Christmas 2020

T’was a month before Christmas,
And all through the town,
People wore masks,
That covered their frown.

The frown had begun
Way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic
Changed everything.

They called it corona,
But unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times,
It didn’t bring cheer.

Airplanes were grounded,
Travel was banned.
Borders were closed
Across air, sea and land.

As the world entered lockdown
To flatten the curve,
The economy halted,
And folks lost their nerve.

From March to July
We rode the first wave,
People stayed home,
They tried to behave.

When summer emerged
The lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution,
Many folks drifted.

Now it’s November
And cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived,
Much to our disliking.

It’s true that this year
Has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget
The year 2020.

And just ‘round the corner –
The holiday season,
But why be merry?
Is there even one reason?

To decorate the house
And put up the tree,
Who will see it,
No one but me.

But outside my window
The snow gently falls,
And I think to myself,
Let’s deck the halls!

So, I gather the ribbon,
The garland and bows,
As I play those old carols,
My happiness grows.

Christmas is not cancelled
And neither is hope.
If we lean on each other,
I know we can cope


Keep it going!
(Copy&Paste or Share blog) Please attribute as follows:

Copyright-Shawna Hickling
By: Shawna Hickling, Calgary, AB, Canada
November 19, 2020

(Poet’s P.S. – I NEVER use the word ain’t but isn’t had too many syllables for the poem!)

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Intelligent Virus?*

I debated whether to jump into the controversy surrounding the docudrama “The Social Dilemma.” After all, anyone with common sense understands that big tech, big pharma, Amazon, and Walmart, to name a few, are using artificial intelligence (AI) regularly. They want to predict everything possible about their clients, prospective clients, and the influence a mother’s social media time may have on the unborn’s future preferences. Okay, fact-checkers, that last phrase was sarcasm, not fake news.

Returning to this piece’s point, I had a real-life “AHA!” moment recently.  After having a run-in with COVID-19 leading to a ten-day isolation period, one of my first ventures out of the house reinforced my view that COVID is not the only virus to be feared. There is another virus, one we call social media. It is infecting everything we do, see, read, taste, touch, or smell. 

The idea that anything one says near some electronic devices will lead to an advertising onslaught is nothing new. It has become a running joke in some circles, “Don’t let “Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc. hear you ask for something, or advertising will inundate your timeline and inbox.” I have discovered it is unnecessary to say a word to have one of those little AI invaders flood your systems.

My suspicions concerning the invasive nature of the high tech world were further confirmed when I stopped at the grocery store. My primary purpose was to pick up a couple of items to replace some consumed during our little period of quarantine. However, as I was wrapping up my visit I noticed wine was on sale.

My wife has two vices of sorts. She really enjoys her favorite blend of cold-brewed coffee every morning and a glass of wine before dinner. She is not addicted to either, but they are her little comfort zone indulgences.

Knowing she was running a bit low on her evening indulgence, I picked up a nice bottle of one of her favorite blends. Keep in mind we never buy wine at this chain of stores. In fact, I am the only one who shops there regularly, and I only buy a handful of non-alcoholic items from this company.

Within two hours of returning to my home office computer, the ad above popped up on Facebook. Again, I’ve never purchased wine at that store. Also, I’ve never purchased wine with the credit card I used that day. Yet, in less than 120 minutes, I was identified and targeted. Thus the ad triggering this blog.  

FB inundates me with advertising from Home Depot, Amazon, Tommy Hilfiger, and various companies in the electronics business. It has never pushed an alcoholic beverage my way, and I was a bit stumped. Then I remembered. 

I am a member of that chain’s customer club. I used my club card number to earn a discount on several items!  In retrospect, I suppose I should be surprised it took that long for their little electronic virus to track me down.

*For the record, I have taken a bit of license with the term virus. However, I believe its use here is appropriate.  The AIs identify you, your preferences, and your browsing habits to inundate you with unwanted advertising. This is much like a biological virus that identifies a victim’s weakness and saturates the body whose immune system is vulnerable.

