Outstanding Deja Vu: November 24, 2003
It was an outstanding déjà vu - the opportunity to spend a day in public school classrooms, and spend a swing shift on a city police “ride along” - an opportunity to contrast past with present, and very worthwhile for a legislator concerned with education and public safety.
Eons ago, I was a Tucson Arizona cop, but contrary to what some may claim, I didn’t really investigate Cain’s assault against Abel. I was working my way through 16 unit college semesters to become a teacher, and working the 6 PM to 2 AM shift on the police department (not to mention Air Force reserve duty), while supporting for my wife, and then three children.
Mostly I worked a solo beat in a high crime Tucson ghetto area, but also worked desk, radio, and spent one Christmas in jail (as a jailor, of course), and another Christmas in a hospital emergency trying to get a “dying declaration” form a stab victim. In those days, we didn’t have body armor, no radios on our person (the only radio was in the car), computers hadn’t been invented, and police cars didn’t have seatbelts (until after a high speed car chase, when I was a police cadet, that resulted in a rollover and a broken arm).
Police survivors of that era, used insofar as possible, employed basic courtesy and “people psychology” to get the job done, with force as a last resort.
Officer Matt Tarbox, my Anchorage Police “ride along partner” demonstrated that “good guy” approach works just as well today.
One of our first calls was to deliver a court restraining order to a woman in an apartment complex in the Arctic Blvd. area, that required her to move out, and place a baby into her boy friend’s care. Her live-in boyfriend claimed she was a “druggie” and an “alchie,” and had violent reactions to authority. I know from experience that police involvement domestic situations with people of this type can be hazardous to an officer’s health. Officer Tarbox treated the woman with the utmost respect and courtesy, patiently explained what the court ordered, and quickly and effective defused a tinderbox situation.
Our second call was Code 3 (lights and siren) across town to the area of the Alaska Native Hospital area. A “road rage” incident had resulted in a stabbing. Four juveniles were involved, and three were quickly rounded up – but the assailant with the knife was on the run. Search perimeters were established by radio, and we drove inside the area looking for the assailant. We spotted footsteps in the snow of someone obviously running. Reinforcements were called in, and a K9 dog searched the area. For my safety, and more importantly for the safety of the officers, I had to remain inside the locked police car – but I was able to follow the events on the police and personal radio. I must confess, I missed the “old days” of being in the middle of the action.
Somehow, the assailant escaped the perimeter. However, later information placed him at his girlfriend’s house near Tudor Road. After another Code Three jaunt, the house was surrounded, and the assailant brought into custody.
A more lighthearted call involved a neighbor’s “noise” complaint to a home in a neighborhood north of Abbott. Turned out a group of 16 year old girls were having a perfectly appropriate birthday party, with the parents at home. We wished a happy birthday, and commented how nice it would be if all police calls were nothing more than this.
My biggest surprise was how important technology is to today’s law enforcement. Each police car has an attached laptop computer that records details of calls, provides a street map and location indicator when the officer types in an address, and more. Technology saves lives, and I want to see only the best for Alaska’s law enforcement warriors.
We also need to provide full retirement and health benefits after twenty years service. Law enforcement is the “thin blue line” between personal safety and anarchy.
Law enforcement, at its best, should be more proactive than reactive. That’s impossible without technology, adequate recruiting and manning. This can’t happen until Alaskans support legislators willing to sensibly fund law enforcement, and provide health benefits commensurate with business. It’s a life saving and community saving investment. .
Some of today’s students are tomorrow’s law enforcement officers (and tomorrow’s criminals). The education we provide today, and the level at which we fund it, has much (but not everything) to do with the future direction of our children.