Thank you for your response. I was glad to see you mention the Constitution, and to hear you say that you have the same views about freedom and the Constitution as everyone else. I'm sure you meant to say that as a government employee who signs an oath to uphold the Constitution, upholding that document -- not keeping police officers safe -- is your main professional goal. But shouldn't keeping *the public* safe also take priority in the line of duty over keeping officers safe?
Think of the captain and crew of a ship, whose first responsibility are to the well-being of the passengers, not to that of other crew members. In a life-threatening situation, crew members are supposed to see their passengers to safety first, and the captain is traditionally supposed to go down with the ship if necessary. Don't you think that police officers should be similarly dedicated to putting public safety ahead of their own while on the job? I think that is what the public wants and expects, in exchange for the good salaries and benefits that police officers receive from taxpayers, and why police are traditionally seen as heroes. I think the widespread perception that they are not getting this kind of service is doing much more to harm the public's image of police officers than media coverage is doing.
If the truth is more favorable to police officers than what the media are reporting, then police departments are doing themselves a disservice by being so tight and controlling with information. For instance, it is difficult to get police reports. Even crime victims, let alone persons accused of crimes, typically aren't given copies of these reports at the time they are written. They have to wait to make a special request, and then pay a fee that is way more than the cost of making a copy. Media outlets likewise have difficulty getting information, and when they do, it is often just what departments want to release to them, rather than an objectively unbiased data dump. It seems only logical that this increases media skepticism about the motives and behavior of police, and also results in members of the public like myself being uninformed about things like the Street Survival Seminar. (Please do provide details, if you would like me to be better informed.)
You mention a statistic of over 190 police officers losing their lives in the U.S. last year. That is a tragedy as is any unnecessary loss of life, but are you aware that people in many other occupations, including timber cutters, airplane pilots, structural metal workers, taxi cab drivers, construction workers, roofers, electric power installers/repairers, truck drivers, and farm workers, are more likely to be killed on the job than police officers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Except perhaps for airplane pilots, I believe that all of these occupations are lower paid than police officers. (see http://www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/dangerousjobs.htm ). And they aren't even public servants! Shouldn't we demand a higher standard of public servants, a greater willingness to place the interests of the public ahead of one's own, whether financially or in terms of safety? Especially those public servants who are armed and trained to serve and protect the public?
You say that if police officers wanted to hurt people, they "have ample opportunities to do just that." Are you referring to opportunities where they would *not* be swiftly punished and removed from the police force? Such opportunities shouldn't exist, should they?
Of course you're right that officers should treat the public with dignity and respect. But perhaps more attention should be paid to what this means in practice. For instance would you agree, in accord with the Constitution, that people who have not been convicted of any crime should not be put in jail unless they are an immediate threat to public safety (e.g. drunk and disorderly)? Because sometimes people *are* arrested and jailed, for hours or even days, who have *not* been convicted of any crime and who have given no indication of being violent. I think most people would view being thrown in jail under such circumstances as disrespectful and an affront to their dignity. How would you feel if it happened to you?
This is one practice which I think could, if eliminated, help improve the image of the police. A number of additional suggestions for better relations between the police and the community are listed below. I would appreciate hearing your feedback on them as a member of the SFPD, and look forward to your response.
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• Issuing official written apologies, and compensation for the trauma and for the loss of their time, to anyone who is jailed without being convicted of a crime, or arrested without being charged with a crime.
• Requiring officers to carry business cards with their names, badge numbers, and precinct information whenever on duty, and to give such a card to anyone who asks for one.
• Requiring officers to immediately respond either "yes" or "no" to anyone who asks a police officer whether he or she is being detained, or is free to leave a scene. Officers have been known to refuse to answer such questions as a means of illegally detaining persons against their will who are not in fact under arrest.
• Implementing a "zero tolerance" policy for police officers and other government employees receiving special privileges not available to other members of the public, such as the recent revelations by the Orange County register that public servants including law enforcement have been dodging millions of dollars in traffic fines via the possession of special exempt license plates (see http://www.ocregister.com/articles/dmv-police-confidential-2011354-program-records ). Some cops were so arrogant as to openly admit to the newspaper to giving "professional courtesy" to other government employees by not citing them. Official tolerance of this kind of corruption erodes the public's trust in the police and in government.
• Printing the badge numbers of officers in large, football jersey style numbers on the backs of their uniforms, so that persons who believe they observe an officer or officers acting inappropriately can readily identify those officers from a distance without putting themselves in danger or possibly interfering with the officers' duties by getting too close. Awareness and discipline of rogue officers, and making sure that those on the force consistently adhere to the highest standards of professional behavior is in the clear interests of the municipality, the public, and all good and honest officers, as well as being a matter of public safety.
• Showing a willingness to conduct policing in an open and transparent fashion including all police incidents in police blotter data which is given to media outlets, instead of cherry-picking those incidents which make the police and the department look good, and to also post this information in a regular and timely fashion at each precinct where it can be viewed by members of the public, including the names of all officers involved in each incident.
• Deprioritizing the enforcement of laws for which no widespread community consensus exists that the act in question should even be illegal, such as laws against jaywalking, drug sales and use, prostitution, gun ownership, off-leash dogs, etc.