I was reading in the paper today about the Explorer program that many agencies have. I think this is a great program. My concern is that we aren’t good role models. We have problems with officers who have no work ethic and low morals. Some of them are not far from the thugs that we arrest every day. I’m hesitant to have such a program in some of our agencies. I know you addressed this in your June 2010 column, but we could probably hear from you again on this matter. Let us (me) have it! —Frustrated in Georgia
Pull back on those reins a bit, my friend. You need to realize what I do here. Ol’ Bullethead’s job is to rant about whatever is bothering me or whatever you great readers write in about. If I sat here and pontificated about how we’re all wonderful and how none of us do anything wrong then I’d have one helluva boring column that no one would read.
Instead of doing that, I do my best to find our weaknesses, and I exploit them. Doing that gives me interesting columns and hopefully it helps hardworking men and women out there think about an issue and continue to do the right thing day in and day out. If I’m not meeting this mission, I invite all of you to tap dance on my head in the form of angry emails and questions you think I should be addressing.
Not good role models? Who would you prefer—Michael Vick or some other sports star who’s fantastic on the field and a complete loser in their personal life? I didn’t think so. Here’s a story to illustrate just the kind of role models we are.
I’m lucky enough to work in a place that lets me take home my Black & White. I’m also lucky enough to live where the cops don’t come by too often. Every evening when I head off to work there are about 20 kids on my street. When I back out of the garage they start cheering and screaming for me to hit the lights and siren. Ol’ Bullethead isn’t afraid of a little public relations, so I give them about two seconds of lights, and I chirp the siren. I can hear those kids cheering until I’m around the corner. Sure, these are young kids, but that’s where it starts.
Here’s another quick story about what people think of the police. A few years back, I was killing some time with an amigo who works in one of the worst cities in the country. This is a fairly small city that doesn’t have any nice areas. The whole place is a serious dump with fewer than 200,000 people, and they were pulling 60-plus murders a year. I asked my friend what the people in his city think of the cops. He said that, in every study they do, the cops always rate extremely high with the people. Think about that for a minute. You know there are many uses of force and chases and all the stuff people get upset at the cops about, but they’re still rated high by the people they serve. We aren’t only role models, we are just about the most visible role models around.
Explorer programs are a fantastic way for kids to get a taste of what we do. If they’re run properly, the program will have a complete rank structure. Within the ranks, they should have mentor programs in which older and more senior Explorers are assigned to bring along the newer members. Where I work, the Explorers attend competitions where they get to apply the techniques they’ve been trained in against Explorers from other agencies.
The key is to make sure the programs are run by cops who care enough to do the right thing. You don’t want to have the sort of cops that I usually go off on running your program. You need hardworking, ethical cops who understand the importance of what they’re doing. Your job is to stop being frustrated, and start recruiting. Ensure your agency is onboard, and then find enough cops to get the program up and running. You don’t need many, just a few to serve as the tactical officers for the Explorers. And if your administration randomly assigns Explorers like ridealongs, try to arrange a constructive meeting with the right boss to ensure the agency is pairing up these young impressionables with the right officers.
Stop relying on the fact that we have a few bad apples as your excuse for not putting together an Explorer program. The kids need the experience, and we need the PR, so quit whining and get to work.
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