Romanticizing The Police Has Led To Expectations They Can’t (And Don’t Want To) Uphold

WARNING: This post does contain some references to sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse cases!!

In the past eight days as the events of the massacre at Uvalde Robb Elementary School become more clearer, a lot of people are still wrecking their brains over why the Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde School District Police didn’t do more. This comes after the Texas Department of Safety has reported both departments aren’t cooperating anymore. And they’re not talking to the media or public.

This means only one thing – they’ve been advised by their lawyers not to communicate further.

This also comes after reports tried to point the finger at an unidentified teacher who had propped a door. Now, the lawyer for said teacher is saying the door wasn’t propped and she had shut it. But it didn’t lock. This sounds like a maintenance and safety issue. And this falls on the school district.

So, of course, no one is talking.

A lot of people have lived under this notion their whole lives that the police will help them. That’s not really the case. In many towns and counties, the ratio of law enforcement to general population is a very wide margin. In Wagoner, Okla., the town I worked in for eight years, there was a population of about 9,000. The police department alone had maybe two dozen officers, which is included the chief of police, investigators and reserve officers. Add some of the people who live just outside the town limits but work, go to school and shop within the city limits, that’s probably one law enforcement officer for every 400 person.

Yet, most law enforcment agencies get a good marjority of the annual budget of the municipal and county governments. That’s because it costs a lot to employ just one officer. In 2014, when I left, an officer starting out made about $13.25 an hour. It’s probably more nowadays. But that’s just not base salary. There’s overtime. Then each officer has to have a vehicle to drive and this can cost about $35,000-40,000 even on a state bid. Both the officer and vehicle need insurance. There’s also additions like emergency lights, decals, sirens and general maintenance which can get pricey. You’d also me amazed at how quickly these vehicles can add mileage to their engines and wear on their tires. The officer must have a service weapon, which can be about $400-500. And that’s not counting ammunition. They also need pepper spray, taser, bullet-proof vests, a portable radio, handcuffs, etc. I probably won’t be exagerrating when I say it probably costs $100,000 to hire just one police officer in small-town America. I’m sure those officers aren’t making $13.25 starting out eight years later.

About the only other department I saw that had a bigger budget than the police was the public works department, which needed a bigger budget. But it’s reported that Uvalde Police was consuming 40 percent of the city’s budget. Uvalde has a population of over 16,000 and the school district had increased its safety and police measures. Yet, 21 people were killed. There also were 15 people reportedly injured in the shooting. So, three dozen people were shot by Salvador Ramos.

And the bulk of the budget was for law enforcement.

Conflicting reports are coming out that Ramos had engaged officers in gun fire almost from the start. And that he had been outside of the school for over 12 minutes. He hadn’t even gone in the school yet. But the doors at the school didn’t lock.

And then, when Ramos finally made his way inside the school, officers didn’t try to go in. Police waited another 48 minutes before going in the classroom to take him down. That’s one whole hour in which several people were shot and killed. Talk about a terrifying hour for everyone. Parents and the general public tried like hell to get their kids outs, even being detained and pepper sprayed.

I can understand the police not wanting parents getting in the way. But this was an issue where Joe and Jane Taxpayer had every right to tell these public servants how to do their job. If the incident had happened within a 12 minute time frame, I can understand why the police didn’t want hysterical parents running around. But this wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately, law enforcement really don’t have any legal obligation to protect people. Stalking has become a big issue over the last 20-25 years, but law enforcement really can’t do anything unless the stalkers cross a certain line. If they break a window or assault someone in public, then, law enforcement can step in. But threatening phone calls, texts or emails don’t result in much.

As a matter of fact, you can’t even get a temporary restraining order unless there is an incident report signed by a law officer. And in most cases, that can be hard. Law officers may not see any need to file a report. They may see it just as a fist fight or disagreement. Or they may see it as something else.

