Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Detroit Police Is Speaking Frankly About Crime - Are You Listening?

Last night, I attended the Detroit Police Department's (DPD) "First Quarter Report on Crime" at Charity Lutheran Church on the east-side of town. Previously, I had never attended one of these sessions but I thought that I would be better informed as to DPD's future direction if I went.

I was correct in my assessment. After the meeting, I found that I did indeed gain additional insight about our city's state of affairs with regards to crime. This post will share my observations on the session.

DPD Chief Praises His Officers' Dedication

The informational section of the meeting was kicked off by DPD Chief Ralph Godbee. I have had the honor of both being introduced to the Chief and the opportunity to speak with him on several occasions. True to form, Godbee demonstrated that he is an excellent communicator, a consummate professional, and speaks frankly without any pretense of misleading anybody about the status of his department.

Godbee spoke with pride about his personal assessment of the officers who either serve in his command or are among those within the rank and file. In his estimation, they are the among the best in the nation, the hardest working in the country, and do more with less than any other police force in the United States. Therein lies the biggest issue with DPD.

My opinion is that the city of Detroit does not have the resources to properly man and operate a police force in a city of our size, even with our latest population count at a number somewhere north of 700,000. Godbee shared that although people have left town in significant numbers, the amount of crime in the city has not dropped at the same ratio.

The implication of that observation is that those folks who do evil in Detroit have not left. Further, DPD hints that Detroit's geographical size - 1,440 square miles - has not shrunk and leaves their officers struggling to provide adequate support.

The "elephant in the room" is the fact that Detroit is on the brink of bankruptcy. Thus, the idea that we should allocate and budget more money for the police department is a moot argument. The cold reality is that DPD is understaffed and that fact won't change anytime soon. If our crime problem is going to be solved, it will have to be done under our current financial constraints.

DPD Chief Concedes That The Police Can't Do It All

Godbee admitted that the current state of affairs has forced him to redesign the way DPD approaches crime. The current model, he asserted, is 50 years old and was correct for a city with 1.2 million residents and 5,000 sworn officers. Thus, consultants who practice a management science known as "Six Sigma" are working with DPD to alter service delivery.

DPD is going to end the practice of responding to all calls. They are in the process of figuring out exactly what types of calls that they will no longer provide support in an effort to decrease their response time to other types of crimes. At last night's meeting, they did not share any specifics but it is very certain that DPD has realized that it can't do everything by itself, so it is not going to try to do so.

DPD's future approach to crime-fighting assumes that it is going to need and get support from the community to be successful. Predictably, there was a clarion call to revive older programs such a "Neighborhood Watch" which was touted as effective in prior years and to promote the usage of newer tools such as anonymous crime reporting, GPS devices in DPD squad cars, and fancy technology that can detect gunfire and pinpoint the location of its origin within 12 feet.

What Does DPD Think About Handguns For Personal Protection?

It is clear that DPD has a fervent desire to both involve the community and to deploy applicable technologies to help solve Detroit's crime problem. Thusly, you can now better appreciate my curiosity, as a Firearms Instructor, in the presentation - later on in the program - that was ran by DPD Investigator Dwane Blackmon which addressed personal protection tips that citizens can employ to be safe.

As soon as it was announced, I immediately grabbed a 3X5 index card to submit my question to be answered. My question was not a tough one, by my standards, but it covers a subject that the police usually avoid talking about publicly: The lawful use of a firearm for personal protection.

Blackmon's presentation was a great abbreviated version on the subject of situational awareness and personal protection, however it did not address the lawful use of firearms for self-defense. So, I am thankful that Chief Godbee answered my question despite an attempt by a screener to censor "certain" questions - like mine - from being asked.

I asked DPD via a submitted 3X5 index card:
With respect to limited resources available and the need to make tough decisions about which calls to answer, why wasn't there any mentions about the lawful usage of firearms for personal protection during the "safety tips?"

Godbee respects and supports the Constitutional right of citizens to own firearms. He did caution that it is incumbent on gun owners to use them lawfully and responsibly. So, if citizen feels there is a need for him to own one, he should get one.

I concede that there have been incidences of a few gun owners behaving irresponsibly with their arms, however, those numbers are small and greatly pale in comparison to the number of folks in the general population and law enforcement officers who are not responsible with their firearms. Legal gun owners, especially those with Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs), are the most law-abiding segment of our society.

Godbee's position and personal opinion on guns not being in the crime prevention presentation is that citizens owning guns won't drive down crime numbers. In contrast, I believe that if greater numbers of citizens carried guns, then criminals would face a hostile working environment and that our crime numbers would indeed drop.

Godbee and I agree on both major points: a right to own a gun and the need to use that gun responsibly. However, our views also differ vastly on perceived "use" of a firearm. Godbee stated that a handgun is an "offensive weapon."

In my opinion, the use of a handgun depends on who is using it. In my view, a police officer uses his firearm primarily as an offensive tool to capture and subdue criminal suspects. Additionally, a police officer would use his handgun defensively if he was ever ambushed by a bad guy.

Alternatively, a person who carries a firearm for personal protection uses his gun defensively. In my particular case, I have carried a firearm every day for five years and have yet to use it offensively to attack someone. However, if I am ever attacked, my usage of that firearm would be defensive even if I shot a bad guy. I was surprised of the Chief's "take" on the "use" of firearms but since he supports the Second Amendment, I won't "beat him up" on the overall subject of guns.

The Bottom Line Of The Meeting

The Detroit Police Department is understaffed and underfunded. Chief Godbee concedes that he and his department can't do it all. They are asking for our support because they need it. Without the public's aid, we will never solve Detroit's crime problem.

The citizenry are being asked to be "nosy neighbors" like Mrs. Kravitz on the Bewitched TV show from years ago. Lt. Blackmon urged citizens to S.N.I.T.C.H. (Some New Info That Can Help) and to use anonymous crime reporting services to be the ears and eyes of DPD in our respective communities.

Citizens are also being asked by DPD to become more active in their personal protection. However, in the tips and tactics that they provided last night, such as how to get out of a automobile trunk after you've been thrown into one, stop short of advocating that you buy a firearm because they feel that it won't be reflected in the statistics.

In contrast to DPD, I am a huge advocate of firearms being used "defensively" for personal protection. If you have a desire to learn how to use one lawfully, safely, and responsibly, please consider my Detroit Michigan CCW Class.

One thing is abundantly certain, DPD is making changes. Are you listening?
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