A Discussion of Criminal Justice Issues and Other Things

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jack Webb Still Has it Right

Jack Webb, who played Sergeant Joe Friday on the long running radio and television series Dragnet also wrote a book called The Badge. I got the book a couple months ago to read again. My first introduction to Webb's book was when I was a kid. Webb features the cops who he met and worked with as he researched his program and movie Dragnet 1954. The initial copyright shown on the book was 1958. I provide you this background information to help you gain perspective into Webb's observations and comments. Even though they are nearly 50 years old. The observations are the same. The following quote comes from one of the programs that was transcribed. Please note the exclusive gender references was common to the period. The dedication of the men and women of policing were equally respected by Webb. Some things are better, officers have representation and receive better benefits and pay than what Webb states below. The general overview is the same. Only the 1950's slang has changed.

"What Is a Cop?"
(From "The Interrogation")
Written by: Preston Wood

Jack delivers the following speech about the trials and tribulations of being a police officer to a rookie undercover officer suspected of robbing a liquor store. It's the most-requested Jack Webb speeches, and many people frame the words. (Please note that this transcript was taken from the slightly edited Nick at Nite version of this episode.

"It's awkward having a policeman around the house. Friends drop in, a man with a badge answers the door, the temperature drops 20 degrees.

You throw a party and that badge gets in the way. All of a sudden there isn't a straight man in the crowd. Everybody's a comedian. "Don't drink too much," somebody says, "or the man with a badge'll run you in." Or "How's it going, Dick Tracy? How many jaywalkers did you pinch today?" And then there's always the one who wants to know how many apples you stole.

All at once you lost your first name. You're a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law. You're the fuzz, the heat; you're poison, you're trouble, you're bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman.

It's not much of a life, unless you don't mind missing a Dodger game because the hotshot phone rings. Unless you like working Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, at a job that doesn't pay overtime. Oh, the pay's adequate-- if you count pennies you can put your kid through college, but you better plan on seeing Europe on your television set.

And then there's your first night on the beat. When you try to arrest a drunken prostitute in a Main St. bar and she rips your new uniform to shreds. You'll buy another one-- out of your own pocket.

And you're going to rub elbows with the elite-- pimps, addicts, thieves, bums, winos, girls who can't keep an address and men who don't care. Liars, cheats, con men-- the class of Skid Row.

And the heartbreak-- underfed kids, beaten kids, molested kids, lost kids, crying kids, homeless kids, hit-and-run kids, broken-arm kids, broken-leg kids, broken-head kids, sick kids, dying kids, dead kids. The old people nobody wants-- the reliefers, the pensioners, the ones who walk the street cold, and those who tried to keep warm and died in a $3 room with an unventilated gas heater. You'll walk your beat and try to pick up the pieces.

Do you have real adventure in your soul? You better have, because you're gonna do time in a prowl car. Oh, it's going to be a thrill a minute when you get an unknown-trouble call and hit a backyard at two in the morning, never knowing who you'll meet-- a kid with a knife, a pill-head with a gun, or two ex-cons with nothing to lose.

And you're going to have plenty of time to think. You'll draw duty in a lonely car, with nobody to talk to but your radio.

Four years in uniform and you'll have the ability, the experience and maybe the desire to be a detective. If you like to fly by the seat of your pants, this is where you belong. For every crime that's committed, you've got three million suspects to choose from. And most of the time, you'll have few facts and a lot of hunches. You'll run down leads that dead-end on you. You'll work all-night stakeouts that could last a week. You'll do leg work until you're sure you've talked to everybody in the state of California.

People who saw it happen - but really didn't. People who insist they did it - but really didn't. People who don't remember - those who try to forget. Those who tell the truth - those who lie. You'll run the files until your eyes ache.

And paperwork? Oh, you'll fill out a report when you're right, you'll fill out a report when you're wrong, you'll fill one out when you're not sure, you'll fill one out listing your leads, you'll fill one out when you have no leads, you'll fill out a report on the reports you've made! You'll write enough words in your lifetime to stock a library.

You'll learn to live with doubt, anxiety, frustration. Court decisions that tend to hinder rather than help you. Dorado, Morse, Escobedo, Cahan. You'll learn to live with the District Attorney, testifying in court, defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, judges, juries, witnesses. And sometimes you're not going to be happy with the outcome.