Let’s not forget, law officers have a history of domestic abuse themselves. So, a man getting mad at his partner and slapping, hitting or even choking her isn’t that much of an issue to them. She must’ve done or said something to make him angry. And most kids are pretty much fair game when it comes to domestic abuse. We’ll watch a parent hit their child at Wal-Mart and not think anything of it. It’s not until the abused is 18 they can use the law. But even then, the restraining orders aren’t worth the paper their printed on.

And the restraining orders are usually only helpful in sentencing if the person has crossed the line. Say a person has a TRO issued on them and they break down a door and sexually and physically assault a person, well, then, they knew they weren’t supposed to be near you, so it will make the sentencing a little harsher. But in many case, even if someone is nearby you taunting and stalking you, the police can’t do much.

Take the U.S. Supreme Court case of Castle Rock v. Gonzalez. In Castle Rock, Colo., Jessica Lenahan-Gonzalez, had optained a permanent restraining order against against her husband, Simon, on June 4, 1999. He had been stalking her and her four children (one son and three daughters). The daughters were his biological children. The son wasn’t.

At 5:15 p.m. on June 22, 1999, Simon had violated the protective order and taken all three girls. It should be noted he did have visitation rights but this wasn’t that. For over five hours later that evening and night, she made several calls to police but nothing was done even when Jessica went to the police station at approximately 12:40 a.m. on June 23. It wasn’t until 3:20 a.m. on that same date where Simon showed up to the police station and engaged in a fire fight where he was fatally shot. Later when searching the vehicle, they found all three girls dead.

Bascially, the police said they had qualified immunity and didn’t have to protect the little girls. The SCOTUS agreed saying that the restraining order wasn’t a law and the police didn’t have to enforce it. And it wasn’t a close vote. It was 7-2 in 2005 with only Justices John P. Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg voting in dissent.

But wait, there’s more. In February 2011, Joseph Lozito was on his way to work in New York City by subway when he was stabbed in the head by Brooklyn slasher Maksim Gelman while two transit uninformed officers weren’t far away as people screamed for their help. Luckily Lozito survived. However, Manhattan Judge Magaret Chan had said that there was no way for the officers to know that Lozito was in trouble. And what were the officers doing? They were fucking looking for Gelman!

Part of this mythos of the heroic cop is based on movies and TVs and Middle America’s idea that the police will stop crime. Actually they don’t. I’ve heard some officers hatefully tell the public they’ll only do something if the people go to court and testify. I guess these cops are mad because people don’t show up to court, but given the fact they can’t be safe, can you blame them for not testifying? It doesn’t help matters that those connected to the accused will help intimidate witnesses and victims. I mean, you’ll be surprised how many people will pick sides. I’ve had so many phone calls from angry parents about their 35-year-old babies being wrongfully arrested for rape and battery charges.

Even though it’s 2022, there are still officers who don’t believe sexual assault victims. And many of them see children being abuse as “child-rearing.” We’re not asking law enforcment officers to be faultless. They’re human. They make mistakes. They should own up for it. But they shouldn’t use their own biased opinions in matters. Yet they do, more too often than they should.

Law & Order: SVU might make it look like cops want to prevent sexual abuse cases. But most departments don’t even have women on the force to talk to victims. Most victims have to have some tattooed dude with a buzzcut wanting to know what they were wearing and if the attacker may have had too much to drink.

Cops, especially projected some gilded view of law enforcement. And most departments had pretty much final say in what could be filmed and what could be aired. And Live P.D. tried to continue what Cops did. But thankfully, it was canceled in 2020 following the protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolice police by Derek Chauvin.

If you were to look at the three heroic cops that built this myth, each one of them in the original movies knew their limits. In Dirty Harry, released in 1971, Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) notices a bank robbery but is smart enough to call it in. Why? He doesn’t know what’s happening on the other side of the walls. He’s also only got a .44 Magnum six-shot cylinder revolver. But that created the myth that every cop was going to be Dirty Harry taking down the bad guys. It should be noted that all the bank robbers are black.

