“When the call came, I heard that a couple of officers from Ridgefield Park were coming to provide backup, which I thought was OK, Tasca related to Pro Libertate. “Kyle had been shouting and swearing when I got there, but I got him calmed down.” The young man’s mood changed abruptly when he saw the other officers arrive.
“He noticed them and asked me, `Why is there another police officer here from another town?’ Then he said that he was leaving, and he moved maybe two or three steps when one of the Ridgefield officers jumped him.”
Sgt. Chris Thibault tackled Kyle, wrapped him in a bear hug, and attempted to handcuff him. Within an instant, Sgt. Joe Rella piled on and began to slug Kyle in the head while his horrified mother screamed at the officers to stop.
Tasca instinctively did what any legitimate peace officer would do: She intervened to protect the victim, pulling Rella off the helpless and battered young man. Eventually the Ridgefield officers handcuffed Kyle – then turned their fury on Tasca.
“One of them yelled at me, `We can’t have this!’” she recalled. “I said, we `can’t have’ what? There was no reason to take that kid to the ground and start slugging him. This was a medical assistance call, and the mother was sitting their screaming at them to stop beating on their son. I didn’t fail to aid another officer; I acted to stop a beatdown.”
Two days later, Tasca was summoned by her captain, who informed her that she was being suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. She learned that in addition to “using force” to stop Rella’s assault on Kyle Sharp, Tasca was accused of failing to assist Bogota Officer Jerome Fowler when he was “assaulted” by an intoxicated woman on April 3.
“Nobody had said anything to me about the earlier case until after the incident with the Ridgefield officers,” Tasca pointed out to me.
Tasca was on night patrol when she came across “this young girl walking in the middle of the street, crying, with one broken heel. She was very drunk, and the officer who had picked her up had just dropped her off at the apartment of somebody who was described as a `male friend’ – but practically nothing was known about this guy. He just left her there without finding out anything about the situation at that apartment; she could have been assaulted, raped, or killed. Whoever it was, he just threw her back out on the street – which actually might have been the best outcome. So she was crying hysterically and very distraught when I found her. I radioed HQ that I would be assisting her, and the officer who had picked her up arrived, and we went to the hospital with me carrying her in the back seat of my police car.”
The young woman was taken to the Emergency Room at Holy Name Medical Center.
“Once we got there, our job was done,” Tasca continues. “I stuck around for a little while to make sure everything was OK. There were about a half-dozen hospital security personnel on the scene, as well as about four or five EMTs and nurses there. The girl walked over to the nurse’s station, then decided that she didn’t want to go to the hospital. When Jay [Officer Fowler] reached for her, she started flailing her arms, and hit his hand, opening up an old cut he had on one of his knuckles.”
This was the “assault” that figures so prominently in the charges against Tasca. The officers who ganged up on Kyle Sharp have not been charged or subjected to administrative discipline – but Tasca’s refusal to help ground and pound a tiny, intoxicated woman who had made incidental contact with a fellow officer is being treated as a career-imperiling delinquency.
“Apparently, Jay believed I should have pushed all these people aside and help him subdue a tiny girl — she was about five foot one, and very skinny – who had given him a scratch,” Tasca pointed out.
After being put on suspension, Tasca was subjected to a psychological evaluation by Dr. Matthew Geller, a psychiatrist who does contact work for New Jersey law enforcement agencies. Geller provided the diagnosis he had been paid for, ruling that Tasca was unfit for duty. At the same time, the Bogota PD’s internal affairs officer produced a report concluding that Tasca’s refusal to assist Officer Fowler in the April 3 incident demonstrated her unfitness.
The internal affairs review wasn’t exactly a model of investigative rigor, Tasca observes: “There were nearly a dozen other people who witnessed the incident – and the only one he interviewed was a 14-year-old Ambulance Corps volunteer who happened to be his niece!”
Tasca, an openly gay female police officer, believes that at least some of the problems she’s experienced are the product of a cultural clash with what she describes as “the Old Boys Club.” More importantly, however, she has been targeted for the unforgiveable offense of “crossing the Blue Line” by taking the side of a Mundane being attacked by a member of the Brotherhood.
“I’ve been an officer here in Bogata for eleven years, and spent seven or eight years as a Class 2 Special Officer in Fairview, which is where I grew up,” Tasca told Pro Libertate. “Until now, I’ve never had problems with anybody on the force, or anybody in the community. Oh, sure, when you work near people for ten or twelve hours every day, you’ll have disagreements and maybe say some things you shouldn’t, but that’s typical of just about any relationship, professional or otherwise. But never in my career had I been accused of unfitness for duty until after that incident a year ago.
As a veteran with nearly twenty years in law enforcement, Tasca has noticed a dramatic change in the institutional culture of law enforcement in recent years.
“I think what we’re seeing is a lot of kids who are given power and immediately begin to abuse it,” Tasca observes. “Some of these guys are as young as 18 years old. You give them a uniform, and it goes right to their head. And even many of those that don’t do abusive things miss the point, which is that we’re supposed to be peace officers. They get a badge and a gun and they think they’re gods, or at least that they’re entitled to treat people like dirt. I see them as people, and insist on treating them like I’d want to be treated.”
In contemporary law enforcement, commitment to the Golden Rule is a firing offense. Just ask Ramon Perez, whose experience is strikingly similar to that of Regina Tasca.
Perez, a probationary officer who had won the top leadership award at his police academy, was cashiered by the Austin, Texas Police Department as a result of his refusal to use a Taser on an elderly, non-violent man during a domestic disturbance in January 2005. The order was unconstitutional, illegal, a violation of the guidelines in the department’s handbook and, most importantly, immoral.
A few days after that incident, Perez was given a punitive transfer to the night shift. Two months later, Perez was told to report to APD psychologist Carol Logan to undergo what he was told would be a “communication” exercise. In fact, it was a disguised “fit-for-duty review” intended to ratify the pre-ordained decision to fire him.
Logan’s four page report focused entirely on Perez’s moral and religious beliefs. Perez is a self-described non-denominational fundamentalist Christian, an ordained minister who home-schools his children. He is also firmly convinced that protection of civil liberties is the paramount duty of a peace officer – a duty he regarded, literally, as a sacred trust.
According to Logan, the depth of his commitment to his beliefs – beginning with that perennially unpopular tenet called the Golden Rule — produces an “impairment” of his ability to absorb new facts, to communicate with his superiors, and to deal with “feedback.”
As was the case with Regina Tasca, Ramon Perez’s detractors dredged up a second incident of “misconduct” involving a refusal to use unnecessary force.
By twice displaying a peace officer’s preference for de-escalation, Perez had established himself as a repeat offender. He was purged from the APD, a department that has since done much to distinguish itself – in the face of fierce and plentiful competition — as one of the most abusive in the country.
A vast geographic and cultural gulf separates Ramon Perez, a Fundamentalist Evangelical from Texas, and Regina Tasca, an openly gay Roman Catholic from New Jersey. They have at least one critically important thing in common: Both of them intervened in defense of helpless citizens facing criminal violence from fellow cops, and learned that for people who have chosen a career in law enforcement, behaving like a peace officer is a firing offense.