Protecting the Protectors

While I am rarely at a loss for words, I don’t know what to say about the recent rash of murders of police.  How can I adequately express my anger, frustration and fear?  I think of economist (and New York Times contributor) Thomas Friedman, who more than a decade ago warned of the dire necessity of enacting reasonable gun control laws to combat our insane epidemic of firearm murders.  As protesters chanted back in the sixties and seventies, “the world is watching.”

I go online and am greeted by commenters from many nations shaking their heads about the violence that is coming to define the United States.  If you’re not murdered by a family member or in a home invasion or carjacking or mugging, you may be the victim of a drive-by shooting or you may be shot dead just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My wife likes to watch “The First 48,” a homicide investigation television show, in the background while she is working.  I try to drown out the sound with music over headphones, but the images of death and devastation on the screen are difficult to ignore.  It’s a stark reminder of what I’d like to wish away because it’s just too horrible and heartbreaking to bear.  John Williams’ soaring orchestrations only go so far.  Eventually, one must return to reality.

I hold little hope that either of the major presidential candidates will achieve improvements in this area.  Clinton is, despite her rhetoric, mired in the status quo.  She will get nowhere fast with the Republicans in Congress, particularly considering the apparent effectiveness of the Tea Party and other right wingers.  As for Trump, well, he brags about having a concealed carry permit.  Money is the only thing he loves more than the Second Amendment.  So, looks like we’re plumb out of luck.

Wow, this is sure turning out to be a depressing post.

To return to my subject of the murder of police, at face value it seems like a blatant disregard for authority, laced with a liberal dose of anger and blind lashing out.  Clearly, such conduct cannot be tolerated in a nation of laws.  The question, however, is how to prevent this disaster from occurring time and time again.

Some focus on swift and severe punishment, both to ensure that the offenders are unable to repeat their violent acts and to assuage justifiable public outrage.  Donning my sociologist’s hat for a moment, I happen to believe that attacking law enforcement is a symptom of Émile Durkheim’s anomie, a moral vacuum that perverts the social contract and may even encourage anarchy.  I have to assume that murderers take no regard of the effect their actions will have on the families (their own and those of their victims), never mind on the rest of us.  I still haven’t gotten over the murder of two of our local sheriff’s deputies by a married couple back in October, 2014.  Time is supposed to heal all wounds.  Life goes on, right?  (Not for their families, I am sure.)  But then it happens again and again and again.  Let’s rip open that wound, shall we?

Back in law school, decades ago, my fellow criminal law students would frequently have the “bad or mad” debate.  My view is on the “mad” side.  Not “mad” as in “angry” (although that is certainly in play these days as well), but in the British sense of “mad” as “crazy.”  I believe that those who do not care about the effects of their actions on others, and on society as a whole, are suffering from some form of mental illness.  Case in point:  The cop killer in Dallas was taken out by police after they got nowhere in negotiating his surrender.  Police say the murderer was laughing and singing.  You can’t tell me this guy wasn’t crazy.

Nevertheless, more than a few of my contacts in the legal profession believe that I myself am “mad” to think this way.  I am told that those who have the ability to abide by the law, but choose not to do so, are willful, disobedient “bad” children who need to be taken out behind the woodshed (or incarcerated for life because no one took them out behind the woodshed when they were young).

I find it interesting that, nowadays, this debate seems to have subsided.  That’s because it doesn’t really matter anymore.  In the case of the murder of police (as well as for multiple murders of civilians), it has largely become a nonissue because the offenders generally kill themselves or are killed by police at the scene.  The issue now is how to protect those who are sworn to protect us.

There is an argument that the most dangerous person is he who believes he has nothing to lose.  Those who do not value their own lives cannot reasonably be expected to value the lives of others.  Unfortunately, our officers of the law often become targets because, in the demented minds of criminals, they serve as a reminder of their own shortcomings and stand as a symbol of every disappointment they have ever suffered and, indeed, of everything that is wrong with their lives.  They may well be willing to go out in a blaze of “glory.”  Too often, their only concern is how many they can take out with them.

Some say that we have now reached the lowest common denominator, that now that police are constantly in danger, there will be an increased appreciation of the fear that the rest of us have experienced for so long.  I cannot believe that it has come to this.  In my line own line of work, we are always fretting over who will train the trainers.  Well, who will protect the protectors?

