PAPERWORK DECIDES

 

In recent days, I was on a ride along with a buddy who works in a small police department near my home.   We were on the road by 1900 and before clearing the parking lot, dispatch sent us to a residence where a disturbance had been reported.

 

“Oh, great” I thought, “another shift with nothing to drink or eat where we’ll be chasing the radio for hours on end.”   When the shift starts off bad, it’s a sign of things to come.

 

Two units arrived on scene.  The resident was complaining of a home improvement contractor who was in her garage, drunk, and demanding money.  She wanted him gone.

 

The guy was told to pack up and find someone to drive him and his van out of there.  “Don’t drive,” my partner reminded him as we departed.

 

Well, you know the rest of the story.  We set up on the van down the block.  The other unit cleared.  Within a minute, the drunk was driving down the street.   The stop was made.  The drunk was arrested, taken to jail, and all the while he was complaining about the money-grubbing cops who had entrapped him.

 

For my buddy and me: it’s paper, paper, and more paper.   Waiting at the jail for the breath test.  Waiting at the jail for the intake process to complete

 

At 2300, we finally clear the jail (yes, 4 hours after this all began) and my buddy still has to write the report back at the station.

 

As we drove back to our area, he comments: a lot of guys here (at Smalltown PD) won’t make a DUI arrest.  They’d sooner call a cab for the offender or dispose of it any other way – sometimes by looking the other way.  The time required on paper is just too much.

 

 

I TOLD YOU SO

 

My memory flashed to a meeting I’d attended many years ago at Michigan’s Office of Highway Safety Planning.  Although part of the state police, this bureau was run by civilians who’d seemingly never spent 5 minutes in a patrol car on the street.

 

The office-types were pondering if there could be a correlation between the day of the week and the volume of DUI arrests.  They mused about how cops might have distractions on certain days of the week that would reduce enforcement.

 

After listening to as much of this nonsensical babble as I could stand, I interjected, “If you want to measure DUI arrests, look at how they rise and fall as compared to the beginning and end of a cop’s shift.”  The bureaucrats were clueless.

 

 

I offered a theory: the rise and fall of DUI enforcement tied directly to each cop’s willingness and ability to handle the overwhelming amount of paperwork required for such an arrest.   It had become so huge that is was ridiculous.

 

If DUI enforcement was down, the majority of the blame would lie at the feet of the people who demanded an ever-increasing amount of reports from the cops on the street.

 

I asserted that it was the very people leading this state bureau who bore primary responsibility for the drop in drunk driving arrests.

 

Of course, I expressed myself in a very sensitive and compassionate manner.  Yet, I was banished from State Police headquarters for more than a year for having shown such insolence to those in positions of great power.

 

 

IT COULDN’T GET WORSE, COULD IT?

 

I am now a Florida transplant.  As a trainer, I have been on ride alongs in agencies across the country.  I worked in Michigan and became reasonably proficient in handling drunk drivers.

 

Yet, I’ve concluded that Florida may be the state where it is most difficult to make the arrest, process the person into custody, and ultimately get a conviction of any that I’ve witnessed, anywhere.

 

The courts here have tipped the scales in favor of the offender to the point of absurdity.   In Florida, we do not administer Field Sobriety “Tests,” …. no, in Florida they must be termed “Tasks” because after all, we cops are not qualified as teachers and therefore lack qualifications to administer a “test.”

 

If by chance, the cop should use the wrong term in his report, the court has been known to dismiss the case.

Roadside Sobriety Tests

Unlike Michigan, where cops have a variety of measurements they might use, cops in Florida have a script that includes the specific tasks, with unwavering requirements (9 steps up, 9 steps back, and pivot on your right foot at the turn), and a senseless series of questions to ensure that Joe Drunk understands the instructions in his stupor.

 

Cops here often read it aloud from a book, without any deviation.  Otherwise the judges (who are elected to protect us) may well dismiss the case.

 

In Florida, judges routinely dismiss cases for simple technicalities.  It has become so bad that some agencies have schooled certain officers to handle all DUI arrests.   When a patrol officer suspects a drunk, he makes the stop, holds the subject, and transfers probable cause to a cop from the anointed DUI unit.

 

The real fact of life is that paper and procedure have created so enormous a burden on the street cop, that it’s led to non-enforcement.

 

Drunks are not being taken to jail.

 

Domestic Violence participants are counseled into withdrawing or changing their complaints.

 

Is this what the legislators envisioned when the underlying statutes were enacted?   I suspect not.  Is this what John Q. Public expects from its law enforcement systems?  Again, I suspect not.

 

The entire process has become perverted by practicing lawyers and lawyers who have moved on to become judges.  To quote a recent article from fellow columnist, Jeff Baker, these people have “sodomized” our basic freedoms and our representative form of government through these egregious and perverted acts.

 

Florida is not unique.

 

WHAT DO WE DO?

 

The worst of all choices:  give up and going along with the program.

 

That is not the American way.  It’s not what men have fought and died to protect.  It goes against the very grain of our forefather’s vision for this country.

 

We must each take personal responsibility to work the system from within.   There are many ways to do that.   Years ago, I was so disgusted with my local government that I ran for office and served a term.   I “put my money where my mouth was,” so to speak.

 

While I realize that there are some limitations to free speech for cops, those limits don’t gag us.   We can and should speak out on what we believe are problems that need legislative correction.

 

Through our representatives, we can effect change that will bring relief to the ocean of paperwork that has been the result of activist judges who have attempted to legislate from the bench.

 

It is time to speak out about judges who are doing a bad job.   It’s time to hang them out to dry so the public realizes the part they have played in thwarting the intent of the people and its elected representatives.

 

We can speak through letters to the local newspapers.  We can speak through newsletters at church or in clubs to which we belong.  We can speak by getting involved in the campaign process.

 

Many judges seek re-election to office every few years.  I’ve offered my time to pass out literature at the polls on election day in support of those whom I think have done (or will do) a good job.   You can do the same.

 

You needn’t stand alone, like a reed in the wind, if that frightens you.  Speak with your union.   Speak with the PTA at your kid’s school.  Speak as a member of any group that mirrors your views on these issues.  Stand together as a group.

 

Email a copy of this article to your elected officials.   Of course, you can always print it and send it anonymously via the U.S.Mail.

 

We cops have been unreasonably burdened.  It’s a burden of paper that has been created by a system that has gone crazily out of control.

 

Some cops have chosen to push forward in silence, with little or no complaint.

 

Others have sought the relief brought about through non-enforcement, arguably with good reason.

 

Too many have remained quiet in the face of this ever-growing adversary when it was time to speak.

 

The time to speak is now.

 

Leaving a drunk on the street gives them another chance to kill an innocent person.

 

At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.

 

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STRAIGHT TALK

COP TALK

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Jim entered law enforcement at roughly the same time as new technology was making a significant change in the life of patrol officers everywhere.
In response, Jim developed curriculum and course materials for classes titled, “Technology & Tactics.” The intended students were patrol cops.
In the past fifteen years, Jim has taught this core material to approximately 5,000 officers, nationwide. Contact jim@CopBlueBlog.com

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