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Saturday, October 16, 2021
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PERSPECTIVE: Golden Rule for Police? Just Do the Right Thing

As the spread of COVID-19 put a stop to in-person speaking engagements and book signing events, the political unrest and media-driven disdain for law enforcement has reached unprecedented levels. We have witnessed the call for police agencies across the nation to be defunded and in some cases be eliminated.

Funding and how funds are spent on police services will always be a discussion topic with true merit. How do we get the most service for our tax dollars for public safety? It is never a bad thing to self-evaluate how police resources are used, especially considering the rise in violent crime and the continued rise in civil disturbances. Protests have gone from legitimate and lawful protests to riots and direct attacks directed at police, courthouses, and our very system of democracy and law and order. Lawful protests and the reasons for those protests have obviously been hijacked by groups bent on threatening our democracy and everything this country was founded on. However, that is a topic for another discussion.

Those currently in positions of authority in cities around the country as well as those in power at the federal level have been quick to jump on the anti-police bandwagon and criticize those who are tasked with maintaining that thin blue line of law and order that protects the very foundation of our heritage. To most citizens it is insane to cut police and protection when violent crime is on the increase and citizens fear for their own safety. Proof of that fear is the dramatic increase of firearms sales around the country.

Those who criticize and make moves to defund police during this time of crisis do so from a position of having zero experience in law enforcement and have no idea what the men and women in law enforcement face every single day not only while on the job but now in cases at home as well. All of them can talk the talk, but very few walk the walk.

There are bad apples in law enforcement just like every profession. Bad apples in the medical profession may be arrested, prosecuted and have their medical license taken away; however, there is never a call to do away with all doctors or completely change the tools needed and the way that profession completes their job. This philosophy seems to only apply to law enforcement. My guess is it is a way to pander to an ill-conceived public opinion, seeking votes and to maintain their own power whether real or perceived.

As I continue to speak about the Beltway sniper investigation to groups thru Zoom and other media, I am now asked on every occasion, “How do police continue to do the job and where do we go from here?” After giving these questions asked of me considerable thought and attempting to answer that question in various politically correct ways, I came to realize the real answer to that question is very simple and has not changed since the first cop put on the first badge and enforced the law for the first time.

DO THE RIGHT THING EVERY TIME.

Every police officer, from the rookie to the chief, must do the right thing every time just like we always have. The scales of justice are depicted as lady justice holding the scales while blindfolded. It does not matter what the circumstances may be: treat every victim, witness, suspect, citizen, protester, and child the same way you would hope that, if they were a loved one of your own, you would want them treated. Amazingly simple.

Law enforcement has a specific lane and we must stay in our lane. Treat the victims or citizens that have taken the time to report a crime or a suspicious circumstance with respect and take their concern seriously. As a young trooper, still a boot, I had occasion to be grumbling about having to take a theft report from an old man who reported that somebody had taken a plastic lawnmower wheel from an old mower he had sitting in the yard. The total loss at the time may have been a dollar. My incredibly wise, now deceased, sergeant told me, “Boot, if that citizen took the time to call the State Police about this theft then the Maryland State Police has the duty and responsibility to first listen, show empathy, and take a well-written report and conduct the best investigation we can.” He was right, and that advice has served me well during my career.

Police must do the right thing every time. Listen, feel compassion, and when the time comes make the arrest using the least amount of force needed to effect the arrest. If the probable cause exists to make the arrest for whatever the offense is, including assaults directed at the officer, then make the arrest every time, collect the evidence, and write the detailed report and include all the probable cause. If the prosecutor fails to prosecute, and the officer has done the right thing, then it is on them, not the officer.

Each of us in the law enforcement community cannot do a thing about the politics of the day. We all know the evils of politics. Turn on any news broadcast and you will see it tilted one way or the other. Tune out the noise and DO THE RIGHT THING EVERY TIME.

The tide will turn; it always does. But if each officer including those in command does the right thing every time, we will all be fine. In the meantime, stay safe, stay true to your training, and feel pride in knowing that you are a professional and will always do the right thing.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.

David Reichenbaugh
David Reichenbaugh's passion for law enforcement started at a very early age which led him to seek a degree in criminal justice. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of North Western University Traffic Institute School of Police Staff and Command. David retired after 23 years service with the Maryland State Police as a Lieutenant and Barrack Commander in Cumberland Maryland. David's career started as a road Trooper and continued on as a criminal investigator, undercover narcotics investigator, major violators supervisor, homicide and high profile case investigator, and assisted in the development of the intelligence unit of the MSP post 9/11. He is the author of "In Pursuit: The Hunt for the Beltway Snipers."

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