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The New School in Law Enforcement

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John A. Rose, MPA
Chairman, Criminal Justice Department
Kaplan College
Southeast Indianapolis, Indiana

John A. Rose is currently chair of the Criminal Justice Department with Kaplan College in Southeast Indianapolis. He has a Bachelors degree in Criminal justice and a Masters degree in Public Administration with emphasis on finance and policy; both from the University of California at Los Angeles.  His law enforcement experience began in Los Angeles County with the City of Pasadena in 1967. He has worked in patrol, accident investigation, vice, narcotics, crimes against persons and property, domestic violence, and planning and research. He is an active member of the American College of Forensic Examiner's International (ACFEI).  Having worked with group homes for dependent children and communities serving the elderly, Mr. Rose's life work can be summed up as a passion to teach and to protect, particularly the frail elderly and dependent children. 

“It occurs to me that the emblems on our hats, and the badges on our chests, correspond eerily with the kill zones on a practice target such as those we see at the firing range.”

 The Rule of Law

Because this article refers to the “Rule of Law”, we must define it properly. Scholars have spent centuries examining this issue. The rule of law is a concept older than the Western civilization.  In classical Greece Aristotle wrote that "law should be the final sovereign; and personal rule, whether it be exercised by a single person or a body of persons, should be sovereign in only those matters which law is unable, owing to the difficulty of framing general rules for all contingencies."  In sum, no one is above the law; not even any branch of government, be it federal, state, or local.

Am I from the “old school”?

I wonder if I am from what some would call, “the old school”. I entered the field of law enforcement in Los Angeles County on the heels of the Watts Riots in Los Angeles and just before the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration [LEAA] under the Federal Department of Justice was born. I came aboard just as scientific scrutiny was being brought to bear on many of the guiding assumptions of police work. The LEAA was abolished in 1982 because of a failure to appropriate funds.

 It is hard to think of myself as “old school”. In my era, the LEAA's Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) helped thousands of officers pay for a college education. LEEP was a new idea under the LEAA which provided funds to develop criminal justice programs in colleges and universities across the nation.

Tools and Technology

I suppose we are all, at one time or another, the new school. I was the new breed of cop at a time when technological innovations, such as computers and modern communications devices, changed the ways in which police kept records and communicated with one another.

I thought I was in the new school when the “teletype” system of automated wants and warrants and communications through pneumatic tubes improved the way we could communicate quickly.

It appears, today anyway, I am of the old school since the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) contains nearly 30 million records and connects over a half million users in nearly 20,000 federal, state, and local agencies.

I thought I was in the new school when I discovered I could classify a fingerprint on paper and compare it with old booking forms manually sorted by that classification.

I am old school since today we can compare fingerprints over massive databases in just seconds and make comparisons within a national or even worldwide jurisdiction.

I thought I was of the new school because we could use the breathalyzer machine and even had one in the police station. This replaced a balloon that drivers suspected of being under the influence would blow up. We could even get blood drawn or urine samples at a local hospital and refer the specimen to a laboratory for analysis and comparative identification. 

I have become old school because DNA typing now plays a central role in identification of suspects. Being able to quickly eliminate suspects saves police agencies much time and money. Where there would have to a suspect available for comparison in the old school, today there only needs to be a sample to make a positive comparison provided there has been a prior sample taken and stored. The FBI opened a national DNA database in 1998 consisting of databases from states but unified by common testing procedures as well as software designed by the FBI.  So in this new school, it is now possible to compare a DNA sample from a suspect or crime scene in one state with all others in the system

Even the way crimes are reported has taken a dramatic change. Clearly I am of a former school. Even as I write this; a groundbreaking crime-fighting tool is about to be released: A Smartphone application (“app”) called M-Urgency. Using GPS, police will also be able to see exactly where the phone is that is sending a distress signal. By pushing one button, a local 911 center would receive audio and video from a cell phone. This app has been developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and is considered "the first of its kind in the world."  In sum, the app is a virtual police guardian because the video and audible signals are transferred to responding officers through computers in police cars.

I thought I was the new school because I had a .38 caliber handgun, a shot gun, a pair of handcuffs, a straight baton, and CN (tear gas; whose use fell by the wayside because pepper spray works faster and disperses more quickly).