© – 2020

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Speaking of Viruses

Wednesday, November 18, 2020, dawned like any other day of my week. Little did I know when I headed to the gym that morning, 2020 was about to pull its latest dirty trick on me.

I finished my treadmill time at the gym a little before 8:00, ran a couple of errands on my way back to the house, and spent a bit over an hour in the yard taking care of “honey-dos.” By 10:30, I’d logged around 9,000 steps, ten flights of stairs, and filled a yard cart with the debris from several large seasonal plants. Then, the real work started.

I am playing catch up on my Bible Study videos and my writing. I managed to complete one lesson on the Book of John and proofread a couple of chapters in my most ambitious writing project to date. Then, the phone rang, and my world came to a screeching halt.

I was one of the 2,112 people Tarrant County, Texas, reported as testing positive for COVID-19 that morning. My positive test was part of a pre-op procedure before minor surgery. I exhibited no virus-related symptoms and still have no symptoms. Also, I did not feel any different that morning than any morning this year. Yet, my life, and the lives of those around me, were disrupted significantly.

Of course, our doctor tested my wife. Bingo! She was positive as well and has no symptoms. Still, the ripples kept spreading. A good friend and colleague from church had to be tested because of my results. His results were negative, thankfully. My daughter had to close her restaurant for at least one day while her staff submitted to tests. If anyone on her team tests positive, that may be the end of her restaurant. The county will likely close her down, and she may not have the resources to reopen due to previous county-wide shutdowns.

Of course, all the friends and close associates with whom I had contact in the last several weeks are concerned for their safety. I had to notify my gym to be safe, and I am essentially under house arrest for the next ten days, depending on who one asks. For instance, my gym said don’t come back for two weeks without a negative test, and one nurse said three weeks quarantine. I’ll go with the CDC guidelines of ten days.

I am not sharing this as just my tale of woe. Yes, it is a mild pain in you know where, but others have it a lot worse. My problem and I am not a conspiracy theory junkie, is this. There is something rotten in Denmark, or in this case, D. C. Either that or the medical profession is less competent than most of us would care to believe.

I do not claim incompetence lightly. I do want to qualify the charge, however. I know a lot of doctors socially. I have several doctors I respect and trust with my health. Unfortunately, they are no longer free to practice medicine as they would like. Instead, they must follow the guidelines established by insurance companies, research facilities, and bureaucrats with M.D.s. The COVID mess is just the latest example of external interference with a doctor’s ability to practice medicine.

There is apparently no empirical data justifying the guidelines for quarantining asymptomatic COVID patients. The publicly available literature concerning procedures and protocols for dealing with asymptomatic positives makes it clear labeling a person without symptoms a danger is simply a CYA activity.

I say this is a CYA activity for several reasons. First, as suggested above, the majority of the evidence concerning this topic is anecdotal. Using this anecdotal data, the “experts” originally estimated 60 percent of new infections came from symptomatic patients and 40 percent from asymptomatic patients.

Now, the infamous Dr. Fauci is quoted as saying that 50 percent of the new cases may come from people like me, asymptomatic positives. It seemed he and others are basing this on more anecdotal evidence. One case cited is an individual tested for 70 days. She continued to test positive during that time, even though she never developed any virus related symptoms. Their reasoning concerning how she could be the modern equivalent of a “Typhoid Mary” made absolutely no sense, at least as reported by the publication in which I found it.

The “experts” believe her immune system was too weak to destroy the virus. On the other hand, it was strong enough to thwart the virus, as she never succumbed to the little suckers. Oh! By the way, she is a high-risk patient due to her age and medical history. Still, she managed to live through a total of 105 days, according to the report, of infection without becoming sick from the virus. She, like me, was tested because she was going into the hospital for a non-virus condition.

The bottom line for all us “non-experts” is this. The experts are guessing, and they change their best guesses more often than a mother with a newborn changes diapers. Yet, we ignore their guesses at our and our loved one’s peril.