Here’s the scene right here:

Next we go to Lethal Weapon, 1987, where Mel Gibson and Danny Glover play Sgts. Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, who are investigating a homicide. In a cut scene, Riggs show up at an active shooter scenario where children on a playground have been shot. At first, Riggs waits with the other officers. That is until he sees a wounded child and then decides to confront the shooter and take him out. Mind you, Riggs is suicidal at this point. But even this deleted scenes has led some people to believe that all police should show up guns ablazing. And the other officers call Riggs crazy for doing that.

Here’s this scene:

And then there’s John McClane (Bruce Willis) in Die Hard, released in 1988. McClane takes out most of the terrorists and saves most of the hostages. This movie has smarts. When the terrorists first start shooting up the Christmas party, McClane doesn’t come out with his Beretta 9mm shooting. Because he doesn’t know the situation. So, he runs up the stairs to another floor and tries to notify the police several times.

He even criticizes himself for not stopping Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) from shooting Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta) and then tells himself rightfully so if he tried to stop it, he’d be dead too. The same thing would’ve happen when Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner) underestimates Hans and Karl (Alexander Gudonov) and gets shot himself. McClane only shoots people when thrown into the position that he can’t get out of. He can’t even easily take down Karl’s brother, Tony (Andreas Wisniewski) and he was the technical nerd wearing sweatpants. And both McClane and Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) know that sending in an immediate SWAT team would and does end with them getting shot.

To quote Dirty Harry from Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

But that’s not to say 19 officers need to stand around while one lone gunman kills people. Most of these tactical units use more manpower against one target. And mistakes still get made. Google the 1986 Miami FBI shootout. There were eight FBI agents trying to arrest two bank robbers/murderers. And even thoughout they outnumbered them 4 to 1, two FBI agents died and others were wounded.

A TV movie was made in 1988 called In the Line of Duty: The FBI Murders. You can see it entirely on YouTube. The shootout is here:

Part of the problem with law enforcment and its need is we have created an idea that they are all we need to prevent crime. It’s a sales job really. We can’t have officers sitting around doing nothing. They need to be out there doing stuff.

Well, they are. Many of them are doing everything they can to write as many citations and tickets they can. They have to generate revenue to justify why they need to be in operation. That’s why you don’t just get a ticket for a taillight that might have gone out from a bad wire when you hit a bump, but you’ll also get cited for defective equipment and ineffective driving as well as failure to signal. And this all stems from something you couldn’t possibly know unless you were driving and someone told you.

Just look at this clip The Daily Show did in October of last year:

Also, law enforcment are known to target cheaper or older vehicles, persons of color and people who aren’t local. Even though we have the technology to monitor traffic, we still continue to use law enforcment to do it. I used to be a courts/crime reporter. I never will forget when the municipal court clerk let it slip that she was going to tell the officers not to write as many citations around the holidays so she wouldn’t have so much work. She wasn’t joking. I think she was dead serious.

You see, in many cases, it’s not just the citations issued by the officer, but the court costs and fees. You’re basically being charged to pay for a clerk to do their job to process the multiple citations you received on one minor traffic infraction. And all the officer had to do was to tell you your back turn signal light on the passenger side is out. Sometimes that’s the case. Other times, they have a quota to fill.

I heard from someone I went to school with who was broken down in the middle of summer on the side of the road. When the officer stopped, he didn’t get help. Instead, he was informed he needed to get the vehicle off the side of the road as soon as possible or they would tow it and cite him, leaving him with the impound charges.

Years ago in western Oklahoma, a motorist ran off the road and got into an accident when there was snow/ice on the road. The motorist was cited and went to the public saying they had no way to prevent going off the road. Public outcry spread. And this was before social media was so poplar. Eventually, the citation was dropped.

In the City of Tulsa, it’s illegal to drive through an intersection on a yellow light. Even if it’s turning yellow as you’re accelerating through the intersection, you still can be cited. This is the textbook definition of squeezing people. I’ve even heard of officers in other towns and counties citing motorists for changing lanes unsafely and crossing over the center lines. Oh, I should note they were turning left into a private drive.

