It seems to me that among the results of all the protests, riots, arson, and such are demands that our law enforcement system be changed. Recommendations range from moment-to-moment monitoring the actions and words of all peace officers whether on or off duty to outright abolishing “cops” and replacing them with social workers.
Most folks I’ve talked with agree that systemic adjustments are appropriate to ensure our laws are being complied with while the rights of individuals are protected against unwarranted actions, including arrest and violence, by law enforcement officers. Just what these modifications might be are dependent on the specific problems, such as the use of firearms, that are identified.
You know, we, as a society have a liking for models, that is, some kind of representation of a “game plan” illustrating how to proceed to accomplish objectives. These models range from business plans to lesson plans, to football plays, to blueprints for construction, to — you name it. Anyway, there is such a model for law enforcement that appears to incorporate many of the desired objectives — such as increased exercise of conflict reconciliation and reduced availability and use of firearms. I figured examination of this model appropriate.
In general, the model (which I will simply designate as “M”) incorporates two levels of law enforcement officers which I will refer to as “A” and “B.”
“A” is a senior uniformed officer who is not only responsible for administrative type activities such as assigning duties to “B” but is actively involved in certain enforcement affairs. Although in uniform, “A” does not carry any of the usual array of equipment such as a firearm, a baton (which we used to call a “billy club”), pepper spray, and such. When involved in a law enforcement situation, “A” has the role of reducing tension, identifying and reconciling differing on-site reports, avoiding violence, averting escalation, and, in general, introducing a calming influence. These functions, as laid out in model “M,” closely parallel the demand for social workers to replace “cops.”
OK, moving on to law enforcement officer “B” who has the role of “street cop” in identifying and, if appropriate, apprehending violators of the law. These activities normally consist of handling low-level misdemeanors such as traffic violations, however, more serious or complicated situations call for the presence of “A.” As a uniformed officer, “B” acts as an authoritative presence to the public complete with a sidearm although without a baton, pepper spray, and such. The sidearm, however, is not loaded. Nope, “B” has a cache of ammunition for the pistol available in case of an emergency — but if and only if “A” authorizes and instructs “B” to load the weapon.
This procedure provides a couple of benefits. First, the sidearm-equipped officer represents a “law and order” posture that is easily recognizable and may well serve as a deterrent to potential lawbreakers. Secondly, the pistol being unloaded and restrictions on its use avert reliance on the weapon. Kind of a win-win situation — and in keeping with demands for reducing shootings by police.
OK, recognize this model? Some of you might because it’s been around for some time — on TV. Yep this is the “M for Mayberry” model with “A” for Sheriff Andy” and “B for Deputy Barney. It worked well for that make-believe town with its imaginary law enforcement officers, and interestingly enough incorporated some features that would play well with the demands being put forth today by those who want to change our law enforcement system. There is a problem however.
You see, this model has never been tested where violent crimes such as murder, rape, arson, rioting, and lots of other really nasty offenses are being committed. I kind of wonder how the Sheriff Andy approach would work when faced with hundreds of masked bottle and rock throwing rioters smashing in store windows intent on looting the establishments before setting them on fire. I also kind of think that by the time Deputy Barney could retrieve that single round of ammo from his shirt pocket, load it into his pistol, and return fire, it might be a bit late.
Well, we learn from models — taking lessons from both successes and failures — and I suppose we can learn from this model as well. One is that, unfortunately, we don’t live in Mayberry.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a regular contributing columnist and local area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.