Retraining Police To Protect And Serve.

Following the most recent example of police brutality at a high school in South Carolina, it is abundantly clear that law enforcement agencies across the country must re-evaluate and re-educate their officers. Too often we’ve seen officers use excessive force to bully, bruise, wound and kill citizens without probable cause.

Far too often, we’ve seen police resort to lethal force against unarmed men, women and children.

In Cleveland, we saw a police officer shoot and kill a 12-year-old boy within 2 seconds of his arrival on the scene. The boy’s crime? He was playing with a toy gun. We saw cops shoot a young man in an Ohio Walmart for daring to hold a BB-gun he intended to buy. We saw a Texas highway patrol officer unnecessarily brutalize and arrest a young woman who was standing up for her rights after being stopped for failure to signal a lane change. She was arrested and ultimately killed just because the officer didn’t like her attitude.

We saw an officer stop an unarmed driver for a broken taillight then shoot him multiple times in the back as he tried to run from the scene. We’ve seen a video of an officer “ground and pound” a middle-aged woman on the shoulder of a freeway. And we’ve seen police shoot and kill unarmed citizens who were mentally ill without any attempt to use non-lethal force.

This phenomenon is not limited to any single region of the United States, nor any level of law enforcement. We’ve seen the same kind of brutality from small town cops, sheriffs and sheriff deputies, big city cops and state patrol officers. In addition, we’ve seen racial profiling by city police departments; from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s gang in Maricopa County, Arizona; and from officers in the Border Patrol. Though they may or may not brutalize or kill the subjects of their harassment, at minimum they make the detainees’ lives unnecessarily difficult.

These same kinds of incidents don’t happen in other advanced nations. While officers in the US shoot people armed with clubs and knives, officers in the UK and Canada use night sticks and training to subdue similarly armed individuals. While officers in the US shoot and/or imprison the mentally ill, in other nations officers subdue them and get them help.

What is the answer?

Certainly not all of the law enforcement officers in the US are out-of-control bullies. But there are plenty. And, rather than try to eliminate the bad apples within their ranks, the good officers, their unions, the prosecutors, “law and order” politicians and uncaring citizens go out of their way to blindly protect them.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The chiefs of departments can change their hiring and training procedures. I once was witness to the inner workings of two city police departments separated only by a river. One department was awash in corruption and bullies. The other was virtually free of such problems. The difference? The first department focused on hiring the biggest and baddest candidates – candidates who had previously served in small town departments. Most of them had simply passed an 8-week training program consisting primarily of classroom work, military-style drilling and many hours on the shooting range. The chief of the second department chose, instead, candidates with college degrees and a philosophy of service.

Certainly, dash cams and body cams will help. But they are not the only answer. It’s time that all departments take a long, hard look at themselves – at their military-style weapons, uniforms, vehicles and protocols; at their military-style “I’ve got your back” attitudes; at their militaristic training; and at their hiring programs. They need to remember that they are not another arm of the military. And they need to reinstate the motto: “To serve and protect.”

If law enforcement officers want the public – especially minorities – to respect them, they’re going to have to earn that respect. Not just a few…but all of the officers.

More Empty Rhetoric About Border Security

In recent weeks, a wave of immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador have flooded the Texas border in order to escape political turmoil and extreme poverty in their home countries. The would-be immigrants include more than 48,000 children traveling on their own. With its Texas facilities overwhelmed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transported thousands to facilities in Arizona. Of course, that led our finger-wagging governor and her Teapublican allies to blame President Obama. They claim that the Obama administration has ignored border security.

That makes for a sensational story, but it’s simply not true.

The budget for border security has grown from $7.9 billion in 2008 to nearly $13 billion in 2013. We spent $2.4 billion to build 670 miles of border fence and there are plans to build another 700 miles. Including lifetime maintenance, the total cost of the fence is likely to soar to more than $500 billion! In addition, a Republican amendment to the Senate immigration bill calls for an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents at a cost of $3.4 billion per year. The Obama administration has intercepted record numbers of immigrants – 414,397 in 2013. In fact, the enforcement measures and lack of job opportunities in the US resulted in zero net immigration in 2012.

It’s easy to complain if you’re a Teapublican trying to score political points, but you have to ask what more can we do to seal our borders? Shall we build a dome over the entire nation? Should we set up minefields and machine gun emplacements then deploy Sheriff Joe and his posse to mow down hopeful 12-year-olds? How much more money should we spend? How many more Border Patrol agents should we employ? Should we redeploy troops returning from Afghanistan to the wilds of Texas and Arizona? At what cost?

And what about the 40 percent of undocumented immigrants who enter the country legally and overstay their visas?