I will wear a mask in public. I will wash my hands like a raccoon with a bushel of shelled pecans* and carry a six-foot pole to keep you safe from the possibility I am infected. I will also be one of the first people in line when the vaccine becomes available.

There! I’ve ranted enough for today. I may have more to say if the wind shifts the direction of the hot air from Dr. Fauci and other medical blowhards. Until then, sayonara.

*Okay, raccoons do not wash their food, apparently they can sense their food through their paws, and wetting it makes food easier to sense. Still, if you ever watched one eat around water, it looks as if they are washing every bite.

© – 2020

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Factually Speaking: Oregon Drugs

We all know fact-checking is a bit of an oxymoron. Still, some of the stuff on FB these days is just nuts. Take the snarky little meme below for example.

FB marked it as false and explained why they considered it wrong. Is the comment 100 percent factual? No! It is sarcasm designed to highlight the stupidity in the world today, including the fact-checking arena. 

Did Oregon legalize cocaine? Not completely. However, they did “decriminalize” possession of small quantities of hard drugs, including cocaine, to a parking ticket level. Actually, in some cases, parking fines are higher than the penalty for drug possession.

Are straws illegal in Oregon? Technically they are not unlawful, but they are considered a controlled substance to a degree. It is illegal for a business to give a customer straws or some other items unless they specifically request the item. The business faces a fine if they violate this law.   

So, the meme is technically false news.  Yet, public statements by the authorities in Oregon clarify the purpose of the drug laws’ changes were to stop the prosecution of drug users while prosecuting those who supply customers with straws, catsup packets, sugar packets, and other disposable items. 

Of course, it is apparently still illegal in Oregon to sell, manufacture, or distribute controlled substances. The manufacturing, sale, and distribution of straws, mustard packets, and other condiment packets is still legal, at least for now.

© – 2020

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The Broad Brush

The idea of painting with a broad brush is nothing new. Whether one is speaking of cars, watermelons, or movie genres, humans are prone to praise or condemn without specificity. For example, “Fords make the best pick up on the road” is a claim one can hear in television commercials and the local honky-tonk. Of course, Chevrolet fans may take exception to the comment, but who cares what they think? After all, those guys had any sense they’d all be driving Dodge Rams.

There! I managed to use a broad brush and insult at least two groups of male truck owners and women who own trucks. Of course, it is likely, except for a close friend who worships his F250, most people will see that first paragraph for what it is, a way to get your attention and hopefully make you chuckle. However, there is nothing funny about the reality inspiring this piece.

Painting with a broad brush is just a common human trait until it becomes a way of labeling others. Then it rapidly begins to shift to something else, stereotyping, bias, even prejudice. When you or I use the broad brush to label, describe, or denigrate a group of people, our comments’ impact is normally limited to friends and associates. On the other hand, public figures, personalities, politicians, and the media’s use of broad terms and accusations are a bit more concerning.

For example, the item inspiring this piece was a headline or banner for a news story when I opened my home page. The banner read, “Police Stop Black Man While Jogging.” The immediate assumption one makes reading that is some “cop” was harassing a person of color. As it turns out, the incident may have been an overreaction on the part of several ICE Agents.

The problem, however, is the misuse of the term police. The word police is used as a broad brush today, covering all law enforcement personnel, whether they are police officers or not.

Now, you may be thinking I am the ultimate hairsplitter with this bull hockey. That is your right, but ICE agents are not police officers. Neither are FBI agents, DEA agents, or any of the plethora of NCIS agents portrayed on television today.

Police officers are the men and women who patrol our streets, investigate accidents, and respond to missing persons’ calls. They handle domestic disturbances, welfare checks, and take theft reports, along with many other activities. Yes, they might stop a jogger of any skin, tone if the person matched a suspect description, seemed suspicious in some other way, or created a safety hazard.

