It seems to me that the demands for “change” are beginning to be heard.
Not long ago, the police in a nearby large city were commended for their swift response to a life-threatening situation involving perhaps hundreds of innocent people. The situation, if you recall, involved a shooter on Aug. 4, 2019, when a well-armed shooter fatally shot nine people and wounded 17 others near the entrance of the a popular bar in the Oregon District of Dayton. An additional 10 persons were injured by other causes, bringing the total number of wounded to 27. The shooter was fatally shot by responding police officers 32 seconds after his first shot thus saving a number of lives and other casualties.
The interval of less than a minute from the first shots until the shooter was down illustrated how law enforcement officers must be prepared for the unexpected and respond accordingly to “protect and serve” the folks who rely on law enforcement officers for their safety.
Well, that was then and this is now. Currently, there are demands that, among other changes, police activities must be under constant video and audio surveillance. When an individual is “under surveillance” in the past this meant that the person was suspected of some wrongdoing and, oftentimes, “probable cause” was cited for such surveillance. Well, if the demands of concerned citizens are instituted, the police would be under surveillance to determine if any of their actions or words might be inappropriate or contrary to departmental or societal expectations.
Furthermore, encounters with civilians would be reviewed and investigated by a group of individuals outside the police department to determine if the use of force, if any, might be unwarranted or excessive. Thus, the image of the police has changed from being heroes saving lives to being suspects of systemic wrongdoing requiring constant surveillance and review of their activities.
There are other changes being called for both in this area and around the country. A newly-minted term, “proportional policing” is gaining some traction. This concept has two components that may be used jointly, or separately. One involves the makeup of law enforcement agencies, such as local police departments, sheriffs’s offices, and state law enforcement agencies.
The basic concern is that the composition of these entities almost never reflect the percentages of racial/ethnic groups in the overall population, that is, they are under represented. “Proportional policing” would require law enforcement entities to make changes in their recruitment and retention policies and procedures to ensure racial/ethnic groups have their appropriate representation.
A second part of “proportional policing” has to do with the percentages of racial/ethnic groups who have encounters with law enforcement officers — which range from routine traffic stops to drug violations to violent felony situations. In each category, racial/ethnic groups have a higher disproportionate representation.
Furthermore, the same holds true for those who are in prison, that is, a larger percentage of racial/ethnic groups are in jail than their percentage of the general population. “Proportional policing” would require the end to these disproportionate figures by establishing procedures that would ensure the percentage of racial/ethnic groups having encounters with law enforcement or in prison would be no greater than their representation in the general population.
Then, too, is the increasing movement to “defund” or abolish law enforcement agencies including local police departments. One such experiment is currently underway in Seattle where six blocks of a neighborhood, decreed by protesters to be the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” or “CHAZ,” is being called a “police-free” zone — no cops allowed. According to one resident of the area, “The community seemed to be really happy that they were in a space without antagonist police presence or exchanges.” However, armed citizens are patrolling the streets in this area and there are reports of citizens and businesses being asked to pay a fee to live or operate within the CHAZ — kinda sounds like the “protection” racket so loved by old time gangsters.
Well, “times they are a changin’ ” as the old song goes. Just where all this leads is uncertain, but one thing is sure. Our country will never be the same.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]