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The Backbone

By:  Super Moderator at Lewisipso


Here’s a vent I’ve wanted to put down in writing for some time now. Recent opinions I’ve heard and articles I have read have made me begin to wonder how did the judicial system structure become so reversed in it’s believed importance? Now I’m not necessarily picking on agency administrations but it seems to me a point needs to be made.
I see the important persons in courtrooms. I detract no importance from them at all. They are all necessary. I see the important persons in agency administrations. I see no reason to detract from them as well. However, I truly see that the most important people are the ones that support the ones above. If it were not for these people, administrations and the courts would have to do the enforcement work themselves. Admittedly in some smaller places the administrations do but I wager the perspective may be different. If it were not for the important people I refer to, agency heads wouldn’t have agencies. DA’s, ADA’s, and Judges wouldn’t have cases. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that I am referring to front line enforcement personnel. The backbone of law enforcement.
I used to regularly teach a class to dispatchers some time ago. I no longer do since it seems that training is no longer a priority in most places. I would open my class with an introduction between myself and the class and would ask who was the most important people at any given agency. Inevitably I was told each time it was the Sheriff, Chief, Marshal or whomever headed the agency. Not true. Anyone who believes this is a bit full of themselves. The make up of the important people at an agency and on up through the judicial system starts at the bottom.
Dispatchers and patrol officers run neck and neck for importance but I am not afraid to ease the dispatchers out a little farther. As with patrol officers, I’ve worked with good ones and bad ones. Patrol officers depend on dispatchers to give them the most amount of information in a short time often times from uncooperative callers. It’s where an incident begins. We depend on them because they help us to end every call as safely as possible, especially for the officers involved. I need a properly trained dispatcher to help me get home to my family just as much as I do other properly trained patrol officers. Dispatchers are just backup that happens to be on a radio. I just wanted to put that into perspective.
At the time I taught the class I was a supervising Patrol Sergeant. It surprised some of the students to know that I believed the higher up the ladder you went the less important you were even if you may still wear a uniform. I have always believed that people assigned to my shift were more important than myself. I still feel that the higher I progress in supervision the less important I am but the more responsible I become for the people I supervise. That does not mean, as supervision goes, I should be a “softie” for the lack of a better term. It does mean, to me, and it always will that I should always be fair to the highest regard and absolutely firm when necessary. Take care of your people because they take care of you, or should. Without my shift, who would I supervise?
I would like to go a bit further up the chain. Sheriff’s, Chiefs, agency heads etc., should never lose sight of where they came from or how they got there especially if it required hard work and time in grade. As well, ADA’s, DA’s and Judges would do well to remember that without that backbone of law enforcement, exactly how many cases would they have to prosecute. I don’t think that any of those three are going to get up out of bed to answer a domestic, robbery or barricaded suspect call. At least I’ve never observed one do it. I do know of agency heads that have shown up from time to time. Although, I’ve have watched as Judges or ADA’s get bent out of shape when an officer, who worked the night before, doing the job they wouldn’t do, not be in court because they overslept or forgot and attended their child’s ball game. Hmmm. I wonder how many of those same ADA’s or Judges slept well in their beds due to the officers on patrol. A paraphrased comment that I find commonly used is “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” I found a possibly more accurate “men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed (I comfortably insert protect) them.” Inevitably less civilized? Okay, I can live with that. I suppose what I am trying to say is that the people that are on the bottom of the pile are the support used for the ones on top. The ones on top should treat such people with a bit of respect since “they” must not realize what it is they do. Or perhaps it is they just don’t care.
Maybe it’s just me but as I was being “brought up” I was taught to admire, and in some fashion respectfully fear a law man. (man used as a generic term) Now, I sometimes mentally step back at the sometimes monumental, sometimes sly, self important and just downright mischievous ways that even an officers own agency disrespects or allows disrespect of the very people that shore up our way of life. Ladies and gentlemen even our most precious protectors, the military, in all it’s deserved glory and might, are not the ones that primarily protect and serve on our cities front lines. That privilege belongs specifically to our necessary evil, law enforcement. I’ll never forget when that term was used by a civilian, I was in conversation with. They were describing their opinion of law enforcement and the job they didn’t do. The individual did not know, at the time, I was an enforcement officer. I listened, nodded in comprehension but when I informed the person of what I did I suddenly was not the person they wished to speak with any longer. They were embarrassed, to say the least, into a pretty shade of red and quickly excused themselves.
Now I know that all of society does not view law enforcement in such a light. Although I must say I expect that at all times from a person in general society. After all we do arrest people for no reason and issue those irritating citations for traffic violations that were not committed. When observed, that type of mentality is of no consequence to me nor, I imagine, the vast majority of law enforcement. That comes with the territory. What does not, or should not come with the territory is when some administrators, or agents of the judiciary system are confronted with a complaint, the first thing questioned is that the officer did such and such not why.
Not all enforcement offices are required to be prior enforcement officers in order to hold their office. You certainly do not have to be a prior LEO to be a judge, district attorney or assistant. So you ran for office. So you stayed awake at odd hours and worked extra jobs for quite a few years attending school learning law. Excellent. Prosecutors, Judges, go ahead and be irritated when I don’t show up for court for the 5th time on the same case, or I cursed at a person who is cursing me. Only do so after standing beside us, in a flipped vehicle with elderly ladies being extricated. Stand there and listen while they beg you to not let them have a heart attack. Come sweat with us wondering, when you open that closet door or round that next corner looking for a suspect, if they intend to come out weapon first. How about you come help us comfort the driver of a vehicle after a child rides out in front of him on a bicycle. Or any other enumerated similar circumstance like, oh I don’t know, say fighting a suspect twice your size. Worry what the headlines are going to look like if you have to shoot that poor “unarmed” person. Then don’t just do it once or twice. Do it for 20 or 30 years. You want to be irritated at me after that I might be inclined to take that irritation with a bit of grace. Until then roll over and get some sleep until it’s time to go grab a latte on the way to work.
Just in case you don’t know our system works just fine. We go to work, catch bad guys, write reports and turn it over for prosecution. Here’s a thought. Fix your system. That’s the one broken. Stop letting your lawyer buddies go ahead of the cops that worked the night before and have to work again that night. Don’t request us there in the a.m. if you don’t know what motions are going to trial until the afternoon. Six hours of sleep beats none before we go back to work. Figure out who is going to motion or trial and have the bailiff or agency rep call the officers you need, when you are ready for them. Call us and tell us the defendant plead two days prior to court date. Etc. I just don’t see this as rocket science. Agency heads, don’t just take the word of the complainant. Don’t be so ready to discipline your officer because you think you’ll lose a family’s vote or your council or mayor “wants something done”. Remember your officers are the ones out there dealing with things you generally don’t. If you were once a line officer then remember what it was like.
Those of you who hold the offices, you hear and read the cop stories over and over but I wonder if you actually listen to them. I’m not asking that society, agency and administration heads, or anyone else up the ladder bow down at the feet of law enforcement. Just gladly land at their feet if you are ever forcefully put there in order for a cop to have a clear shot over you. I imagine if an officer cuts loose a F-bomb or misses court the next day because of that it wouldn’t really be a problem for the person who’s life was saved. I think the cop would have a pass. God help the officer if they raise their voice on the traffic stop with the violator being a snot. Don’t have consideration for cops for what they do. Give consideration to cops for what they are prepared to do. A friend told me that. Law Enforcement, beginning with the ones in uniform, are the backbone of it all. Without the backbone as support the rest of the system has nothing to do. Think about that. JMO.


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