The Sliding Scale- Building Trust With the Badge

by Kurt Dugger-

First, let me say nothing here should be seen as derogatory towards law enforcement. There is way too much of that going around now, and most of it undeserved.

Law enforcement officers have a very difficult and frustrating job, from keeping accident scenes safe to chasing meth addicts at 2:00 a.m. It’s not a job I want, and I’m betting most of them got into it for all the right reasons.

            I also know how easy it is to lose perspective when you deal with bad people more than good. Very quickly, you can start lumping everyone into the category of bad. Instead of complaining about the abuses of power or ignoring them, why don’t we look for solutions and common ground for both sides of this argument?

            As for my side of the badge (nonlaw enforcement), we need to stop and take a breath before reacting to the latest news story. Remember those stories are often cherry-picked to get a negative reaction from you. That’s how “journalists” generally operate and make their living now. And for every bad cop story, there are likely ten good cop stories you will never hear. A great example is Officer Daniel Kimball of the Paducah Police Department. Kimball diffused a volatile situation outside a Paducah nightclub. He made no assumptions, no bad calls, and no arrest. Officer Kimball represented everything a peace officer was meant to be on September 11, 2016. Search online if you haven’t seen his body camera footage yet.

            For the LEO (law enforcement officer) side of the badge, we want to trust you. We need to trust you. But, we see a lot of things that are eroding that trust. For example, your cars used to say “To protect and serve.” This was a small but constant reminder, to us and you, whose side you are on. With that small deletion, and with more unmarked cars and military hardware every year, you leave us not with a feeling of protection, but more of a creepy “big brother” hoping we will make a mistake so you can swing into action. To the departments who have kept this saying displayed, thank you. I’m looking at you Weakley County. Good job. In other areas, using traffic cameras and arresting or taxing people for victimless crimes only reinforces this feeling of a police state.

            One thing that would help on both sides would just be getting to know each other. There are easy ways to do that. Once or twice a month, have a range day. Invite anyone who wants to come out and shoot with the police. LEOs get some practice. Non-LEOs get safety and marksmanship training and build confidence in their police force and in themselves. This would be a great help to all the new and potential concealed-carry permit holders out there. I’m sure there is a range nearby that would be happy to sponsor this. Officers doing the training could get one box of ammo, other shooters could bring or buy their own. Spend 20 minutes for a safety and range operations class, and then run whatever drills everyone is comfortable with. You could even grill hot dogs and clean pistols together afterward if you feel ambitious.

             Another idea. A women’s self-defense and security class taught by the local experts, the police. I’m sure there is a high school somewhere that could offer the use of a gym one or two nights a month. And I’m sure there are a few officers who would be glad to take an hour or two off their patrol route to be a paid instructor.

            Maybe a scholarship could be offered to any high school student, or group of students, who can build an effective online rating app for the local police. Think Amazon or Ebay. Each officer has a short bio, and anyone who interacts with the officer gets a business card and is allowed to leave a comment and rating. This way, people get to know the names and faces of their LEOs. I’ve gotten tickets from LEOs that would have gotten five out of five stars. Maybe this app could include a good deed of the week section so we hear some of those good cop stories. When law officers appear more human and approachable, you’re more likely to get our help when you need it. It also lets us know you are willing to be held to a high standard.

            That part is important. When you are hired for this job, you’re given an enormous amount of power with your badge. In a courtroom, your words are given more weight because of that badge. The testimony of a police officer can set someone free or destroy their life, regardless of its accuracy. It’s kind of a big deal for us to know you won’t abuse that power. For example, handing out seat belt violations at a citywide yard sale, where the longest distance driven is between driveways, is abuse of your power. I’d like to congratulate the City of Sharon at this point for having the courage to remove those who abuse their power in your town. Thank you.

            To sum it up, both sides need to find ways to ditch this “us and them” way of thinking. If we don’t, that divide will only get bigger, and both sides will be weaker for it. Please stay safe out there guys, we need you. And custom vinyl stickers for your cars are cheap. Do us a favor and remind us you’re here for us, not above us.