The most effective (and perhaps only) way to increase border security is to help end the political and financial insecurity in Central America. That’s certainly within our power. After all, much of the insecurity has been caused by our corporations and our meddling beginning with the Monroe Doctrine. We could also decrease the demand for illegal drugs in the US. Without the resources of drug cartels, there would be less drug trafficking and less human trafficking. Unfortunately, that’s not within the realm of possibility. We have waged a war on drugs for more than 30 years by locking up drug users and drug dealers. What next? Shall we execute them?

If Teapublicans are so critical of the situation, perhaps the President should assign responsibility for border security to the critics. Let Jan Brewer figure out how to stop the immigration without international incident; without lethal measures; without committing human rights violations; without imprisoning desperate people merely seeking a way to protect and feed their families. Or have the Teapublicans become so angry and mean that they simply don’t care about the consequences of such actions? Are they entirely lacking a conscience?

If so, we have bigger problems than illegal immigration.

Ummm…You Can’t Record What You Don’t See.

Some members of Congress are now demanding that the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) release data for the number of migrants who are turned back before crossing the border illegally and the number who evaded the Border Patrol and thus were able to successfully enter the U.S. illegally.

Say what?

Am I the only one who sees the flaw in this logic? How exactly is the DHS to accurately determine that information? One might as well ask how many stars haven’t yet been discovered. Sure, we know how many UFO sightings have been reported, but how many didn’t we see? How many Sasquatches haven’t been seen?

DHS and the Border Patrol report the number of apprehensions by agents. In addition, ICE (Immigration and Customs Service) reports the number of deportations. But it’s extremely unlikely that they would be able to accurately track the number of migrants who are discouraged from crossing the border upon seeing Border Patrol agents. And it would be impossible to track the number of migrants who cross the border unseen by agents.

As for those spotted, but elude capture, it would be possible to cite a number. But many are likely captured by other agents and law enforcement personnel. So what is the purpose of collecting the data?

We now have more than 17,600 border patrol agents assigned to the 1,954 miles of border with Mexico. That’s more than 9 agents per mile! And the Senate Immigtation Reform bill calls for adding 20,000 more!

Apprehensions of illegal immigrants are at an all-time high. Deportations are at an all-time high. Illegal immigration is now at net zero. Yet, Congressional Teapublicans accuse former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, of engaging in a cover-up for failing to report the number of “turn-backs” and the number of “got-aways.” They claim this information is needed in order to determine whether or not the border is secure before voting on Immigration Reform.

Here’s an idea. Since Congress spends less than 3 days a week at work, they have plenty of time to go to the border and collect the data themselves.

Visit To The Border Exposes The Complexity Of Immigration.

My wife and I recently traveled to the border town of Douglas, Arizona. Along the way, we passed dozens of Border Patrol pickup trucks and two checkpoints. Upon arriving in Douglas, we were greeted by an imposing wall stretching along the border and a town in visible decay.

You see, Douglas was once a shopping destination for Mexican families. Many drove for miles to purchase items that were difficult to find or too expensive in their own country. Many walked across the border to work. Families lived on both sides of the border. All of this is readily confirmed with a quick glance at many of the business signs, which are in Spanish. Not English. After all, this land was owned by Mexico long before it was transferred to the United States.

Unfortunately, much of that cross-border commerce seems to have come to an end. Many of the storefronts are empty and many buildings are boarded up. It is now much more difficult to cross the border and there are far too many incidents in which Mexican citizens have been detained or threatened. It appears that many Americans have also avoided the area.

These are just a few of the consequences of our failed immigration policy.

Other consequences include the blight of our modern day “Great Wall” or “Iron Curtain.” It’s nearly as expensive and no more successful. The wall has reduced the number of migrants crossing the border illegally. And it has blocked the traditional migratory patterns of wildlife, maybe speeding some desert animals on their way to extinction. But it hasn’t stopped the traffic of illegal drugs. It has simply funneled them into a concentrated area which has posed a danger to ranchers and other residents in the area on both sides of the border.

This is no way to deal with immigration.

If we’re to get a handle on the issue, we must pass legislation that creates work permits. We must create an effective national ID system. We must make it easy for businesses to verify workers before hiring them, and we must make it easy to prosecute businesses who hire undocumented workers. We must create a path to citizenship for those who are already here, especially the “dreamers” (those who were brought here at an early age by their parents). And we must stop our large agribusiness corporations from dumping subsidized corn into Mexico and Central America, making it impossible for small farmers to make a living and forcing them to seek employment elsewhere.

Perhaps, most important, we should decriminalize drugs and make them available with a prescription from pharmacies. That would take the profit out of the illegal drug trade and force the drug cartels to find a new occupation. It would depopulate many of our prisons, saving billions in taxes. It would also eliminate the need for “users” to deal with criminals and to commit crimes in order to purchase their drugs.

Well, I can dream, can’t I?