For the record, in this case, if the story was accurate, the ICE agents may have been pushing the limits of probable cause in stopping the jogger. The fact they did not detain him, even though he was reportedly uncooperative, may indicate the stop was not appropriate. It may also suggest they made a mistake and realized it after questioning the individual. Still, the headline’s wording and tone made any reader quickly assume “they” did it again. “They” harassed some poor guy because of his skin color. That generalization is unfair and unsafe.

I could stop at this point. I could, but another story caught my eye when I opened my browser the morning I first planned on posting this piece. A headline and the story which followed implied “law enforcement” has an inappropriate relationship with right-wing extremists. In reality, the report covered one sheriff’s actions in Michigan. It appears the Sherriff has some form of relationship with a band of yahoos arrested for plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

The story also claimed the Michigan sheriff was a member of a questionable sheriff’s association. The article alleged the association is a right-wing extremist group itself. If it is as far out there as the article implied, it is a bit concerning, but one should keep in mind, more than 3,000 sheriffs are serving in the United States at this time. Of that number, only 161 are allegedly members of the organization.

Even indirectly accusing all sheriffs, much less the rest of law enforcement, of being in bed with extremists is a bit much. If a bigoted right-wing crazy is elected sheriff, it is because most of his or her constituency shares at least some of those views.

Here is the bottom line. Using the term police in a headline accusing a specific department, agency, or officer of misconduct is a form of broad-brush thinking and finger-pointing bordering on stereotyping and bigotry.

Law enforcement entities are not all “police,” and they do not all have the same mission and authority. ICE agents, for instance, do not meet you at grandma’s house to see if grandma is okay. FBI agents do not investigate automobile accidents. DEA agents do not respond to missing persons’ calls.

Sheriffs and their deputies perform many duties similar to police chiefs and their officers, but there is one significant difference. Sheriffs are normally elected officials, answering only to the voters.

Equating these individuals, offices, or designations with the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving as police officers in the United States shows ignorance, prejudice, or both.

Police chiefs and the officers they manage answer to the mayors, city managers, city councils, and the citizens of the municipalities in which they work. They are the ones who respond to your home when someone is peeping in your window. They respond when someone steals your kid’s bicycle.

The vast majority of police officers have no more respect for extremists of any sort than those victimized by said extremists. In fact, police officers are often the targets of the miscreants with whom they are being compared.

© – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Far East Frisco?

More years ago than I care to count, a rugby teammate and I traveled to the Austin Rugby Tournament. This tournament was the highlight of the Texas rugby season for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons was the location. Austin is the state Capital, but more importantly, it was the party Capital of Texas.

Sadly, this piece is not about Texas rugby’s love of Austin or partying. This is about Austin’s geographic and societal dysphoria. Somewhere in the relatively recent past, probably the 1960s and early ’70s, Austin began to drift west culturally. By that, I do not mean West Texas. In some ways, Austin began to feel more like California than Texas.

The shift was partly due to the influx of former Californians. Whether they migrated to Central Texas to attend UT, or simply found a kindred vibe in the hemp haze floating around the city, they poured into town like lemmings running across the tundra. As their numbers increased, cultural changes began to emerge. Today, Austin is, in some ways, a landlocked eastern extension of San Francisco.

As luck would have it, there was a 7-11 within in few blocks of exiting 35. Pulling up to the store, we noticed a sad-looking character sitting on the curb in front of the door. As you can probably surmise, he was not simply taking a break; he was panhandling. My teammate looked over at me with a puzzled look on his face and asked, “You think there’s one at every 7-11 here?”

Though I did not recognize it at the time, the young teammate mentioned above noticed an early sign of this shift. His observation came after we rolled into Austin on a Friday afternoon. After driving 220 miles or so on the always under construction IH35, we needed a pitstop.

At first, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. He was dead serious. Keep in mind; he was a college student in his first year away from home. Besides, a panhandler planted in front of a convenience store was not common in north Texas. In fact, you didn’t see guys and gals with their hands out working street corners, parking lots, or other locations much anywhere in Texas in those days.

