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How can we use words differently?


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Words are the most powerful force we can wield, excluding the use of physical weapons.

We communicate our needs, desires and dangers. We teach, comfort, love, plan, share, compare, learn, describe, explain, and create whole new worlds with words. Written words are equal to or greater than the spoken word, if for no other reason than it can be shared near and far, immediately or centuries from now, and analyzed without voice inflection and body language. Words provide a basis for history that started on boulders, canyon walls, and the walls of caves.

And like any force, words can be used to benefit or harm. For good or evil. Properly trained and thought out or spontaneously and dangerously implemented without planning.

An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal brought on this blog post. It was an update on the Metro Police Department’s progress in implementing recommended reforms to their use-of-force policies. They’ve completed 56 of the 80 recommendations ordered by a review board, but still have a way to go. [If you’re interested, find the article on-line here: http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/crime-courts/feds-las-vegas-police-shootings-decline-more-changes-needed]

When I moved here 10 years ago, I was told to go gently when confronted by the cops; they shoot first and ask questions later. I thought that in a city of crime and gangs, I would want any relative of mine to do the same if in danger. (My family has always had cops among their members.)

As the years went by and the deaths increased, it seemed Metro shot first and never asked questions. The phrase that clears them is “I feared for my life,” although in some cases there was no evidence of a dangerous weapon on scene other than theirs. Oops. I can immediately name three cases that changed my whole opinion of the police department and their management by oops. They also kill family dogs that get in their way. I’m sure they again claim they are fearing for their lives. Are family dogs ‘packing heat’ these days? I now warn any visitor to our city to be careful if stopped, keep your hands in sight at all times, and tell the officer what you are doing if you move them. (Unfortunately, it’s impossible to protect your dogs.)

My fear is that the review board is going about this the wrong way. I have had my adventures in my youth, made my mistakes. I’ve witnessed up front and personal the arrogant self-importance of some cops, both here and in other states. A self-importance they thought put them above the laws they swore to protect, honor and serve. They are also protected by a very powerful union contract and lobby.

We’ve had cop deaths from squad car accidents caused by arrogance and disdain of their own laws and rules, jeopardizing others on the road. For example, traveling over 100 miles per hour without lights or sirens, and ignoring their own seatbelts, all of which might have saved their lives. It has gotten to the point that even top management can’t hide these oops any more. There are apparently huge gaps in their training, requalification for duty, and management responsibility and follow-up. I fear in many cases, psych evals are necessary, possibly leading to dismissal.

But more than anything, I ask if the words used to describe their commitment, their contract, their obligation to the people they serve, are providing a proper basis to how they perceive themselves? To how their people perceive them? What are their requirements, duties, purpose and vocation? Are they authoritarians or disciplinarians? Are they dictators or servants of the people? Are they held to the same law as the people they serve and protect? Do they even understand that serving and protecting the people is their primary job? Or do they just take calls and handle cases. We are numbers on their clipboards. And their job involves force, life and death.

Words are very powerful tools as well as weapons. You can counsel, or you can bully. You can develop pride in your vocation, or you can steamroll through your job grabbing what you can. Sometimes you can hide behind words. You can choose to call yourself an EnFORCEr of the Law or a PROTECTor of the Peace. Hey! I’d even compromise on Peace Officer, if you act like one. Let me say here that there are some good cops out there. But living with the misfits and being labeled with words of force are tough to ignore. Wouldn’t you prefer a label of Peace?

So much needs to change if the world will ever live in Peace.

Categories: Life and Writing
  1. February 28, 2014 at 10:32 PM

    This was one of the more notorious cases of use of force in the Valley,Basically this guy was murdered and–well, read the article.


  2. April 27, 2014 at 12:22 AM

    Sounds scary. Makes our policemen seem quite loveable.


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