Friday, January 7, 2011
"The police expect the public to help them do their jobs, but the public cannot expect help from the police. Am I the only person who finds this situation odd?"
by Prof John Kozy
Suppose you were a person who painted the exteriors of houses, and that one August afternoon you were close to completing a job when you noticed a thunderstorm looming. Suppose you looked around and saw a police car coming down the street, flagged it down, and asked the policemen to help you finish the job before the storm hit. What reaction do you think you'd get? Do you think you'd get any help?
Now consider this: A person is caught by a surveillance camera robbing a convenience store. The police send the tape to the local television stations, and on the next newscast, the tape is broadcast and viewers are asked to help identify the robber. Say what?
What distinguished this situation from the one described in the first paragraph? The police expect the public to help them do their jobs, but the public cannot expect help from the police. Am I the only person who finds this situation odd?
Things are even worse. Have you ever had your home burglarized? I have. When the police arrived after my call, they dutifully wrote a report. When it was handed to me, one of the officers said, "You realize that all we are going to do is file the report" and advised me to file an insurance claim. Why don't they tell that to the convenience store's owner instead of asking the public for help?
Some will say that getting criminals off the street is a good thing, so so is helping the police identify them. But it's not clear that policing gets criminals off the street. Even when convicted, judges routinely sentence the convicted person to probation. When sentenced to prison, some other convicted criminal is often paroled to make room for the newcomer. So what is it exactly that the police do for you? I don't know the answer.
Because of this, in some communities, people refuse to help the police and frown on anyone who does.
In Tampa, three women heard gunshots. What they did next made them heroes to many people but outcasts to others – including some of their neighbors.
Rose Dodson was awakened by gunfire and tires squealing that night, June 29. Moments later, her roommate, Delores Keen, watched a man leap over a fence near her apartment. In the distance, at 50th Street and 23rd Avenue in east Tampa, she saw the emergency lights of a police cruiser twirling in the dark, but no officer was in sight. Both knew something was wrong and stepped outside the safety of the apartment to investigate. A friend, Renee Roundtree, who had been walking to a nearby store, joined them. Lying on the ground beside the police cruiser, the women found two officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.
Keen called a 911 dispatcher.
Whether making outcasts of these three women is appropriate is for each to decide for her/himself. I am merely making a point about policing in general which is merely that police seem to be unable to do their jobs alone. And this situation applies to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security as well as the local police. All seem to require help from ordinary people.