When I was a cop, I wasn’t always a good one. I was officially disciplined a grand total of … well, I can’t remember. This far down Nightmare Lane, it’s easier to recall particular incidents than specific numbers.
For example, I was once written up for going to Utah Lake in the middle of graveyard shift and shooting carp because I was bored patrolling empty streets.
Half a dozen .45-caliber muzzle flashes on a dark and lonely dirt road not only kills the fish, but it also kills the mood of the people I hadn’t noticed doing a little tongue wrestling in cars parked a short distance away. They almost ran over me trying to get away from whatever was happening.
What else? Oh, instead of arresting combative drunks, I sometimes took them to Provo and dumped them on University Avenue with a stern warning.
Me • “And don’t ever come back to Las Vegas again.”
Them • “Vegas? How the @%#! did I get there?”
One day I was observed doing this by someone at the Provo Police Department and received another formal remonstration in my file.
I gave you those examples to tell you this: I fully believe in civilian oversight of police. Somebody needs to guard the guards — especially when a particular guard guards the way I guarded.
The necessity of accountability in law enforcement, however, does not mean that I support the organization Utah Against Police Brutality, which held a rally Monday outside Salt Lake City Hall, demanding a civilian stranglehold on police.
Among the powers that the group wants for its proposed Salt Lake City Police Accountability Council are:
Complete say in overriding the chief of police, complete control in police firings, what kinds of police policies are made and/or struck down, and final say in any appeals made by terminated police officers. In short, another set of guards to guard the guards who aren’t guarding the guards the way the new guards would.
Yeah, it makes just that much sense.
I have one teensy question. Actually, it’s more of an objection. Applicants for a seat on the Salt Lake City Police Accountability Council should be required to have proof that they’ll know what they’re doing.
Hey, a lawyer has to go to law school to lawyer. So does a judge in order to judge. Doctors go to med school. Police officers have to be trained to police. Hell, high school kids are obliged to pass a test before getting a driver license.
So far, the only requirements for the council appear to be a load of outrage and/or an age in which scientists have proved the brain isn’t fully developed yet.
Sorry, no. I think applicants for this council should have some form of police training before they can presume to judge the police. Send them through the police academy. Make them write parking tickets.
They could volunteer in a jail or at the prison, or anywhere they are required to force people do things they don’t want to do. Certainly they should undergo some kind of background check. I don’t care how smart you think you are about law enforcement, if you’re a paroled felon, the answer would be no. Same goes with most misdemeanor convictions.
Lest you think I’m being biased, I came up during a time when it was possible to be a cop after having once been a small-time criminal. So I haven’t always been on the positive side of cops.
Fifty years down the road, I still get an uptick in my pulse when I see a patrol car anywhere in Salt Lake County. I can’t tell if it’s a good reminder or a bad one. But I know it’s a necessary one.