Winston Churchill observed that democracy is the “worst form of government – except all others.” That is how I view our law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
This ten-part series of recommendations for improving law enforcement is based on my 10 years as a prosecutor and over 30 years as a criminal law judge.
First and foremost, we need to recognize that police have a difficult, dangerous, and thankless job. They deserve our support. After all, they are there to “protect and serve” —us.
The police should be defended, not defunded. The more we respect them, the more they will live up to our expectations.
The “Pygmalion Effect” can be very powerful. According to Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor. He carved a realistic statute of a beautiful woman. Then, he fell in love with his creation. Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, took pity on him and granted his heart’s desire: she turned the statute into a person.
The “Pygmalion Effect” means: people live up to, or down to, our expectations of them. (This was the theme of “Dr. Doolittle.”)
Thus, we should treat police officers how we want them to act. When we support them privately and publicly, they will better serve us.
There are communities where the local residents treat the cops like dirt, and the cops treat them like garbage. I don’t know who started it. Did the people disrespect the police first, or did the police disrespect them first? “The chicken or the egg?”
Either way, this is a vicious cycle that is detrimental to both the police and the public. The cops and community become enemies instead of allies. This mutates into a siege mentality of “us versus them.”
Communities that disrespect the police pay a heavy price in property damaged and lives lost. These anti-police attitudes are self-destructive.
Without “the law” there is “lawlessness.” The “thin blue line” separates us from the world of: “Mad Max” and “Lord of the Flies.”
I have talked with several LAPD officers who have transferred to cop friendly South Orange County. One said he was surprised by how many people waved at him – with all five fingers. Another said, he was shocked when he got into a fight with a suspect and several citizens joined in, not to beat up the officer, but to come to his aid.
Communities and police should be united in upholding “the rule of law.” They should be allies in protecting “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
There are no statistics on how many lives officers save, directly or indirectly. There is no data how many injuries police prevent, directly or indirectly. There is no documentation how much property is protected by police, directly or indirectly.
Every time the police arrest and remove a: serial killer, career criminal, sexual predator, residential burglar, car-jacker, “porch pirate,” mail thief, shoplifter, identity thief, drunk driver, “flasher,” rapist, and child molester, they are protecting us.
After all, the police protect our most important civil right — the right to life. They also protect our civil rights to enjoy our property, to travel safely, and to live peacefully.
The police deserve our support, privately and publicly.
(Next Article in the Series: “Hire More Women”)