Police Misconduct – Religion and Politics

For a person who has never intentionally (certainly not willingly) danced a step in my life, it’s amazing how much “fancy footwork” I have to employ when writing—most particularly about Religion and Politics.

Things that sensible, rational people, would assume to normally be expected of other sane and reasonable human beings are often called into question if those of us with a generally Conservative viewpoint don’t come right out and say them.

And if we mis-step and forget, even if we make it clear that what was not said, was what was intended, many never seem to see that and continue to treat us as though we intended something we never had in mind when we said what we did.

I say this because I’m about to do it again.

I want everyone to understand that, there are “bad” law enforcement officers. I want people to know that police “do things wrong” every day. I want folks to know I realize that accidents happen, too. I want folks to know that people make “judgement calls” each an every day, and that law enforcement is no exception to this “unwritten rule.”

In fact, officers of the law in various capacities must often make snap decisions (that may—let the reader understand—result in the death of innocents if the wrong one is made) often on a daily basis.

People enforcing the law are not perfect, they will make mistakes; some number of them will maliciously do wrong (though the number that does so is exceptionally small—at least, if we choose to believe the statistics).

There’s no doubt that “police Internal Affairs offices,” exist for cause. Unfortunately, more often than not, that “cause” is to placate folks who are just certain officers have “done wrong” without coming anywhere close to knowing the facts.

I can’t speak authoritatively for the entire country, but I know in Central Arkansas, if a law enforcement officer has a “run-in” with someone that is in any way violent, it’s assumed that he or she will be suspended from duty, until a full investigation has occurred.

I’m not trying to argue the merit of such actions, or call them incorrect. My point is simply to make it plain that, officers are looked at (often using microscopic scrutiny) often almost every time there is a violent event in which they are remotely involved.

I would be more than a little surprised to hear that this was not common throughout the United States—indeed, much of the World.

So when I saw the “headline” indicating that there were eighty-five thousand instances of officers accused of misconduct, rather than surprised, I saw something I more or less expected.

But here’s where it gets “interesting!”

As is often the case in “articles” like the one cited, no time frame was specified in the headline. I had to take a second to go into the piece to get that information.

In this “modern day world” of TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read), where my blog posts (which intentionally average around a thousand words), are often all but entirely ignored (and I’m not big-headed enough to assume everyone should be reading them, I’d settle for just a few), I can imagine someone glomming onto the headline without doing any  “delving” to acquire more data from the article.

I took just a second to look at the (hit) piece. When I did, I determined that the data in question was for a decade (you read that correctly, for ten years).

So where I didn’t do more research to find out how that was broken down in the period in question, I pretty much immediately did the “averaging math.”

This means, that in a “community of” law enforcement officers that is counted to be roughly 700,000 (yes, seven hundred thousand), there were, on average 8,500 (eight thousand five hundred), misconduct investigations into enforcement officers’ actions over the course each year in a half a score of years.

I can’t speak to the results of the investigations, but I can tell you that—based on the little I know about law enforcement—it seems very likely that many of the investigations either turned up no wrongdoing, or unintentional failure, or instances of plain bad judgement than anything else.

Even if we assume some level of officer misconduct in every reported case, that still amounts to less than a two percent “misconduct rate” among “people in blue.”

Considering the propensity of many departments (and other entities) to require such investigations any time any kind of incident of substance occurs (signs of misconduct or no), you can be assured that it’s highly likely, the number of cases that bring back any bad result, is less than a quarter. DISCLAIMER, I do not know this to be true, this is a guess on my part. If you don’t trust what I’m saying (and it wouldn’t bother me in the least if you didn’t), do some research and by all means, tell me what you find.

Assuming my guess to be accurate, that would mean an average of 2,125 cases of misconduct of any kind yearly (again in seven hundred thousand in law enforcement uniforms). What makes this even more amazing is that the number of interactions between police and non-law-enforcement is likely in the millions annually. This makes the chances for some sort of misconduct absolutely huge.

Let me make a couple more points, then I’ll leave you to your thoughts.

To begin with, “misconduct” is an intentionally broad term. An officer may have decided a young lady was “cute” and asked her for her number—yes that is misconduct if he’s in uniform and “pursuing justice.” As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, we had a “regulation” (AFR 30-30 “Standards of Conduct”) that outlined many cases of how we were to behave (and how not). For me, taking any kind of gift from a contractor was an infraction, worthy of disciplinary action. This was so strictly enforced, that some contractor left “Christmas gifts” on my desk and more than thirty years later, I have no idea who it was (I never used, nor even really accepted the gifts).

My second point is this, even if all instances of potential (read here “unproven”) misconduct were race of sex based, the number would be pretty small (obviously, we would love it to be zero, but this is not a perfect world). Considering we have no idea actually involved folks of other groups that are considered “targeted” these days, we cannot answer percentages (we can almost certainly say they were not all “racially or sexually motivated”).

So you still think we have “systemic issues” with Police misconduct (much less brutality)? You may be part of the problem! Don’t believe me? Prove me wrong! One warning though; don’t count on my not looking into what you say. Based on the “abuse of power” demonstrated by the “press” and others, you can count on my taking the time to look into things and respond.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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