It has become more apparent
each day that citizens across our country are brutalized and beaten
by police 24 hours a day, seven days a week due, in part, to poor administrative
oversight. The only difference is that the Louisiana incident was caught
on camera and reported.
In defense of the many honorable
men and women carrying a badge, these images of police abuses are not
the norm of law enforcement but a snapshot of bad law enforcement. However,
if you look at your own police, how would you rate them? Good? Bad?
Indifferent? Not responsive to the public?
Bad law enforcement can
only exist when the citizens elect officials that do not follow through
on their promises to “clean up government” and “clean
up the police department.” Another problem arises when local media
- newspapers and television - actively ignore police abuses. Both of
these issues can only be addressed by knowledgeable and persistent citizens
who insist on an open and honest government. More and more often it
is government at every level that insulates itself from the people and
ignores who they work for. There must be oversight after the election
rhetoric is laid to rest.
Over the last eight years,
I have spoken to hundreds of government and police officials, as well
as, rank and file police officers across our nation about the problem
of police abuse. The common consensus is that unaddressed police abuse
always hinders good law enforcement. Each resident of an area must understand
that their government, and law enforcement in particular, has become
a secretive and insular society where truth and accountability to the
public is nearly non-existent.
first step for curbing police abuse in your community is to identify
exactly what the police problems are. To list just a few that we have
seen here in Medford, Oregon are the killing of unarmed citizens (Cole
Younger Smith Case), excessive use of deadly force, excessive use of
unnecessary physical force (Blagg Case), verbal abuse of citizens including
racist and sexist remarks, harassment of our minorities, young people,
the homeless and political activists, traffic stops without probable
cause, failure to discipline or prosecute abusive officers (Reservoir
Dogs), infringing on freedom of expression which leads to use of physical
force. In Medford the code of silence is a major road-block to efficient
law enforcement as well as retaliation against officers that report
abuses and/or support reforms.
To effectively combat police
abuse, you must have realistic expectations about the ingredients needed
for change. Common sense and history show that most police officials
cannot and will not hold themselves accountable for their actions involving
police abuse in their departments. Common sense dictates that the responsibility
of police behavior should not be in the hands of the police. That is
a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house!
The responsibility for holding
law enforcement accountable to the people lies squarely on the shoulders
of the citizens of each community. The people must hold their police
to high community standards. History has shown that these standards
are best maintained by instituting an independent citizen’s review
Civilian review of law enforcement
actions was once considered to be a pipe dream but in the 1950’s
citizens began the struggle for control over bad police behavior. By
the mid-1990’s over 60 percent of our country’s 50 largest
city’s had independent civilian review systems in place. That
number continues to grow.
Oversights by civilian review
boards help clarify the problems as well as provide information for
police administrative decisions. Many well intentioned police chiefs
have failed to act decisively against police brutality because those
doing the internal investigation didn’t provide all of the facts,
or even worse, provided distorted facts in order to protect fellow officers.
Some police departments
tout that they have a civilian review board when in fact they do not.
Medford’s Communications Advisory Board which oversees the Police
Department is nothing more than a ceremonial process with no teeth or
investigational powers. This ceremonial process is an attempt to fool
the people into thinking that their police department is accountable
to the public.
For the seeds of accountability
to grow in any police department you need a city counsel, and mayor
that embrace the idea of accountability to the citizens they serve.
If they do not accept that concept you should remind them of the following
Oregon Constitution, Article
I, Section 1: Natural rights inherent in people. “We declare that
all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all
power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded
on their authority, and have at all times a right to alter, reform or
abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper.”
We have the right and the duty to question and direct our government
Article XI, Section 2, gives
us the right to establish municipalities. Article XV, Section 3 states
that every official elected or appointed must swear an oath to uphold
both the Oregon and U. S. Constitutions. So if we can create them we
can regulate them!
From this it becomes very
apparent that We the People control every aspect of our government and
that every official in that government must swear an oath acknowledging
Their oath clearly states
that they are working for the people and that the people have the right
and the duty to rein in their government whenever necessary.
A truly independent review
board will be housed away from the police and government offices. Its
members should be selected by drawing not appointment. It will have
the right to subpoena all files and any individual. It must have authority
to independently investigate complaints. These findings must be considered
when decisions are made.
It is obvious that Medford
Police Department needs the oversight of an independent citizen’s
review board. To do that, the people are going to have to demand accountability
from their elected officials. You have the right. You have the duty.
Note: The Observer has provided news for a number of years on abuses
taking place at the hands of members of the Medford Police Department.
I have personally witnessed MPD officers lie on the witness stand, under
oath and I have watched certain Jackson County judges turn their heads
the other way at those lies.
Tim George of the MPD has announced that he plans to run for the Jackson
County Sheriff’s position in the next election. George has done
absolutely nothing about the abuses listed in this article. The Observer
would warn voters in Jackson County, Oregon that electing this insider
to such a position would be a costly and extremely poor decision.