While the media has not been particularly kind to selected police departments around the country lately, namely Ferguson, MO (Michael Brown shooting) and Staten Island, NY (Eric Garner death at the hands of overzealous police) who lead the parade, this kind of coverage is not something that comes out of the blue.
Police departments throughout the U.S. have for decades, and perhaps centuries now, brought a great deal of scrutiny upon themselves. Criminal activity within all communities is largely committed surreptitiously, since the bad guys don't want to go to jail and 99% of the time will give it their best shot to do their dirty deeds away from the eyes of the authorities. The on-the-spot police involvement of crimes in progress grabs the headlines every time it occurs. It's only human nature; we want to see these conflicts and how they play out. Will the good guys or the bad guys win?
And much like Hollywood is always prone to do, they love to portray good guys as bad guys and vice versa. It makes for great TV viewing. Anymore, TV is not about enlightening their audience with facts. TV wants to grab as many eyeballs and glue them to their screens, and keep them there, whatever it takes. Facts and reporting be damned, that's not what the media is about anymore, at least not primarily.
It's the airplane crash that grabs the spot light, since there's always a great deal of destruction and loss of life. People can't help themselves, they want to know all about it. Don Henley of "Eagles" fame put it correctly in his ditty "Dirty Laundry" several years ago:
"We got the bubble headed bleach blond who comes on at five
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
It's interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry."
That's what people want. And the media will gladly give it to them and most police departments play right into this need and are hard wired to portray these rare opportunities out to the most outrageous end. They want to ensure that the public, and more accurately, their bosses, sees that their guys and gals in blue win at all costs, and that at the end of the confrontation, the bad guys are either down on the ground in hand cuffs or down on the ground with bullet holes in them.
Most police departments have a desired ratio of patrolmen/women to population within their jurisdiction. These ratios are subject to funding by each jurisdiction through taxes levied on that municipality. These ratios vary widely and typically these ratios are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Criminals are acutely aware of where the police are, and where they are not.
Accordingly, crimes are almost always committed outside of the scrutiny of the police. Houses are burglarized, cars are stolen, convenience stores are robbed at gunpoint, and the police are nowhere to be seen. And this is understandable. The ratios that are affordable by any municipality simply don't enable police patrols to watch everything all the time. Criminals know this.
When the victim discovers that he has been burglarized, for example, the criminals have been gone long before a police response could prevent the crime. The police are called and they come out to the scene of the crime, look around, ask some questions and either verify that a crime has been committed or not. This is the way crime is handled 99.99 percent of the time. The cops come out, write down what they see on their reports, cast a suspicious eye on the victims (since they are there at the scene of the crime and the criminals are not), file their report and then cruise off to Dunkin' Donuts to talk about how the Bears lost to the Vikings, never again to think about the crime report they will file at the end of their shift.
No crime is solved, no investigation is undertaken. Oh sure, they give you lip service that a follow up investigation will be initiated, but in the end, in the vast majority of police cases, nothing happens and the victims never see any kind of justice.
Most policemen and women's only job is shaking down the people they have sworn to 'serve and protect,' by issuing citations for speeding, littering and other misdemeanors that keep the revenues flowing into the government's hands. Their involvement in fighting crime takes up perhaps 1% of their time, since the vast majority of criminals while evil are not stupid: they will do their dirty deeds surreptitiously, and not rob and steal in front of a live police presence. The 99% of a run of the mill police person's total time on the job involves eating donuts and writing tickets.
They are not judged by their police supervising sergeants and lieutenants by how many bad guys they collar. That kind of personnel review simply will not work, there is just not enough bold, blatant crime committed that involves active police personnel. No, they are given performance reviews that focus on how many citations they issue to the tax payers. Based on these criteria, they are determined to be good police men and women by how much money in fines and penalties they can squeeze out of the good guys. There are just not enough bad guys out there committing crimes in front of squad cars to justify their jobs with active collars and arrests.
And when a bad guy pops up in the presence of a cop to do his dirty work on super rare occasions, their training kicks in and they make as big of a mess of the scene as they possibly can to ensure that their exploits are noticed by their superiors.
We are all seeing the police departments across the country squirm and squeal about the terrible coverage they are getting from the media. That media attention they are getting is warranted; these guys and gals in blue are getting exactly what they are asking for.
Be careful what you ask for, is all I have to say. In the fullness of time, you just might get it.
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