It is my hope that the devastating events of the past few months will fuel a robust return of the gun control debate and will spur Congress to enact some sane laws on the subject.  The recent Democrat-led sit-in demonstration by members of Congress (“no bill, no break”), minimized by many as an ill-advised publicity stunt, is a step in the right direction.  While more symbolic than anything else, it shows that at least some in Congress are as frustrated as the rest of us and believe it’s high time that we found a way to stop the madness.

Yes, blue lives do matter.  We need a diplomat to engineer a cease fire right here in our own country.  We need an expert in détente, a brilliant negotiator to encourage all parties to put away their guns.  The public must stop killing police and police must stop killing members of the public.  As the clergy will be quick to point out, the only answer is love.  If we cannot love one another, then I fear that all is lost.

News stories tell me that there has been an uptick in firearm purchases recently.  I fear for the utter breakdown of society that could develop in a world in which everyone feels the need to carry a gun for protection and the final arbiter of any slight, however minor, will be who is quicker on the draw.

Please, Congress.  I don’t want to reside in the OK Corral.  And I know you don’t, either.

Small Town Life in California #1

Although we live in the Sacramento area, our location is quite rural, as is made obvious by the horse paddock on the corner, the sheep baaing across the street and the chickens running around everywhere as if they owned the neighborhood.  It’s quite the antidote to working in the concrete jungle downtown every day.

As one who was born and raised in New York City and environs, I’ll be the first to say that small towns, while soothing in their own way, are rather dull and predictable.  Well, at least that’s what I thought until I recently took a look at a newspaper from over in the next county.  Apparently, the country life can be truly hilarious.  To prove my point, I present for your entertainment a few entries from the police blotter:

Grin and bear it

A caller on Jackson Street in Quincy reported seeing a bear walking on his property for the second time in a week.  He said he would like it to be on file that there is a bear problem in his area.

Uncle Guac sez:  Duly noted.  Better break out the “No Trespassing” signs, dude!

Oh, is that all?

A caller said her soon to be ex-husband called her and then she heard a gunshot on the other end of the line.  Attempts to call the man were met with a busy signal.  A 911 dispatcher was eventually able to reach the man who said everything was fine.  He said the gunshot sound was from him shooting at a coyote.

Uncle Guac sez:  Hang on, honey, I gotta go kill something.  (Sometimes divorce can be a good thing!)

That’s no way to treat your husband!

A caller on County Road A23 near Beckwourth reported being a victim of a hit and run.  He said he was riding an ATV when he was hit by a truck that left the scene.  The caller added that the truck was driven by his wife.

Uncle Guac sez:  Think this one might be heading to divorce court, too?

How’d he get in here?!

An ER nurse reported that a nurse was bitten by a dog in the emergency room.

Uncle Guac sez:  The nerve of some canines!  Didn’t he read the “No Animals Allowed” sign?  (At least you didn’t need to call for an ambulance.)

Typo?

A 2001 Dodge truck swerved, ascended an embankment and rolled over.  According to the driver, they were on Long Valley Road, west of Green Gulch Road, when a deer dumped directly in front of the truck.

Uncle Guac sez:  Pee-ew!  Dis-gusting!  I bet that stank!  Can’t blame you for wrecking your ride, man.

Three strikes, you’re out

A caller at Butt Lake’s Cool Springs Campground said an intoxicated male had driven his truck into a ditch on the side of the road and was spinning his wheels and cussing.  The caller said the intoxicated man had a gash on his head from falling down earlier.  The Highway Patrol responded and the man was arrested on a charge of DUI.

Uncle Guac sez:  Talk about a horrible, terrible, very bad day!  (I’d be cussing, too.  At least the guy wasn’t on crack, which has been a really bad problem lately, and right in the middle of Butt Lake, too!)

Hey, keep your eyes on the road!

A caller who was located about six miles north of La Porte reported that three people were injured in ATV accidents.  The caller said two juveniles were injured when they drove their quad over a cliff.  When their father went over the cliff to help them, he was injured, too.

Uncle Guac sez:  You can’t tell me there’s no such thing as paternal instinct!

They were just singing harmony

A caller said she could hear her neighbor’s dog barking and her neighbor’s pig was squealing a lot.  The caller said it sounded like the dog was harassing the pig.  An officer responded to check on the dog and the pig.  Both animals appeared to be fine.

Uncle Guac sez:  Geez!  Can’t we even have a friendly conversation without someone calling the cops?

 

If you think I’m making this stuff up, you’re giving me a lot more credit for creativity than I deserve.  You can check it out yourself at http://por.stparchive.com/Archive/POR/POR07012015P13.php.