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Officer safety should be a top priority
by JENNIFER AUSTIN | Clipper Editor
Jan 26, 2012 | 512 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Portions of this editorial were first published on www.callmejen.com, a blog written by Clipper Editor, Jennifer Austin.

I have received a lot of feedback from the Op-Ed, “The war on American citizens,” by Connor Boyack, including a well-written piece delivered to our office yesterday. Unfortunately, the author did not sign his or her name and so I cannot publish it.

As a former police officer myself (I served as one in the United States Air Force before returning to journalism), and with family members and friends who are police officers, I am often the one defending the actions of those who risk their lives to protect us. And now as an editor, I defend the right to print articles from writers whose opinions differ from yours or mine.

But what I did agree with in Boyack’s opinion article is that bad policies put many police officers in danger unnecessarily.

I am in no way attacking any police officer and the difficult job that they do. I am simply pointing out that their safety should be a top priority, and policies should be changed when a particular practice has proven to endanger either the officer or the suspect who should stand trial for their alleged crime.

We often have policies and laws handed down by officials, politicians and higher ups who think the law sounds good, but they aren’t the ones actually having to hand it out to the public. When creating policies, we should keep the public’s rights in mind first, and the safety of the officers as a very close second.

USA Today reported that no-knock warrants have increased from 2,000 to 3,000 raids a year in the mid-1980s, to 70,000 to 80,000 last year. That same article stated “judges can issue no-knock warrants when they believe the element of surprise could help officers avoid danger or keep people from destroying evidence.”

I do not believe that no-knock, and knock-and-announce-in-.5 seconds, raids are keeping anyone safer, however.

Officers will always encounter someone who does not obey the law, the person who will shoot no matter what the gun laws are. Officers will also encounter the low-risk offenders and the innocent. Each case needs to be treated differently. I believe newer police policies fall under the one-size-fits-all approach and that is a dangerous position to put our police officers in.

We have created a police vs. the public situation when SWAT teams are raiding the homes of drug users who are not always dangerous criminals. (I have seen this happen.) Drug addicts need help, and jail time isn’t always the answer.

Perhaps it would be beneficial when creating drug laws to include the officers having to make the arrest, as well as professionals who are helping those addicts recover. You cannot make the community a better place simply by throwing everyone in jail. And you cannot help the drug addict without first understanding them. (My thoughts on how to fix the war on drugs coming in another post.)

We will never be able to keep our officers completely safe. There will always be someone with a bigger gun and more bullets, but the one-size-fits-all barge into the home almost unannounced obviously is not working. Arresting the suspect heading from work to his vehicle, when it is obvious he is not in possession of an AK47 or other deadly weapons, and searching his home later on a warrant, could save the life of an officer in the future.

If you don’t believe that the decision-makers are pitting law enforcement against the general public, just take a drive to Salt Lake City and pay attention to the billboards with a police officer. The billboard is meant to stop drunk driving, but the officer is saying, “Go ahead, make my day.”

Maybe a more appropriate message would be to show who is affected by drunk drivers. Put up a picture of a young child whose parents were injured by a drunk driver with the words “Go ahead make my day.” It would be more accurate and would have more impact. It also takes away the idea that it’s the police against the rest of us.

We need to work together as a community.



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