Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Evening With Norm

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.


Jacque Hendrix said...

Oh Hank the truth you so speak. Like you I began my AF career in the same field.

Young, brash, full of authority and not to be challenged. It was all black and white.

Like Norm, I've grown and realized there are a lot of shades of gray and have learned to pause, step back and reassess.

Take time (but not too much), *then* act.

Hank Greer said...

Amen to that, Jacque.

Anonymous said...

The problems today extend beyond mirrored sunglasses. Police departments use weapons and tactictics quite literally supplied by the military and the CIA. I'd rather have a cop with his hands visible in belt loops than clutching an assault rifle, or hidden in a tank, in disguise at a protest or mosque, prancing about in wannabe camo, compiling illegal surveillance at the Fusion Center, or smirking behind the joystick of a drone.

The attitude problems start at the top. They are official policy, not rogue actions.

Anonymous said...

The Spokane police guild as experts in protecting civil rights? Fabulous.

Hey, why didn't they put Karl Thompson on the panel?

Thanks to the guild, Thompson remains a free man to this day!

Otto Zehm, however, remains dead.