When I was the commander of our Investigations Division, my chief asked me to have a “conversation” with the principal of our local high school. The issue to be addressed: Our school resource officer (SRO) carrying his duty weapon at the school. The principal didn’t want him to bring it into the school, and my job was to let her know that not having it on him at all times wasn’t an option. The meeting wasn’t only of the minds, but of philosophical differences—mine based in reality, hers in pure fantasy.
During the close of an hour-long conversation, the principal repeatedly reminded me that she had a PhD in education, referred to herself as “Doctor” and attempted to “educate” me on human behavior and her belief system about children and society in general. I’m obviously paraphrasing here, but she said things such as: “I believe that all children are good, the culture to which they’re exposed to muddles their precious little minds, and police in general, don’t understand how, or have the skill set to, deal with them appropriately.” She said that the mere presence of a gun creates the impression that guns are “acceptable instruments” for a civilized society since a government representative is in possession of one. “I believe if they don’t see guns then they won’t be influenced by the violence that guns create.” She went on about the evils of guns, the need for guns to be confiscated and outlawed, police ineptness and her deranged belief system about how societies should be run. I’m sure at the end of her monologue she thought my eyes would clear and capitulation would be my response. That didn’t happen, obviously.
I told her that the gun would be worn, it would be visible, and if necessary, it would be used. I reminded her of the things we had pulled out of the school (weapons, drugs, etc.) and the possibility of a rogue shooter coming into her highly secure building (she believed it was safe as every visitor had to present an I.D. to the septuagenarian volunteers manning the entrance doors).
She wasn’t swayed. In fact, she kept reverting to her injudicious talking-points, believing that her educated ramblings would somehow sway my Neanderthalic thought process. Finally, admittedly frustrated, I said, “You have the luxury of your point of view because we, the police, allow you to live in the world you live in—which is not reality.” I went on to explain that people today don’t understand true evil and violence because, for the first time in the thousands and thousands of years of our existence, most of us can choose to ignore it. We don’t have to live with violence and death as we did up until the early 1900s.
Of course my belief system had no impact on her. She remained upset that I wouldn’t change my position on the officer continuing to wear his gun.
The point I was trying to make about violence then, and would like to make here in this column, is the same. I’d like to begin with a quote from the landmark film, Zoolander. I speak of the pivotal moment in the movie when designer Mugatu tries to make an obvious point to his agent, Maury Ballstein, about Derek Zoolander having only one “look.” Mugatu, frustrated by everyone else’s lack of awareness, finally screams, “Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!”
Exactly! That’s how we in the law enforcement profession feel when we listen to the media, educators and the public talk about violence and how the police should respond to it. “Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!”
The UC Davis OC Spray Incident
There’s no better current example of this than the infamous University of California Davis OC spray incident. Based on the public response, calls for firings, resignations, and even demand for indictments, you would think there was anthrax in that orange cloud directed at the face of those criminals.
Criminals? Oh no—they were citizens. In fact, they were purer than citizens—young people, students who were doing nothing more than expressing their constitutionally protected free speech. The truth: That’s a crock of S#!% and a lie. They were criminals—people who committed crimes. I don’t have enough time to go down the list of offenses here, but at the very least, they were obstructing police officers from doing their jobs. They were preventing officers from moving lawfully arrested citizens from the scene of a crime to the point where booking was to take place. They were physically blocking them and that’s a crime.
Let’s look at the reality of what happened here. First off, the police didn’t want to do anything to these people. They knew ahead of time that they were between the proverbial rock and a hard place. These “students” wanted a confrontation and they wanted to make an issue of whatever the police did. So what did the officers do? Their job! And they were incredibly reasonable, patient and professional while doing it.
The eyewitness accounts are there, the video evidence is readily available, but all that the media shows us is the big, bad police officer spraying innocent pacifists in the face. This is taken out of context, and therefore isn’t true.
The police department officials warned the protesters for days and specifically told them the day before the incident what would happen if they didn’t obey the lawful orders given. The protesters continued to break the law and several were arrested without incident. Then some of the “free speech” advocates decided to up the ante and physically block and antagonize the police. The police gave them several warnings to move. They told them as a group and then walked up to each one individually and asked, ordered and warned. They practically begged the people to move. The police didn’t want this; the protestors did. In fact, many of the protesters dared them to act while laughing.
Finally, with no other alternatives, the spray came out and all hell broke loose. Elected officials fainted from the site and assured that people would be held accountable. Appointed officials blamed the police. Officers were suspended. Careers were threatened. Bureaucrats overreacted by stating they were “aghast” and “deeply disturbed by the images.” They hung the people on the front lines—the police officers—out to dry.
Let’s get real here and examine the options that the police had that day.
Seriously though, what else? Firearms? Of course not. Water cannons? Don’t be ridiculous. Nets? No one’s really trained to use that.
When I went on the internet and checked out TV outlets for educated alternatives from students, educators and the media, I couldn’t find any. In fact, instead of solutions, what I found were protests. “Police in para-military garb descended upon…Cops in full riot gear were in lock-step formations as they…failure of leadership at the highest level led to 11 people injured and hospitalized…police were unleashed on….Officers nonchalantly sprayed peaceful protesters….” And so forth.
As far as I can tell, no one has the guts to get real. Instead of dealing with those who caused the incident to occur, we laser focused on the officer’s uniforms, weapons and unsympathetic facial expressions. Apparently, it would be better if we wore neutral-colored, non-threatening double-breasted blazers and sprayed the protesters with a dose of cherry Binaca, all while displaying a look of concerned compassion. “I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!”
The truth: The police didn’t start this. They warned and begged before taking action and when forced to act, they used incredible restraint and the lowest and most reasonable level of force available. The consequence? Suspensions.
So here’s my suggestion: Let the media and educated school administrators deal with the next insurrection. Let the cops write about it, film it and blog about it. Let’s see if the media can accomplish the mission the police live their lives doing successfully every single day—upholding the law.