I spent the evening at The Bing Theater. Norm Stamper spoke about Policing for Safety with Professionalism and Civil Rights and then fielded questions from a panel populated by Spokane Police Guild President Ernie Wuthrich, Human Rights Educator and Advocate Rachel Dolezal, and Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart (left to right in the picture with Stamper off to the right).
Stamper is an entertaining and informative speaker almost to a fault. While answering questions he tended to segue from one topic to another until he reached a point where he stopped because he forgot the question that began the process. I wasn't annoyed by that but I could see how someone expecting an answer to stay on point might be.
During his initial discussion about policing with professionalism he talked about the good intentions when he first became a police officer but almost immediately ended up doing things he never thought he'd do. I was reminded of similar behaviors I adopted and exhibited when I became a Law Enforcement Specialist and arrived at my first assignment way back in 1975. The badge and gun were symbols of our authority. Our authority was not to be challenged. If it was we took it personal. We wore mirrored sunglasses so you couldn't see our eyes. We hooked our thumbs in our gun belts while we talked to you. We were bad-asses and and we didn't take shit from anybody. We set ourselves apart from the people we were there to serve. In short, we were running fast down the wrong track. Quite a few of us, just like Stamper, had some sort of reckoning moment where we realized we were doing it wrong. Funny how some lessons have to be learned through experience for so many.
I particularly enjoyed how he addressed the need for the police leadership and police guild leadership to be involved with the community. He makes a good case for strong and effective civilian oversight. Last of all he touched on the senselessness of the so-called war on drugs and drew the parallels with Prohibition and the repeal thereof. He's all for passing Initiative 502 in Washington because even thought federal law trumps state law concerning marijuana, if enough states decriminalize or legalize it then something will have to give at the federal level. Maybe so. He's not endorsing the use of marijuana, but he is saying that what we're doing now isn't working. Drugs are cheaper, more potent, and easier to get than when President Nixon declared the war on them.
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