LAW & ORDER PART I: OFFICER FRIENDLY

By Christopher J. Berry

I can remember my early days in school, the programming and conditioning.  One yearly ritual I remember clearly was the visit from "Officer Friendly".  Apparently the City must have felt that the beatings in Oakland might leave children with images that police were, let's say, brutal?  Since that obviously wasn't the case (at least to the ultra-conservatives in Southern California), Officer Friendly came to show us all that police were really nice people, and that they were there to help.  We all filed out to the parking lot to see the police car, then ask numerous questions.  Curious though, the gun belt and baton were not present.  Officer Friendly was sanitized, a likeable human that was as helpful as the clerk at the corner grocery store.

Try as they might, the charade did not stick.  Often referred to as "soldiers," many of these "protectors of the peace" are as bad as their military counterparts, if not worse in some cases.  They have multiple roles to play: enforcer, traffic, and desk clerk are but a few of their faces.  Assured that their cause is just, enforcing the laws of the land, they do not argue, and follow orders.

Not all are bad, but they good majority I've encountered are.  As I grew older and got a car, I found that Officer Friendly was there to harass me.  They would always use the "your brake lights are out" gimmick to pull me over, do a visual of the car, run the plates, but would never issue a citation.  I never have been cited for a moving violation, though I've been pulled over maybe 20 times in my years of driving.  I urge anyone suffering this sort of harassment to get the officer's badge number, his watch commander's name, and raise some hell.  This sort of thing is bullshit, and wastes everybody's time.

I do have one good memory.  I was coming home late from work one night, and ran a red light.  Thankfully no one was around, except for the cycle jockey.  Turned out to be an older guy, about ready to retire from the force.  We talked a bit, and he seemed a genuine decent person.  He let me off the hook, as he wanted to check that I wasn't 'screaming drunk.'  His only advice was that I go home and get some sleep.  He knew that rolling through the red light was not done intentionally.

What;s the point here?  Two sides of the law.   One side, is the "everyone is a bad guy" mentality.  Possibly their feeling is that everyone is guilty of something, and they are there to sniff it out.  Or how about they are just plainly the neighborhood bullies?  This type is over zealous, and should have nothing to do with the police force, though this is usually whom they hire.  On the other side, is the mentality that there are things people do to break the law, sometimes accidentally, or not with malice.  Then there are those who do, those who violate the spirit of the law.  These are the people he is after, the ones who need to be held accountable for their actions.

Fortunately, I've never been arrested or beaten.  There has been a pistol put in my face, when the only thing I was doing was packing personal belongings.  Maybe their rationale was that I was ready to stab them with a pencil.  Possibly if they weren't so brutal, so quick to use deadly force, then they wouldn't be moving targets.  It's clear that many are racist, as their treatment of those with a different skin color or nationality comes up time and time again.

Take the case of Tyisha Miller. On December 28, 1998, police received a 911 call from Tyisha Miller's cousin, who said Miller was unconscious in her car with a handgun in her lap. According to their report, the officers arrived and tried to retrieve the gun, then opened fire when she allegedly reached for the weapon.

They fired 23 shots, 12 of which hit Miller.   OK, what's wrong with this picture?  First, there are four officers, armed, and one unconscious black female.  What the hell is going through these officers' minds?  "Oh God, she's gonna up and shoot us."  I don't think so. I have a hard time believing fear of being shot was a motive, and what, because she's black?  Why do I feel that if it was a white unconscious female that they'd be asking for her phone number?  23 shots and only 12 hit?  23 shots are a little excessive against one person.  I would figure after two or three hits, it's likely the person is dead.  23 shots.  It's likely that the officers shot every cartridge out of their service revolvers at her, at someone that is supposedly unconscious.  Worse yet, about half their shots missed the target at close range.  I'm damned surprised that they didn't hit each other with that stupid escapade.  To add the biggest insult, the officers won't be charged in this crime.  Damnit, yes, this is a black vs. white issue.  The average white dismissed this with "She shouldn't have had the gun in the first place" to ease their troubled little minds.

This is how people justify this crap, with "They shouldn't have been doing that" or "They shouldn't have been there" or "Law biding people never find themselves in that situation."  Trust me, law-biding citizens can find themselves on the wrong side of the law by doing nothing at all.  My latest run-ins with the police came from a messy divorce, and an ex-wife determined to see me put in jail at all costs.  With no evidence collected at all, the courts took my children away; I was guilty until proven innocent.  My ex manufactured evidence, and perjured herself on the stand.  The court investigated, then dismissed the case, but the police were not quite done yet.  There was a detective that was sure he had a child beater.  After several attempts on his part, and a threat on taking he and the City to court on harassment, the case faded into the background.  I don't think he works there anymore.

Anymore, the ones I do encounter lately are plain smart-asses, figuring they are big shots because they have a badge and a gun.  The neighborhood bullies.

What I envision is simple.  Fire them.  Every single one.  Have the Cities take bids from private companies to provide services.  This ensures that the job gets done properly, as companies would not want the liability of loose cannons, or be tarnished by the image of hiring hooligans. 

Have different people for different jobs.  Why should they generalize to soldier duty, desk clerk, detective, and traffic?  Specialize.  Have three different divisions.  Division one, traffic.  That's it.  That's all they do.  Don't need a gun, don't need a baton.  Have them experts in customer service, not leering power mongers.  Division two, beat cops.  These are the ones that will make arrests for violent crimes, and investigate dangerous situations.  Trained for this sort of thing, they don't waste their time on moneymaking schemes like traffic citations, and they stick to arresting people for real crimes.  Not this bullshit about busting people for prostitution, selling or using drugs.  They would be used to settle domestic disputes also.  Division three, the detectives.  Again, circumventing vices like drugs and prostitutes, they would focus on property and violent crimes.  These people would likely be ones with an eye for detail, and have keen analytical ability.  They solve the crimes.

No more agents for the state.  Police officers, like all people, must be held accountable for their actions.  Any ill actions will not be tolerated.  Possibly that vision of a 'Officer Friendly' could be a reality.  Imagine, people treating each other with respect and dignity.  They shouldn't have taught this to me in school, now I'm expecting it. Yeah, and while I'm dreaming here, throw in goodwill, peace on earth and that sort of bull that never happens.

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