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Monday, March 9, 2009

The Police Will Have Someone To Call... But What About The Rest Of Us?

News today is that the "SafeCallNow" bill, a bill seeking to establish a taxpayer funded program for officers to confidentially get counseling for stress-related problems, has made it's way out of the Washington state senate on a unanimous vote.

Not only will that bill, Senate bill 5131, establish a way for officers to confidentially get therapy for stress-related disorders like alcoholism, domestic violence, or anger management issues, it also gives off-duty officers a chance at more supplementary income as the hot-line it establishes for officers to call will be staffed by off-duty officers trained in crisis management.

I've mentioned this bill before when it was first proposed and in committee and I stated that I'm not really opposed to this program. After all, I think it has some hope of possibly reducing incidents of police brutality that are caused by officers who have difficulties controlling themselves due to their inabilities to properly deal with stress.

But... I still can't help but wonder, with all these great taxpayer funded programs to help traumatized cops, where are the state-funded programs that help people that they traumatized? Heck, where are the privately run or charity-based programs for victims of police misconduct?

None exist.

Victims of police misconduct have no hot-line, no support group, no advocate groups, no nothing... So, while the police have numerous, and free, options for them to turn to, their victims are just left with the pain and debt incurred by the irresponsible actions of those same police officers that get immunity from legal action, taxpayer sponsored support groups, hot-lines, charities, government assistance, and soon... complete confidentiality.

Heck, victims of police misconduct aren't even considered victims of crime that qualify for support from government sponsored crime victims support programs to help pay for medical bills and therapy stemming from that misconduct.

Sure, I'm not opposed to getting police officers who have difficulty coping with stress the help they need but, up to now, have often refused to seek. But, if we're paying to help stressed out officers, why aren't we also paying to help the people that they harm as well?


Karl Mansoor said...

You made an important point.

Legislators need to start addressing those issues, and many others related to police misconduct, in a big way.

I aim to finish my current major writing project ASAP (which still is likely months before completion) and then begin the long process of contacting many legislators to get the show on the road.

True police accountability is long overdue.

Packratt said...

Thanks Karl, I appreciate it...

and, of course, I can't wait to see that finished project of yours, hopefully there will be a way I can help you get word out about it when it's done!

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Karl has a point. Instead of venting our anger online people need to start nagging their representatives every time one of these incidents occurs. The police have proven time and time again that they cannot police themselves. Lawmakers need to know how the people they represent really feel about this. 'We the people' should demand that the pigs are kept in check.

Packratt said...

Thanks for the comment... I also agree with Karl entirely that the change needs to come through legislation, it won't come from the police departments or the courts.

But, the problem is that there isn't sufficient support from the public to force legislators to turn their backs on the lucrative lobbying efforts of police unions and the very powerful political power the police organizations' "tough on crime" endorsements engender.

Just look up any story about attempts to push through police accountability legislation and you'll see how the halls were filled with people in uniforms and that the measure fails as a result.

Also look at the stats I posted here to get a good idea of how little public support there is for police accountability reforms out there. People overwhelmingly trust the police.

So, we really have to focus on convincing more people that reforms are needed and that the problem is wide-spread and can easily affect them as much as it affects the people they think are guilty of something and deserve to be hurt by police.

It's why I really try not to write as if I'm "preaching to the choir" with an assumption that my audience already believes police misconduct happens. I take the opposite approach and try to write each entry as if I'm fighting an uphill battle to convince my audience that police misconduct happens. (of course, that's because 76% of the US population really doesn't believe it happens)

Public perception is the first part of the battle... while legislation is utterly necessary in this battle, it's only possible after there's enough support behind it.

Anyway... thank you again for the comment and for sharing your perspective, I really do appreciate it.

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