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In Front Of Their Noses

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Are Modern Police Officers Really This Dumb?


By James Donahue

July 2005


During my years of covering police news stories, I grew to respect some of the officers in the field, developed friendships with a few, and experienced a severe dislike and distrust of others.


All-in-all, however, I realized that all police officers seem to be cast from a particular mold. Most have a lower than average IQ and consequently can follow orders without questioning the moral ethics involved in their actions.


The brighter ones become master criminals hiding behind badges, guns and the authority the uniform prescribes to them.


In the early years, before police stations became off-limits to reporters and dispatchers began hiding behind one-way bullet-proof glass, there was camaraderie between desk sergeants and reporters. I used to have my own personal coffee cup hanging on the wall behind the coffee maker. There were mornings when I would drink coffee and have friendly conversations with not only the sergeant but the shift officers before they went on the road. That was how I got the news.


I also had access to the night log, and could read every entry. That was how I found interesting little stories about UFO sightings, odd creatures in the woods, frantic searches for lost children, and once a report of a detective that accidentally shot himself in the foot when reaching for his handgun. He holstered his loaded weapon without putting the safety on.


Those are stories you don’t hear about now. The dispatcher (now a hired radio voice) hands out reports that are approved by the people in charge. No reporter reads the log.


The change in attitude crept over the police in the United States like a silent cancer. It was so slow in its advance that we hardly noticed. Yet slowly my ability to cover police stories was reduced to a point until, at the time I retired, I didn’t bother even going to the station. I simply called the desk officer and asked if there was anything for the press today. If there was an accident, or something they wanted us to have, it was faxed to my desk.


That is what you get on your six o’clock news now. Faxed reports from the local police. They are usually dull, dry reports about accidents involving unnamed people who were either killed or taken to local hospitals. The stories always conclude with “the case is still under investigation,” which means there were no arrests, no conclusions, and you won’t hear any more about it after tonight.


We cover arrests by sitting in court. Court proceedings are still open to the public. But details of the crime allegedly committed are rarely known unless there is a trial. Most cases are plea-bargained by the prosecutor's office so we never get much information. 


Hidden behind this smoke screen is something I have found extremely troublesome. There has been a strange jaded sense of "them and us" as to how the public perceives the police. The people we once hired to watch over us are now watching us.


Not only are police becoming more and more corrupted. They seem to be getting dumber and dumber.


I hear more and more stories about police dressed in black attack armor breaking down doors of homes for a big “drug bust” only to frighten some innocent homeowner into cardiac arrest. We learn that the police raided the wrong house. This happened in a city near my home about a year or two ago. It is happening more and more frequently all over the country.


Then there was the case of Dave Newman of San Marcos, Texas, who braved swirling river currents to save the life of a drowning person, and then was arrested by local police because he “interfered with public duties.” The police who arrived on the scene after the rescue was completed decided that it was supposed to have been their job to make the rescue and local citizens were expected to stay out of it.


Police in Camden, New Jersey, searched for three days for three little boys who disappeared from the yard of one of the children’s home before someone thought to look in the trunk of an abandoned car parked in the yard. By then the children, who got trapped in the trunk, were dead. How could trained police officers have walked by that car, leaned on it for three days to smoke their cigarettes and have their coffee, without thinking about looking inside?


Yet another story that is still making headlines is the search for Natalee Holloway, the pretty, 18-year-old blonde girl who went missing May 30 while vacationing on the island of Aruba, just off the coast of Venezuela. Police arrested and authorities held three young men and are still retaining one of the three who were the last to have seen Holloway, believing they had something to do with her disappearance. Yet no trace of the girl has been found and nobody has found any evidence that the young men did anything wrong.


It does not seem to be occurring to the local authorities that Holloway’s disappearance might be connected to a similar disappearance in 1998 of another young traveler, Amy Lynn Bradley, who stepped off a travel liner that docked at Aruba on its way to Curacao in the Netherlands. Some are suggesting that young women who come to Aruba may be kidnapped by gangs and sold into the world sex slave market.


Ah, but then such things are not supposed to be happening today are they? Just ask the police. They will tell you.

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