My friend Randy is a proud retired policeman with over 30 years of service as an officer/sergeant and president of the police association for two terms. A portion of his career included conducting and overseeing internal affairs investigations. Randy is a level-headed guy who graciously shared his insights from an internal perspective as to the issues facing law enforcement today.
Looking back, did you witness in your career racist actions by your fellow officers towards those of color?
“On the question of racism, I certainly saw exchanges between employees and citizens, and employees to employees. I would not call them racist because I do not believe they were motivated by race. If I saw that something was going that way, I usually stepped in, or pulled people apart. Racism certainly has no part in policing or elsewhere.
I saw more use of excessive force or officers acting without control than I saw acts of racism. As an officer, when I witnessed these types of acts, either I or other officers would report them. Instances like these are usually due to anger, unable to stop the adrenalin or just wanting to win.
The real problem within a department lies when an officer is retained after having been identified as having problems. Officers at the least were counseled, but never were they fired.
How do you get rid of bad cops?
Some people just want to focus on the few bad actors and paint all of them with the same broad brush. Departments know through their own investigation if someone is bad. Yet, for many different reasons they don’t fire them. They allow them to resign, and then they move on to another department. Stop passing around bad cops.
Supervision is another area that could address bad cops. Bad supervision is one reason that cops can continue to do wrongful acts during their career. That is the basic reason for vicarious liability.
Community policing seems to be a hot topic today. How do you view the strategy of community policing?
True community policing needs to be addressed. In fact, the term should be changed. It should (be) an involvement by the officers that are assigned to communities to get out of the car and interact on a different level, which most police departments do not, or cannot do properly.
Laugh as people may, ‘Mayberry’ is community policing.
Knowing your community and what problems exist is a large part of being successful as a department. Cops should get to know a person on a one to one basis.
“Are you concerned that the safety needs of law enforcement officers are being met by proposed ideas of banning no-knock search warrants, limiting police actions on crowd control during protests, and having as many options of restraining law breakers?
I am concerned for the officers and for the public. The officers deal with the underbelly of society a lot of the time. That world is different than what the law-abiding citizens see or think it is.
They must wear bullet proof vests just to try to come home at night. Who else does that? Why should they have to do that?
How would increasing liabilities of police officers in restraining suspects translate to the way law enforcement is enforced?
Increased liabilities for police officers might work a bit. Right now, the way that suits are lodged, they are against the officer, his supervisor, command staff, the chief and then the cities. The officer must do something outside of procedures to be held responsible and then the liability works its way up the chain of command and eventually into the deep pockets of the city.
Making the officers more liable could make some officers more apt to stop and think about what they are doing before they do it. It is a godsend to be able to stop and think when you have been trained to instantly react. When I could, I would stop and mull things over, but that is not always possible.
Can you see instances where civilians can better do jobs currently being done by the police?
Yes. I think that police are asked to do too many things that could be done better by a different professional. But if a law has been broken, or violence has occurred then the police need to be the first responders with a secondary type of response by someone else.
How can the police better deal with the homeless problem?
If a homeless person is not violent or has not committed any crime, then a homeless specialist/counselor should respond and take care of the situation.
If you were a young guy, would you choose law enforcement as a career path?
I would be leery about becoming a police officer today. I grew up in the East Bay and knew what it was all about. I worked in a small department where you could make a difference, and that allowed for true community interaction. It was extremely rewarding, but even so, there were many sleepless nights.