So, what do we have? We have a hybrid mix of a hall monitor and a schoolyard bully. They’re a stickler for rules and they want to get as much money from you as they can. They also have access to many dangerous and deadly weapons. And they have qualified immunity.

But law enforcement officers aren’t the only thing we have to prevent crimes. There are many systems that we’re not using. The public education system is actually working against lower-income people. Costs are high everywhere. People are stealing food to eat and we’re arresting them. And just because someone is arrested, that doesn’t mean they are going to be sent to jail or prison. A judge or D.A. may determine that the person doesn’t need to be sent to prison and they get probation. And this person is a problem.

Years ago, I covered a case in which a man from Tulsa kidnapped a woman, beat her, and sexually assaulted her. He more or less was going to kill her and dump her body but she was able to get free and contact authorities. Because she had a reported drug history, they only went after him for the kidnapping charges. He got probation. Within less than a year, he shot up a house in Tulsa.

Another person already had two prior convictions for sexual assault when he drugged two women, one of which was his own daughter, and sexually assaulted them. There was another sexual assault case on an unrelated incident he was charged with. Why is someone with two rape convictions even allowed out but people are stuck in prison on mandatory minimum for drug arrests?

I know a lot of law enforcment officers past and present will say, “You don’t know a thing about my job.” I do know that following 9/11, some police questioned why they ran into the two towers so quickly. In Uvalde, Texas, It took them 12 minutes to engage Ramos in a firefight, but 12 seconds to shoot Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. One had a real gun. The other had a toy gun. We can argue to the end of times about whether Tamir should’ve been playing in a public place with a toy gun, but he was more of a kid than Ramos, who they treated with kid gloves.

Going back to what I mentioned above about Dirty Harry taking out the black bank robbers, our police force is based on runaway slave patrols. And that’s how many law enforcment officials and politicians still convince the voters law enforcement is a major concern it needs a huge chunk of the budget.

At the same time, some are expecting teachers to arm themselves. This is a topic I will get to on another post later. But teachers are already expected to shell out their own money for supplies. Yet, we can find money for guns? And maybe since a lot of school districts now have their own police force, shouldn’t that be it?

We’ll always need law enforcement, but we need to change things up. I am for defunding the police and reforming the system. Maybe we don’t need to dress officers up in paramilitary attire if they’re not going to step up. There once was a time in America where some sheriffs didn’t even carry. Andy Taylor never carried on The Andy Griffith Show.

But as the wealth inequality continues to grow and we still think people should be put in jail for smoking plants, we’re still doing the wrong thing. Oh, and people are being put in jail for some of those traffic citations. You see, municipalities are realizing they don’t even need to hire a clerk to mess with those citations. They’ll seek outside third party private businesses which attach fees themselves.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver did a story about this. Here it is:

We have private prisons. The pipeline between school and prison is getting narrower. At the same time, we’re still listening to demands there aren’t enough law enforcement and crime is on the rise. But I think the issue is about a profession that needs a major overhaul. As long as they can keep the conservatives and the Trumpsters believing that a group of rough murders and rapists, who are also non-white, are going to break down their doors at any given second, they’ll still continue to operate.

And having a small ratio of the population operating in a taxpayer-funded job at such a level without consequences is dangerous. Eventually, they’ll see how far they can push it before people push back. And who knows what’s going to happen before that time?

Maybe this will be the eye-opener everyone needs to determine that a position that’s supposed to be public service isn’t doing that. What really does “To protect and serve” mean? They, in fact, are demanding to be treated with so much more respect with no criticism whatsoever and operating on an autonomy they prefer for them and them alone.

My biggest fear is that the pushback won’t be civil. And in a country where any American over 18 can buy a gun over the Internet, it leaves you to wonder who’s going to shoot first?

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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