After assuring my young friend that was not the case, we took care of business. We hit the restroom, grabbed some sodas, and headed to the tournament venue, Zilker Park. Zilker was another reason ruggers liked this tournament.

The park was immediately adjacent to Town Lake. There were some great little restaurants and bars within walking distance, and it was a prime jogging and sunbathing area for UT coeds. What more could a couple of hundred rugby players want from a tournament location?

Since the trip and question mentioned above, Austin shifted even further west, politically, and socially. As with cities in California, the relatively moderate climate, location, and left-leaning political structure made Austin more attractive. Wealthy movie stars, high tech entrepreneurs, transients, and a semi-permanent street population found the place irresistible.

Today, as with San Francisco, the homeless are everywhere it seems.* Despite the best efforts of churches and charities, and more recently, the government, people are panhandling all over town. Of course, some of these needy people are not homeless or destitute. Some are opportunists, taking advantage of charitable people. Panhandling is their job, and it provides a pretty good, tax-free income in some cases.

When I visit Austin these days, it reminds me of my last visit to San Francisco. There, people sleep on the streets, block doorways to businesses, and take care of their pitstop business almost publicly. Sadly, the local politicians in Austin are not satisfied with attracting people in need, and the super-wealthy who like Texas for its tax structure.

Recently, the movers and shakers controlling Austin took another step toward joining the crowd working to make Austin an extension of California. The city government decided to modify ordinances addressing certain behaviors by transients, homeless, and panhandlers. As one might expect, the changes caused concern within some segments of the population. As with any such modification, some concerns are legitimate, and some are chicken-little warnings.

Whatever the reality, the changes make Austin more attractive to those engaging in this behavior. The changes also make it more difficult for law enforcement to control the behavior of those who violate or push the envelope on these ordinances. These moves make it more difficult for businesses to operate and for the residents who wish to live in a civilized environment.

Sadly, the story does not end there. The Austin City Council voted earlier this year to cut the police department budget by 33 percent. The council seems to have two goals.

One is to change the way the department hires and trains officers for law enforcement duties. The other is to establish a new form of public safety department, not focused on enforcement. If this keeps up, the only difference between Austin, San Francisco, and Los Angeles will be the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood.**

*Critics of the last sentence will be quick to pooh-pooh such statements. They will claim there are only a few hundred living on the streets at any one time, but counting transients and the homeless is more difficult than counting Trump voters in a blue state.

**The pictures in this piece came from both Austin and San Francisco.

© – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Root of the Problem

Some mornings you wake up and wonder, “How did we find ourselves in this mess?” Depending on who you are, your circumstances, and quality of your sleep the night before, the question could concern your job, your marriage, or the team formerly known as the Redskins.

Okay, that last item was just a cheap shot at a group of people more worried about sponsorship than fans. Still, the way some people are handling situations such as renaming a football team is indicative of the problem to which the title above alludes. Common sense and reason are being hammered down by ignorance and an educational system that lost its way decades ago. Take the item below for instance.

Images courtesy of Pixabay

The statement was a comment in response to a post expressing concerns about the government’s tactics in addressing the pandemic. The person authoring the comment above makes a valid point concerning the amount of government intervention in our daily lives. The last sentence is an unwitting admission to the acceptance of the path this country is spiraling down at the moment, in large part due to the way of thinking expressed in the illustration.

We do not have a right to expect the government to do its job. We have an obligation to see the government does its job and does that job without interfering unnecessarily in our lives. Instead, we have become a land in which many people, such as the commenter above, believe we need the government to save us.

When we begin to look to the government to save us, we are just a few steps away from being China or Russia. The government is supposed to follow the will of the people. Unfortunately, in some cases, people begin to support government dictates, usually due to scare tactics by those in support of government control. Still, the idea that big brother can save us is insane.

