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By December 20, 2014 Read More →

Politicos Walk While Police and Citizens Suffer


John Rivera, president of the Dade County PBA, which has more than 7,000 members, says it’s politicians who have caused our ongoing problems, not the police.

Editor’s Note: John Rivera is the president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, which represents more than 6,500 law enforcement officers and is the largest certified bargaining agent in Miami-Dade County, representing the Miami-Dade Police Department (Sheriff’s Office), Corrections and Rehabilitation, and most local municipal law enforcement agencies. 

John wrote this opinion piece for The Miami Herald. We will let you know if they print it. In the meantime, feel free to edit it, put your own byline on it, and send it out to your local newspaper. E-mail me if you have any questions:

Since tragic but rare situations have now become a metaphor for police brutality, the cry for a solution is strong. But the bottomless, bitter tension between our citizens and government, the media’s sensationalized reporting, and pundits regurgitating their opinions regarding tragic cases involving police actions, have not served to provide answers. They’ve brought about knee-jerk reactions, deepened the divide between law enforcement and the citizens we serve and given our elected officials an effortless way out.

We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that investing in products, in this case body cameras, is the answer to a reality that most are sadly overlooking: a piece of equipment will not solve a human problem. We saw this with the implementation of electronic control devices or “stun guns” instead of firearms. That was, of course, until people died.

None of the incidents, such as the one in Ferguson, occurred because of a lack of cameras; not the attempt to stop a felon from attacking a police officer, nor the ensuing uprising afterwards.

The city of Ferguson was already on the verge of erupting and we should examine why. A lack of trust had been growing between citizens and their elected officials stemming from an improperly funded budget. Nearly a quarter of the city’s overall budget shortfall was filled by increasing traffic fines that disproportionately targeted black motorists. Mostly hard working folks were impacted with fines that forced them to make hard choices – feed their families, pay the rent or pay the ticket.

Many had little options and their licenses were suspended. When the next stop came, they went to jail and their vehicles were impounded. This vicious cycle caused rising tensions. The face citizens saw was that of the street cop, whose duty was to enforce the wishes of those in power – the mayor and council members.

No matter the place, time, or the era in history, whenever politicians ignore the needs of the people long enough, ugliness lurks and eventually rears its head. Budget cuts and shortfalls, affect every aspect of a community’s quality of life. Yet, when tragedy arises, the first to receive blame is the community’s defense force, not the policy makers, as evident by the treatment of our brave soldiers during Vietnam. Our nation spat in the faces of our servicemen, not the politicians who sent them overseas. And, while our streets cannot be compared to the jungles of Vietnam, today we are spitting in the faces of our law enforcement officers and not holding accountable our elected leaders.

When security lapses occurred at the White House, secret service agents were ridiculed but Congress was given a free pass even though they made cuts to the secret service’s budget impacting the agency’s ability to do its job.

The Eric Garner incident gave a national stage to the very mayor who cut the police budget, and who was the policy maker instructing police to remove unlicensed vendors from the streets. Now, he vows more money for appropriate training.

Politicians are ill advised to devote more money strictly to objects, like cameras, over investing in people; caring for the privileged more than the neediest; representing the few rather than the many. At the very least let us recognize that cutting community policing and our police forces is not helping. These measures hurt communities and budget cuts are not made by the guardians of the streets, but by those we elect.

As usual, lobbyists, consultants, and manufacturing companies will profit from body cameras, while more is taken away from communities and people who need a helping hand. The equipment will come with an unrealized high price tag, and many unanswered privacy and policy questions making the rapid implementation push much more dangerous.

Yet it is the path of least resistance, chosen over helping and investing in people. It’s the easiest way out for an elected official, until a serious problem erupts because of the cameras. Then the politicians will lay the blame on the police or some other convenient scapegoat. Never will they take the responsibility themselves.

Posted in: Intel Report

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