But there's also this: there are over 5,000 men in this city, who know that being a policeman is an endless, glamourless, thankless job that's gotta be done.
I know it, too, and I'm damn glad to be one of them."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tears of a Cop

I came across an old clipping I had of this poem. I thought you might find it of value.

I have been where you fear to go...
I have seen what you fear to see...
I have done what you fear to do...
All these things I've done for you.

I am the one you lean upon...
The one you cast your scorn upon...
The one you bring your troubles to...
All these people I've been for you.

The one you ask to stand apart...
The one you feel should have no heart...
The one you call the man in blue...
But I am human just like you.

And through the years I've come to see...
That I'm not what you ask of me...
So take this badge and take this gun...
Will you take it? Will anyone?

And when you watch a person die...
And hear a battered baby cry...
Then so you think that you can be
All those things you ask of me...?

"Tears Of A Cop" - author unknown

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the many blessings in which one has received this year. 2008 provided me the great opportunity to give thanks for a new life circumstance and many new friends. I'm thankful for my family: wife Ruth and kids Chris and Sarah. I'm thankful that my mom has finally found peace and has gone on to be with the Lord. I'm thankful for all the great coworkers I am blessed to be associated with. We are thankful for our new friends and new community and all the opportunities that provides.

I'm thankful for the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us, both in public safety but also in the armed forces at home and overseas. We need to keep all of them in our thoughts and prayers.

I'm thankful for those public officials who are at work right now while most of us are home safe and warm, who are working to keep us safe and our comforts like light, heat and water constant. I'm thankful for the health care workers who will give of their time today on the job while others rest.

Most of all, I'm thankful to be alive and able to appreciate the absolute joy each day brings.

The Power From Within

It happened again the other day: I had someone come to me and tell me that they just didn't have it in them to succeed at a specific task. We talked a bit and I encouraged and reminded the individual that one's strength comes from within. For those who have a spiritual walk that strength comes from within through Grace.

I'm reminded of the story of a Welshman by the name of Paul Potts who by his own admission, lacked self-esteem and suffered during his school experience, being bullied and ridiculed. He felt he just lacked the confidence to pursue his dream of being a professional singer. Paul attracted my attention because we share aWelsh heritage and because despite his misgivings, he forged ahead and auditioned for Britain's Got Talent. In this clip, you can visit his journey that wound up finding him as an international opera star.

As you struggle in your day to day experiences, know that the strength to overcome comes from within through Grace. The power that rose Christ from the dead resides in you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Blog

There is a new Blog that those of you in the public safety service may find of interest.

It is called The Ultimate Stress Reliever.
It is hosted by Lee Martin who has been involved in chaplain programs. A few of us have been asked to post from time to time as well.

The Job Has Changed

Law enforcement has changed dramatically since I started nearly 28 years ago as a police officer in Grand Island, Nebraska. Society's expectations of police officers has steadily increased in demands of service, performance and behavior with fewer financial and staffing resources. The result has been an increasing demand on officer time and priorities to get more done with less time and assistance. As is to be expected the focus becomes on the "here and now" and less on the bigger picture. As a result, it is very easy to becomemyopic in the view of the role of policing.

Policing is an honorable profession. It is a calling, not just a career. Take time to remind yourself every single day of the nobility of the profession in which you belong. Post it on the mirror so you see it every morning and before you turn in every night. Remind yourself that you make the difference.

Work as a team and support each other, not to labor on the negative aspects, but to celebrate the victories and console each otherduring times of despair and sadness. Seek wisdom of others both inside and outside the profession. Find yourself a confidant outside the business in whom you can confide and bounce ideas off of. Outline your goals for the next five years. Write them on an index card and carry it in your pocket. Review it often. Work toward your goals. Don't let the negative folks drag you down in their petty bickering and despair. Misery really does love company.

Work to serve. Work to make others successful. But most importantly, be true to yourself. Hold your family and your God in reverence and always keep your priorities straight. Don't lose who you are to the job. Keep perspective and if you feel you are slipping away, seek help immediately. Most importantly, share your experience and passion of the job with others.

Don't be afraid to cry. It's OK to be frustrated, angry and afraid. It's also OK to be ecstatic, happy and cheerful. At the end of the day. Know that you have made a difference. Look for the good you have accomplished. Remember that the majority of the people out there appreciate and respect the job you do. Don't let the vocal minority taint your views or how you perceive the community in which you serve.

Stay honest, ethical and compassionate. The job you do as a peace keeper is the noblest of professions and demands nothing less.