I guess I was old school.  A called my son, a Deputy Sheriff in Los Angeles County, and asked him to describe to me what tools and equipment are at the immediate disposal of a Deputy Sheriff.

At his disposal are a 9mm Beretta, Model 92F, a semi-automatic handgun and at least 2 extra clips of 15 rounds, at least 2 sets of handcuffs, a handheld radio, Pepper Spray, a Taser Gun, and a baton; all on his gun belt.  He has a choice of baton styles but must have a PR-24 side-handled baton) available for use. His flashlight can shine from here to the moon.

My son advises that “some old guys” still carry the old, straight, wooden baton in their trunks too.  Even his gloves are more sophisticated, having soft Kevlar on the palm and hard-molded covering over the knuckles to protect him from scrapes and bruising when climbing trees, going over fences, and biting dogs.

He also has the trusty shotgun but he has a stun-bag for less-than-lethal projectiles (like hard bean-bags) and a "pepper-ball gun" which fires projectiles like paint-balls but with pepper, water, or a fluorescent marking dye.  He also has available "spike-strips" which slide out into the road ahead of vehicles being pursued. Some deputies, generally sergeants, are authorized to carry AR-15 rifles in their vehicles and may deploy when needed.  

My son also carries what is called a "ready bag"; basically a duffel bag or suitcase-like carrier for forms, papers, extra ammunition, more handcuffs, special occasion jackets, gloves, inclement weather gear, hats, changes of clothing, and a host of other potential necessities.  Finally he must wear a department issues ballistic vest.  What kind of father – or author - would I be if I did not tell you that, as he says, “No more John Wayne, like you dad”.

Just one example of today’s tools is a heat detector that can be pointed at a neighborhood from a helicopter to detect higher temperatures in houses where artificial lights are used to grow marijuana. Another example is the intelligent transportation system with traffic management technologies, including crash-avoidance systems, automated toll collection, and satellite-based position location.

Perhaps I could say, “These innovations give us pause to consider civil rights given that they can be used to track the movement of anyone using private or public transportation as well as those who carry cellular phones. Take, for instance, former Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar who was killed in 1993. While wanted in connection with drug trafficking crimes and prior to his death he was located through radio triangulation technology and his cellular phone.

In another example, the Ionscan 400B is a machine that analyzes microscopic particles picked up by wiping a sterile cloth across a surface. Police in Utah have been using the Ionscan to wipe exterior doorknobs, and then, if illicit drugs show up, use the evidence found to obtain a search warrant.  In three federal court rulings, Utah judges as well as judges in the Virgin Islands have split on the legality of doorknob tests. Whether or not this violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures seems to be headed for the US appeals courts and probably the Supreme Court.

Law Enforcement Styles

I thought I was of a new school that sought to employ zero-based budgeting as a daring new management practice, gave difficult written civil service examinations, and required significant physical agility and prowess of its successful applicants. There was a height and weight requirement and some of us had to strive to meet these qualifications.

I am the old school since today we dare to explore some fantastical ideas. For instance, and sadly in my opinion, the Chicago Police Department seriously considered scrapping the police entrance exam to bolster hiring, save millions of dollars on test development, and avoid costly legal issues that seemed to follow the examination process.  This begs the question about what to do with the candidate that cannot pass a reading comprehension test.

In another example, the Dallas Police Department recently made changes to its hiring rules to relax standards related to drug use. Whereas, some limited past marijuana use was allowed, the new policy would allow the department to hire applicants who have used cocaine and heroin on an experimental basis in the distant past.

There is an age-old question if art imitates life or whether life imitates art. Likewise, should employment practices seek the very best of us or should it seek those who embrace the changing values of society?

I thought I was of the new school since we were asked to move away from the old “watchman” style of law enforcement and embrace “community policing”. The Watchman style can be viewed as the old Irish cop, walking his foot beat, who knew all his people, was welcome to the apple on the vendor’s cart, whose rules (like a Sheppard) were law and not to be broken.

In my era, law enforcement began a new phase in its evolution. In addition to protecting people from themselves and others, we struggled through new issues like Vietnam and civil rights issues and their resulting protests.

I am old school in the sense that local police today must serve and protect against potential terrorist threats with international roots.