By its very nature, government is controlling, intrusive, and smothering. It is the essence of a necessary evil, and as history shows it eventually becomes so oppressive and controlling all hell breaks loose. Thankfully, I will probably not live long enough to see things descend completely into conflict and chaos, but I fear my children and grandchildren will.

If they do it will be because of people such as the one quoted here who does not understand the difference between a right and a responsibility. It is not the government’s right to tell us how to live, it is our role to see the government does not overstep its bounds. The Constitution states “We the people,” not, we the government!


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Traditionally Speaking: Of Kneeling and Protests

Traditionally Speaking” discussed traditions or standard practices being threatened or modified by the coronavirus crisis.  There, I noted traditions often take centuries to evolve, though some forces may cause shifts more quickly. At the time, it seemed comments by highly placed health officials, and so-called experts might change time-honored practices or traditions. Here, I want to bring up a sensitive topic that I hoped had been laid to rest. Apparently, it has not, and since it involves traditions, I am commenting.

Before going any farther, let’s make one thing clear. Athletes, professional, amateur, current, or former have the right to protest in any peaceful way they would like. On the other hand, employers, fans, or whatever, have the right to be upset, supportive, or comatose. Employers can tell their employees to keep their causes off the field or court, fans can decide to buy tickets or not, etc. Those matters are not the point of this piece.

The point here is simple. Colin Kaepernick received some bad advice in 2016 when he triggered the kneeling in protest controversy. Kneeling is a tradition with meaning, and that meaning has nothing to do with protesting an unjust system. Additionally, one should wonder why, if protesting was so important, did he agree to take a knee? 

The short answer to that last question is he was being roasted for sitting during the national anthem. Accordingly, when a former pro reached out to him and suggested taking a knee, they both thought it might be seen as less confrontational. That certainly was an inaccurate assessment of the situation, which brings me to the point of this piece.

The explanation given for changing to kneeling clearly shows a lack of understanding of what kneeling signifies. Of course, the response to Kaepernick’s actions indicates a general misunderstanding of the act as well.

For the record, kneeling is less confrontational than some other actions one could take. For instance,  two of the United State’s black athletes stood on the podium with black-gloved fists raised in protest at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.  For those who witnessed it, that protest would be hard to forget. Their action was an act of protest, rebellion, whatever one wants to call it. Kneeling is not such an act.

That fact was lost on Kaepernick and the man who suggested kneeling.  If you do not understand that read the friend’s comments during an interview over the matter. He mentioned several reasons he suggested kneeling and why it was respectful, which he hoped might mitigate the anger toward their protests.

For the record, kneeling is an act of submission. Yes, through that act of submission, one is showing respect, but take the examples the advisor used. He said people knelt when being knighted, they knelt when proposing, and they knelt in prayer.  Those are all acts of submission, as well as respect. 

One kneels when being knighted because one is, by accepting the title, pledging fealty to the king or queen. When one kneels to propose, the suitor is promising to submit to the future spouse, until “death do us part.” Finally, when kneeling in prayer, one is submitting to God’s will or at least recognizing and acknowledging God’s superiority. 

In defending Kaepernick, some have used the example of Reverend Martin Luther King taking a knee during his crusade for civil rights. As far as I knew at the time and know now, Dr. King was kneeling in prayer on those moments. Dr. King was asking God to help bring about change in this country.  In that case, Rev. King’s kneeling was the ultimate act of submission to God’s will.

If Kaepernick, or anyone else, wishes to protest during the playing of the national anthem, they should have the courage of their convictions. Either take a seat in protest, stand with a back to the flag, or raise a fist as did the original athletes to protest during the national anthem. Do not go down on your knees, unless you are praying, and I can find no evidence Kaepernick ever claimed he was kneeling prayer.

© -2020

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The De-escalation Myth

The word of the moment for the last few weeks has been de-escalation. From so-called experts to so-called journalists, to former Navy Seals transitioning into experts on everything, de-escalation is the key. It is the key to avoiding more officer-involved shootings, more assaults on officers, assaults by officers, and riot control. If police officers had more and better training at de-escalation, the world would be a much safer place.

