Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Detroit Police Department Should Not Erect Barriers Between Themselves And The Public They Serve

One of the costs of living in a free society is that citizens are never perfectly safe from peril. A seemingly random outburst of unprovoked violence can occur anywhere at any time - even in a Detroit Michigan Police Precinct. Earlier today, roughly less than two weeks after the tragedy in Tuscon Arizona, a lone gunman armed with a shotgun attacked several police officers at a local Detroit police station.

No information has been officially released about the lone assailant, other than the fact that he was shot and killed by retaliating police officers. According to Detroit Chief of Police Ralph Godbee, at a hastily called press conference, four police officers - including a Commander - were shot in the gun fight. All are expected to recover.

One of the more interesting revelations, in my opinion, that was delivered at the press conference was the announcement that the Detroit Police Department (DPD) has now undertaken the task of reviewing its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with respect to screening the "general public" before they enter DPD facilities.

One given justification for the DPD policy review was the shooting incident in Tuscon Arizona, in which US Congresswoman Giffords along with 12 other people was shot. Apparently, the sudden reality of violence against symbols of authority has DPD Brass concerned. I hope that after their internal review has been completed, DPD will make an astute conclusion and avoid the temptation of making a flawed but politically motivated decision - barricading themselves from the public they serve.

The Tuscon Shooting has a couple of lessons to be learned. One lesson, already mentioned in this post, is that violence can occur anywhere and at any time. In Tuscon, the shooting occurred in a venue ironically named "Safeway," which functioned as a site for a political appearance for a sitting federal legislator. Here, locally, a violent outburst occurred in a populated police station.

The other major lesson to be learned, which is not being seriously discussed in our country, is that we have dangerous people in our society who are not being addressed. In the Tuscon Shooting, we have been put on notice that we have a need to address dangerous mentally ill folks among us. The shooter in that case was well known to have mental issues but everyone cowardly refused to act until after he carried out his nefarious plot.

In Detroit, we have our share of structural issues that have contributed to our perpetually high rate of violence. The causes are numerous and are well documented: a failed public school system, a poor economic climate, over-flooded prisons in which dangerous inhabitants are frequently unleashed upon the local community, and a police department with 1,000 fewer officers less than it had just six years ago.

In truth, with all of the chaos that exists in the city of Detroit currently, we shouldn't be totally shocked that an obviously disturbed or criminally-minded person conducted a one-man assault upon a police station today. Further still, folks who make it their business to understand, hunt, and prosecute predators know that installing metal detectors at police stations will not deter a person intent upon committing an evil act.

An evil man, armed with a shotgun, with the goal of killing police officers will not be deterred by a screening station. He would simply ignore it and shoot anybody who presented themselves as a target. Considering the fact that this assault happened at a police station, it is a little surprising that he was able to shoot four officers before being stopped. The key point here is that there were armed people - albeit police officers - present who rose to the occasion of defending themselves.

If DPD does erect a barrier between themselves and the public they serve, they would be disrespecting the very public whom they serve. Citizens, who were already presumably victimized by an at-large predator in the street, would feel even worse as their very own public servants slap them in the face with the indignity of having to undergo the process of being searched. Going to the police station to file a report has suddenly become a hassle.

Furthermore, one unintended consequence of erecting a barrier between the public and the police would be the very act of making them less safe. Generally speaking, police departments would become de facto pistol-free zones, despite not being statutorily defined as such, in current Michigan law.

If you recall, it's only a few years since a very well known local Firearms Instructor made an appearance in national news headlines when he was forced to use lethal force to legally defend himself - literally - while in front of DPD Headquarters.

The brave and correct decision would be for DPD to NOT erect barriers - physical and political - between them and their public. Law-abiding citizens will obey the law and the criminals will not. It's always been that way and it will always be that way. If we had screening stations in place today, police officers would have still been shot.

The key difference between this incident and the shooting in Arizona is that there were armed citizens around who saved the lives of others - their fellow officers - by using their firearms. Guns save lives. Please do not disarm and enable city residents to be ripe for victimization in your unsafe parking lots.

In our free society, the best option we have for protection against dangerously mentally ill folks and violent predators is our ability and desire to assume total responsibility for our safety. Firearms enable us to do that. Please do not disarm us.

What do you think?

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