Law enforcement officers are taught to be guardians | Guest Column

by Patrick Timmins

Special to the Sounder

While I agree with some of Mr. Stamper’s opinions (6/22 edition, “Stamper: ‘You can’t arrest yourself out of social problems’), I also disagree. When he says today’s law enforcement has become too much of a “paramilitary bureaucracy,” please elaborate as to why you feel this way about the profession which you and I are both are so passionate.

I will agree that our federal government does need to back off on certain issues. However, if the federal government wanted to sell our state, county or local law enforcement equipment that can be used for officers to effectively enhance their ability to do their job, would you oppose it? Yes, I will agree that civilian law enforcement doesn’t need an MRAP. If the federal government wants to sell or donate good quality equipment, then local authorities should be able to accept or bid on said equipment. Otherwise, our government simply throws it away (e.g. typical federal government waste, fraud, and abuse.)

As to law enforcement having or meeting “quotas,” sir, we no longer have quotas. Today’s law enforcement conducts community policing and the regular patrol officer is extremely active in their community. These officers are often seen in such events as “Coffee with a Cop,” neighborhood block parties or simply out and about while talking with community members.

I don’t see today’s law enforcement as paramilitary. In fact, the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission has been teaching our law enforcement officers to be more of a guardian instead of a warrior. Here is a 2013 YouTube video for those who are curious about how our state is training officers.

This and many other academies recognize the fact that law enforcement officers are more like social workers and are teaching courses in how to deal with those who are emotionally disturbed and/or mentally ill. But they are also teaching the recruits to be safe when having to use force.

As far as your opinion that the “police belong to the American public,” I can agree to a certain point. However, in the end, the police ultimately belong to the criminal justice system. I guess we can chalk a lot of your opinions up to that: an opinion. In your last interview, you said you regretted your decision to use pepper spray on peaceful protestors during the May Day event in Seattle. Yes, it started out as a peaceful protest until anarchists and thugs decided to take it to a full blown riot. The officers at the scene gave verbal commands for individuals to disperse, did they not? Those not involved should have simply walked away. Seattle police used the amount of force necessary to gain control of the situation and your officers were protecting the community they served. How much money did those business owners have to spend to repair their establishments?

I understand you are trying to sell your books and are doing so at the expense of today’s law enforcement practices, which are not like they were when you first started your career and up until when you retired. Unfortunately, our society changed so much since you went into law enforcement. Yes, I was taught the warrior mindset, but like many others in today’s law enforcement, I evolved and still enjoy the job. I believe in the “Community Policing” model but an officer must also have that “inner warrior” at times. We simply cannot be sitting ducks; especially in our current climate.

Mr. Stamper, please get off the island more. Check out what WSCJTC and other law enforcement agencies are doing when it comes to community policing practices. It seems like you are generalizing all law enforcement officers and their practices based on your own experiences. Of all people, you should know how irresponsible and dangerous it is to paint with such broad strokes. As for the bureaucracy part, yeah, I can agree with you there, but isn’t there bureaucracy in any government job?

Timmins lives on Orcas and is a federal police officer in Seattle.