The Political Mood

I was there in the 1970’s and 1980‘s when the political mood of the country seemed to turn conservative and crime control dominated the agenda of public safety. I watched as this agenda permitted experimenting with programs designed to control crime. The new science of law enforcement emerged with statistical evaluations of programs such as school resource officers, extra police patrols in hot spots, repeat offender units that monitor repeat offenders on the streets, regional collaborative efforts such as Los Angeles County’s Northeast Regional Burglary Investigation Team (NERBIT), formation of domestic violence teams, and the rethinking of unsuccessful programs which failed to reduce violent crime or disorder for more than a few days.

A Disciplined Group?

I thought I was the product of a new school of disciplined cops. We were, for the most part, disciplined during our on-duty shifts. Admittedly, we were a bit unruly amongst ourselves when off-duty.  We confined our choir practices and private parties to the top of parking structures on early weekend mornings, wooded areas, and our own homes. I was not the worst-of-the-worse; but, as my old partners would testify - I think - I did enjoy my family in blue as we unwound at these gatherings.

In fairness, and since time immemorial, law enforcement personnel sometimes make poor use of their working tools. I thought I was part of the new school of police. We could emulate television by-the-book personalities of actors on programs like Dragnet, Adam 12, and the original Hawaii 5-0. 

Whom can our new and yet-to-be cops emulate when they watch pseudo-accurate programming such as CSI, NCIS, 24, and Hawaii 5-0 just to name a few? These programs are well researched in terms of technology but abound with civil rights violations and instant gratifications.

Empirically, it seems there are fewer and fewer role models for the new breed to emulate. Perhaps the problems of less-than-best practices of law enforcement personnel are no larger than when I was considered of the new school.  Perhaps the issue is just more widely communicated. More than ever before, the media is able to gather and disseminate information speedily and broadly. Police violations of the Rule of Law in a local area can now attract nationwide attention.

For instance, who was a Gallatin County Sheriff in Mississippi emulating when, in January of 2010, he solicited a murder for hire along with his wife and 20-year-old son.  In the same month and year, who was a Dallas Texas police officer emulating when he sent nude photos of himself to a high school student during school hours? Who was a Minneapolis police SWAT team member emulating when he orchestrated the takeover-style robbery of a suburban bank? Who were a Tooele, Utah police lieutenant and his detective wife emulating in November of 2009 when driving while drunk and sexually harassing another couple?

“Only the tools have changed”

My idea of the old school was the era of the slightly overweight white haired Irish cop who thought nothing of taking an apple from the cart of the vendor assigned to his foot beat (an ethical question for CJ 101 students).  In fact, the vendor would be unhappy if the cop did not take the apple.  This was a time when one could be content being just a good cop.  One was not demeaned or considered less than he or she was if there was no aspiration to be promoted or pursue college degrees. 

Pride hasn’t changed. I remember as a police cadet driving my old Studebaker to work and trying to get my shoulder patch placed just above the window of my car so other drivers might see my police emblem but not the cadet patch. This was a time when we were proud to be among America’s finest.

This was a time when uniform police officers were required, when out of the car, to wear their hat (or a helmet if circumstances dictated). We were expected to be and act professional and honor the badge we wore over our hearts.

It occurs to me that the emblems on our hats and the badges on our chests correspond eerily with the kill zones on a practice target such as those we see at the firing range.

This bizarre analogy serves as an unchanging reminder – an axiom – that the emblems of authority can weigh one down so mightily that he or she becomes an easy target.   The weight of these same emblems can force us to thrust our heads back, puff out our chests, and expose us to the greatest of harm.

Art should imitate life and not vice versa. We don’t need to imitate the pseudo-accurate television actors and their frequent cocky puffed up attitudes, civil rights violations, and instant gratifications.

There is another aspect of law enforcement that should never change. Although law enforcement’s tools have changed, what has not is the fact that law enforcement agencies in this country are, or should be, defined by the communities they serve.

Conclusion and the Next School

There really is no new school. There is just the next school and this next school must adopt, use, and respect new technologies. It must include properly trained and appropriately compensated professional law enforcement personnel. The emphasis on training must not only be on strength and intelligence. It must address wisdom and the rule of law.

The next school and its management should honor every one of its members equally. This school must go (to borrow a phrase) back to the future where its personnel are defined by their communities.

The next school must learn to strike a balance between being so humble or so cocky that we endanger ourselves, threaten our lives, and endanger the public.

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