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.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Local Law Enforcement Agencies: Septic Tanks or Urban Wastewater Systems?

Just asking if some local city and county law enforcement agencies more resemble septic tanks or urban wastewater management systems is likely to upset a few people. Comparing public safety agency employees with components of sewage systems may sound offensive. As President George W. Bush might say, "That's misunderstandable."

It is not a bad analogy nor is it unflattering to all the employees.

Look at how a septic tank system works. In my analogy the tank's intake represents all a law enforcement agency's employees. The solid waste sludge layer at the bottom of the tank represents a relatively small percentage of employees who are corrupt, abusive, or otherwise unsuitable for public employment. The scum layer at the top represents a lazy, out-of-touch, or incompetent chief or sheriff and the worst of his/her command staff. The much larger water layer in between represents the majority of employees who are competent and honest and worthy of our trust and confidence. It is the employees forming the water layer who we hope would flow out of the tank to nourish the community and help it thrive and grow. The septic tank works well when it maximizes the volume of fairly clear non-toxic water, reduces or eliminates the toxicity of the scum layer, and breaks down the sludge layer while preventing it from ever contaminating the community.

As communities grow, septic tanks necessarily give way to urban wastewater management systems. These are larger, more complex, and technologically improved versions of the obsolete septic tank. Failing to maintain the septic tank or replace it with a better sewer system as the community's needs and conditions change results in unacceptably inadequate performance and eventually in avoidable illness or death. So it is with law enforcement agencies.

Neither system is perfect, so sometimes toxic components in the scum and sludge layers escape treatment. Their toxicity contaminates the water layer which flows into the community and causes severe harm. The community suffers debilitating consequences. In spite of frequent and glowing assurances from elected officials that their now-obsolete septic tanks are working just fine, the people in the community begin to realize that they need to change if they are to restore the community's health.

The people served by the Spokane Police Department and Spokane County Sheriff's Office have recognized it is time to upgrade their law enforcement agencies. Thanks to diligent newspaper reporting by The Spokesman-Review, citizens have become aware of growing problems with Spokane's aged and failing septic tank law enforcement system. They have insisted their elected officials transition from it to urban wastewater mangement law enforcement. Citizens are demanding that elected officials fix the problem rather than just continue to cover up the bad smell and deny a problem even exists. Already there is improvement in the community's health.

Many residents of unincorporated Kootenai County and Coeur d'Alene are reluctant to upgrade our septic tank law enforcement system. It may be we have a higher tolerance for bad smells. Maybe we don't want to change because we personally know some components in the scum or sludge layer. Our local newspaper, the Coeur d'Alene Press, seems to have no inclination to pursue and report the source of the odors increasingly emanating from our back yards. It fails to question and report that some of the community's illnesses and deaths have resulted from an outdated or poorly managed system.

Law enforcement agencies, like wastewater management systems, are essential for public health and safety. Both must be properly designed, efficiently run, and upgraded as the community's needs change. The public needs reliable information from its local news media so we can contribute to the solution and not just complain about the bad odors.


Blogger stillonthepotomac said...

Excellent article on how law enforcement must work. Without constant filtering, the system becomes contaminated.
Keep up the Good work.


4:41 AM, February 17, 2008  

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