Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Changes in Expectations

In his Huckleberries Online weblog, The Spokesman-Review columnist and associate editor Dave Oliveria asked readers to respond to these questions: "Can the Spokane police conduct an internal review that the public will believe? Or should they seek beyond the Spokane sheriff's office for an independent review?" His questions were precipitated by The Spokesman-Review's Friday editorial commenting on the police's handling of Otto Zehm's arrest and in-custody death.

Dave Oliveria's questions are as important as their answers. His questions articulate the change in the public's expectations about police conduct. The change is well summarized in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Strategic Plan 2000-2005, at page 9:

"Changes in Expectations Faced with real problems affecting the very fabric of society, the United States is relying increasingly on law enforcement solutions. For example, the dramatic increase in the number of law enforcement officers mandated by Congress, the enhanced funding for the 'war on drugs,' and significantly increased spending for counter-terrorist activities exemplify the expectation on the part of policy makers that law enforcement efforts will ameliorate societal problems. In other contexts, law enforcement officers are increasingly being called on to act as 'problem solvers,' taking on roles quite different from those associated with traditional enforcement."

In the next paragraph, the FLETC Plan gets to the heart of the issue.

"While being called on to address a widening array of social problems, law enforcement agencies are also being held to heightened levels of scrutiny and accountability. In today's world an officer must ensure that his or her actions pass not only the test of legality, but they must also pass the more subjective tests of appropriateness and propriety. The citizenry expects law enforcement personnel to act with professionalism and is quick to react with complaints and lawsuits when this expectation is violated."

This portion of the FLETC Strategic Plan for 2000-2005 was not a "woe is me" wailing about how unreasonable we citizens have become in demanding higher quality and more diverse law enforcement. Rather, it acknowledged that reality and it recognized law enforcement must be able to change, because society's expectations certainly will.

Law enforcement today is more demanding and exacting than ever before. The public expects its law enforement agencies to hire and retain intelligent, imaginative, innovative employees who can successfully handle a wide range of social issues, not just solve crimes. The public expects its law enforcement agencies to give honest and complete answers when questioned about officers' conduct. The public will be reasonably tolerant of unintentional and occasional errors in judgement, but the public will not tolerate intentional deception, disinformation, and stonewalling.

The public needs to have trust and confidence in its law enforcement agencies. The law enforcement administrators and officers must ensure they continue to be worthy of that trust and confidence. They cannot function without it.


Blogger stebbijo said...

Love your work, Whitecaps. Also, like the way you bold your hyperlinks!

4:55 PM, April 07, 2006  

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