He was NOT responsible for creating the culture of the Ferguson (or other area) police departments. He was NOT responsible for the allegations of oppression that some residents reported and blamed on the police when they saw the opportunity to do so. He did NOT make any of the decisions that led up to the justifiable use of deadly force by Officer Darren Wilson. He did NOT shoot Michael Brown.
He did promise to do what was best for his city and the best thing he could do was to resign. His resignation will NOT cure the actual problems and certainly won’t fix the false claims or bring forward the protesters’ agenda for social change.
So why is criticism of the ‘Ferguson officials’ capturing such media attraction but not last week’s death of a 5-year-old boy (in St. Louis) who died in a gun battle as his family was driving away from a park north of St. Louis? Where is President Obama, Eric Holder, and the DOJ in addressing the casualty fields in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee?
That child’s father, who was driving the minivan, returned fire before driving drove off, and two other occupants in the father’s vehicle were in stable condition after they also were wounded in the shooting.
One child dead, two more shot, and bullets flying in the St. Louis area but the protesters were not seen dodging bullets or dealing with the violence — this is NOT on their agenda.
Here is a reality of police reform. All police chiefs are not created equal. Neither are sheriffs. The Clark County Sheriff might not even get invited for an interview in cities that actually look at a broad range of credentials — including higher education, administrative experience and, in some places, even paper and pencil testing.
I was an ‘outside’ chief in Wisconsin, hired in 1997. The members of the new chiefs ‘Class of 1997’ all had high hopes to professionalize their departments. We all lasted a relatively short period of time. We made the ‘news’ and basically hit the road because we didn’t have the individual power or consensus and support from city officials to fix WHAT NEEDED FIXING. It is sad to think how little progress has been made by far too many departments.
The ‘boys’ (in blue) will be boys and will often resist change. Unions also help derail change and intimidate local government officials.
When you get right down to it, the high school star athlete that became a hometown police officer carries more clout with the ‘locals’ than a professional police chief who had earned the job through extensive education and experience. You change what they let you change.
So, if a police chief set on changing an organization’s culture and establishing a set of expectations requiring professionalism and basic respect for citizens and their welfare regularly can’t get the job done, then what is it going to take? Certainly, Thomas Jackson’s replacement will find it impossible to repair the damage done over many years by officers who have been yelling, “Get the F*** out of the street” as part of their routine. Aggressive cops gravitate to departments that portray themselves as ‘take charge’ and ‘in your face,’ like the LVMPD. The scenes on TV (COPS and Vegas Strip) would result in discipline in many departments — but not for “Hollywood” T.J. and those videotaped take-downs. Why don’t we ever find out if Metro considered them to be justified?
When change is mandated by the Department of Justice (or a local newspaper), it is easier and takes less courage and conviction.
Consider how many former Metro supervisors and command personnel only voiced their opinions AFTER they retired. American policing mystery #1 is how police are managed and led.
The public can’t push for change if the desperate need for improvement is not known. Just what do voters (or many elected officials) really know about police leadership? Who would Las Vegas hire from the best and brightest in the U.S.? Could Metro ever bring in someone like NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton (who has a resume of leadership from coast to coast)? If not, then nothing is going to happen quickly and many officers just decide to set up camp and outlast the latest ‘flavor’ as police chief.
The public won’t see change when one million dollars buys the position of sheriff in some very large city like Las Vegas. An elected county sheriff may have worked in slower times and smaller counties, but the intense competition, individual traits, and excellence ‘against any standard’ won’t ever be produced under some of our existing systems.
Maybe Langley Productions can do policing a favor and focus on police leadership (Leadership in Blue) — the trials, tribulations, sacrifices (including lost jobs) that so many police executives have endured as they have tried to find better ways to protect and serve the COMMUNITY — not the status quo!
Sheriff Lombardo recently spoke on ethical policing; he noted, “community-oriented policing is the future of law enforcement.” (News flash — Metro was doing this 20 years ago, with community outreach at Gerson Park-Sherman Gardens, the Neighborhood Police Team and LSP Teams.) He also said, “We had a terrible problem with use of force…
We didn’t really show that accountability when it was involving officer use of force.” So at what point in his career did he decide to admit this? The day after the election? Lombardo also discussed such things as transparency, diversity and mental health. Lombardo’s conclusions after the DOJ and RJ exposed Metro: “We have become a better police department… the public is holding us to task.”
So where is the hotel video from the Saul Villegas shooting at the Excalibur, Joe-Lo? WORDS ARE CHEAP!
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Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.