As I write this, the most polite term that comes to mind concerning this assertion is hogwash! Of course, I probably should not use the term hogwash. Someone might feel it was subtly offensive, but the other word that comes to mind is not fit for polite company. Here is the problem.

De-escalation only works up to a point. Does that mean officers should not receive such training, absolutely not. Many officers do receive such training. If not formally, they learn it through field training and experience. No police chief, sheriff, or director of public safety wants officers working the street who think the only way to handle a problem is with force.

Critics of law enforcement training claim street cops need more training in this area of handling conflict. One can debate that issue from now until the cows come home, but here is the bottom line. Unless the de-escalation effort results in the subject to the techniques being allowed to remain free, it will not work. If the end result of the de-escalation exercise results in an arrest or detention, the process was likely an exercise in futility.

Yes, all the training the officer receives, all the work the officer or officers do to defuse a situation will be for naught if the suspect needs to be taken into custody. When the officer says, “You’re being placed under arrest,” or “You’ll need to come with me,” the odds are the suspect’s adrenaline level will go through the roof, and the battle will be joined.

One of the latest police officer-involved shootings in the news as this is being written is a prime example of the problem. Available video shows a very cordial, even jovial at times, exchange involving the officers and the subject. The suspect submits to tests, answers questions, and seems to be cooperating. Yep, everything was fine until the officers tried to make the arrest. Then it hit the fan, and the result was another horrible headline, a tragic death, the burning of a business, riots in the street, and officers charged with serious crimes.

It is possible to deal with a rational or at least somewhat reasonable subject without an arrest becoming a brawl or worse. The problem is there are no magic words or actions that will guarantee that result. As any officer with significant street experience can tell you. A fully cooperative or entirely calmed down individual can go nuts when he or she is told they are under arrest. Even after they have submitted to being handcuffed, individuals have suddenly become violent.

Someone who has never experienced the situation cannot imagine how much damage can take place, even after someone is cuffed. My introduction to this fact was early in my career and involved a 100-pound, handcuffed woman. Since it was not her first rodeo, she was not horribly uncooperative, even when she was arrested. Then, she decided she was not getting into the squad car.

Keep in mind, she was “restrained” as the law allowed and policy required. Luckily, for her and me, my partner was a 6′ 4″200-pound plus officer who showed a great deal of restraint. The young woman had already attempted to assault me and was stoned or intoxicated, it was hard to know which. Again, the restraint practiced by the other officer was vital in keeping this situation from getting completely out of hand.

By restraint, I am not speaking of his mannerisms or attitude. I am saying it took two of us to get the suspect into the back of the unit. Then he physically restrained her, keeping her pinned down in the back seat to keep her from injuring herself or damaging the vehicle. Thankfully, we were only a few minutes from the PD running Code 3, and damage to everyone and the unit was minimal.

Humans do the craziest things when the consequences of their actions confront them. That is why one hears of prisoners committing suicide while in police custody. That is why a wholly cooperative and rational seeming individual will attack two armed police officers during a domestic violence call. When the officers tell the complaining party their spouse is going to jail for beating them, the victim often becomes the threat. Which brings us back to the myth that de-escalation or heaven forbid, social worker intervention, will prevent the problems being experienced today.

The problems with the call for more de-escalation training are twofold. First, it can be complicated to deal with some subjects in any manner. The “officers need more training” crowd have cited de-escalation as the cure for bad situations. One claim is suspects will cooperate or be controlled until backups can reach the scene. That may or may not be the case, but there is another problem.

The longer officers are on the scene, the more likely something else will go wrong. The more officers who respond to the call, the higher the likelihood someone will over-react. Also, in some cases, there is not enough time or assistance, and you’re back at square one.

The other problem is apparent de-escalation can lead to something like the Atlanta debacle. The suspect is calm, and the officers think things are under control. Then, all hell breaks loose, and everyone over-reacts. The offender suddenly feels he’s been misled, the officers suddenly think they screwed up. A driving-under-the-influence arrest turns into an officer-involved shooting.

De-escalation techniques and training are great when they work. The idea they are the answer to what ails our society and the relationship between law enforcement and some communities is a myth, at best!


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Who’d A Thunk It?

Some may find the title of this piece a bit much. On the other hand, one or two of you may still have a sense of humor.  If so, that may be your most significant personal asset in the future, if 2020 is any indication. 

As for the title, it refers to a prediction first espoused by a Russian in 1998.  His prediction, which he repeated multiple times, concerned the end of the United States as we know it. According to the good professor, the United States would split into six separate entities, with each coming under the influence or control of other countries or political entities.  Sounds crazy, right?  It seems even more insane as he predicted it would happen by 2010, and as late as 2009 was predicting the looming end of the United States of America.  He was wrong about 2010.

On the other hand, he may not have been entirely out in the left-field if 2020 is any indication.  This year is, to say the least unusual. We may rapidly, historically speaking, be approaching a crisis that could make the professor’s prediction become a reality.

The country is more divided today than at any time in its history.  One could argue that is not true because the Revolutionary War and the Civil War both divided the country. To some degree, such an argument is valid, but the difference is immense.  In both of the wars cited, the country split into two primary factions. Today, as the professor predicted, the country is divided into multiple factions or constituencies, if you prefer. 

Even as I write this, I know many who read it will consider it the musings of a fool or troll. Be that as it may, the media today is filled with anecdotal evidence lending credibility to the professor’s predictions. From the ever-growing tension over immigration to the increasing influence of hostile forces within the country, the professor’s predictions grow increasingly worrisome.

As many have noted, some of the unrest in the country this year resembles scenes from third world countries. Countries having uncontrollable elements in their populations and ineffective governments.  Here, we now have local governments abandoning their responsibility by essentially surrendering control of their cities to outside agitators.

In one case, so far, the local government handed a portion of their city over to armed anarchists, ordering the police to withdraw. One might expect that to happen in some areas of the middle east, central Africa, or South America.  It is not something one would expect in the United States, yet it has happened, at least on a small scale. 

One could blow off that last paragraph as hyperbole or an overreaction.  I hope it is a bit of one or the other. Still, the reality is many major cities have areas that are semi-autonomous in some ways already.  Yes, many of these areas are traditionally considered tourist spots, or local ethnic favorites.  Yet, in some instances, they may have become controlled, or at least heavily influenced, by loosely knit or highly organized gangs or criminal organizations. Still, the local governments at least pretended they were in control, even if they were paid to look the other way.

Today, some local governments are either bowing to public pressure or trying to find a way to justify bowing to public pressure in major cities across the country. Some cities are threatening to “defund” police departments. Others claim to be contemplating turning control of neighborhoods over to local citizen groups, which would “police” the areas.

Yes, many of the public statements and threats by public officials are likely political pandering. The individuals making such statements know they cannot throw the legal system into the garbage dump and return to the days of vigilantes and the citizen posse.  Unfortunately, they may find it more challenging to control the outcome of their rhetoric than in the past.

Real anarchists have funding and support beyond anything seen in this country in the past. Also, the crises of 2020 have community leaders, not politicians, seeking to restore normalcy at any cost. They are willing to sell their souls to see their businesses return to profitability, playing directly into the anarchist’s plans. Recently, one such incident involved a well-known chef and restauranteur. He stood in front of his upscale restaurant, essentially pledging his support to the chaos makers if they’d leave his customers alone.

The communist professor may be right. Only his time-table may have been overly optimistic.  The Divided States of America may be just around the corner.

P.S. Should anyone think my thoughts are overly alarmist, consider this. Recent coverage of the latest tragedy in Atlanta included statements from the community indicating some would support bringing the Black Panthers back. Now there is an idea that should give everyone pause.

 © – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment