Let’s Talk Gun Violence

When you watch the local or national news, the leading story always seems to be some iteration of gun violence. While gun violence is glorified in Hollywood, it is, and rightfully so, vilified by the general public. The same people who earn millions of dollars making movies where gun violence is the central theme vehemently revile the gun industry and one’s right to keep and bear arms. There is no question that gun violence in this country is rampant. So, the question is, What Do We Do About It? 

A review of the shooting statistics as presented by the media tells you that there were in excess of 45,000 homicides by gun in the U.S. in 2020. What do these numbers suggest to you? What are your assumptions? Do you assume that these homicides were all murders? How does the media portray this distinction, or does it? Were they all violent crimes where someone killed someone else like you see on television? What do these statics actually mean? 

Black’s Law Dictionary defines a homicide as “the killing of one human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another.” In other words, when one human being kills another. This definition does not differentiate between the legal taking of a life and the unlawful taking of a life. Black’s defines murder as “the unlawful taking of the life of another with malice aforethought.” In simple terms, an individual unlawfully kills another individual with intent. Black’s also defines a suicide as “self-destruction; the deliberate termination of one’s existence.” 

Using these definitions, let us look at some statistics: 

Death by Gun2017201820192020
Total Deaths by Gun39,77339,74039,70745,222
Homicides by Gun15,19113,93814,41419,384
Suicide by Gun23,85424,43223,94124,292
Total Suicides48,34447,17347,17345,885

In essence, when the media reports there were in excess of 45,000 homicides in the U.S. in 2020, these numbers included murders, justifiable homicides, and suicides. You don’t see this breakdown on your local news. Let’s look at an example. A man walks into a convenient store to rob it. The man shoots and kills the clerk. This is a homicide, but it’s also a murder. A police officer responds to the robbery and the man shoots at the police officer. The officer returns fire and kills the man. This is also a homicide but it is not a murder. The man’s girlfriend is so distraught over watching her boyfriend’s demise that she shoots herself and passes away. This is also a homicide but it is also a suicide. 

The homicides that seem to dominate the news are murders. A review of the murder statistics in the U.S. reveals some interesting insights. The Guardian reported that, “homicides in 2020 were concentrated among Black Americans who, despite making up 14% of the population, represented more than half of the 2020 victims, according to FBI data. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black males ages 15-34, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Gun violence has a disproportionate effect on racial and ethnic minorities and is highly concentrated in a relatively small number of neighborhoods that have historically been under resourced and racially segregated.” The Department of Justice (DOJ), reported, “Today homicide is the leading cause of death among young Black men, and contributes significantly to the shortened life-span of the Black male. In about 80-90% of the cases, the Black victim was killed by another Black…” This DOJ quote was taken from a document published in 1983. THAT’S RIGHT…. NEARLY 40 YEARS AGO! This information can be substantiated by just watching the evening news. I did a very informal survey on shootings by watching the local news in Mobile Alabama and Pensacola Florida. In a three-month period, in excess of 80% of the shooting victims presented by local TV affiliates were Black.  In addition, in excess of 80% of those perpetrating these shootings were Black. This does mirror the 1983 DOJ report. 

Statistics indicate that 59% of high school students in the 50 largest cities in the United States drop out of school. Statistics further indicate that 60% of Black high school dropouts spend time in prison. The Pew Research Group reported that at the end of 2017 there were approximately 476,000 Black prison inmates and approximately 436,000 White prison inmates. Prisonpolicy.org reported in 2010 that 2,306 Blacks per 100,000 population are incarcerated. This is nearly twice as many as the next ethnic group. The Sentencing Projectand numerous other criminological research projects have identified educational outcomes as one of the individual level factors in the disparity in the incarceration rates by race. When you watch documentaries like Prison State and Behind Bars and Inmates Out of Control and even when you watch reality television shows like Lockup, Girls Incarcerated and COPS there are some overriding characteristics that inmates and arrestees have in common. The most glaring characteristic is they all seem to have a room temperature IQ on a cold day. 

So, what have we done to try to curb this wave of gun violence? One approach has been gun buyback programs. Gun buybacks have been in use for at least 40 years. The theory is that if guns are taken off of the street, then gun violence will end. An editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer (09/01/2022) reviewed the buyback program in that city. The 16 buybacks in Philadelphia in 2021 netted 558 handguns and 110 long guns. During the first half of 2022, Philadelphia has experienced an 8% increase in shootings. The editorial further explained that of the more than 1,000 guns turned in during the past three years, not one was linked to a crime. 

The Bureau of Economic Research (05/2021) concluded that “Gun buyback programs (GBPs), which use public funds to purchase civilians’ privately-owned firearms, aim to reduce gun violence. However, next to nothing is known about their effects on firearm-related crime or deaths. Using data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, we find no evidence that GBP’s reduce gun crime. We can rule out decreases in firearm-related crime of greater than 1.3 percent during the year following a buyback. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, we also find no evidence that GBP’s reduce suicides or homicides where a firearm was involved.” This study examined 339 buybacks in 277 cities and 110 counties nation-wide between 1991 and 2015. Clearly, the study concluded that these buyback programs have no significant effect on crime. Further, this study reported that there was a 7.7% INCREASE in gun crimes in these cities the two months immediately following the buyback. 

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have some iteration of an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), more commonly known as Red Flag Laws. A Red Flag Law allows for an individual to petition the court to remove firearms from the home of someone who the petitioner believes may present a danger to themselves or others. This petition is reviewed by the court and a judge decides, based on state law, if the petition to remove the firearms should be granted. Firearms may be removed from the individual for up to a year. Each state’s law sets the rules for who can start the petition process. In some jurisdictions law enforcement or a family member may start the process. In some jurisdictions, neighbors, a physician, a teacher, or other interested parties may also start the process. 

Just how effective are Red Flag Laws? Historically, Red Flag Laws are used rarely. PBS Newshour (09/02/2022) published an article Indicating that since 2020, Chicago, had 8,500 shooting which resulted in 1,800 deaths and the Red Flag Law was used four times. New Mexico had nearly 600 homicides (presumably all by gun) and the Red Flag Law was used eight times. Massachusetts had nearly 300 homicides and their Red Flag Law was used 12 times. City-journal.org reported that in New York, “in 2018, before the red flag law was enacted, the number of shooting victims in New York City was at its lowest since 2002. Two years later, the city saw almost 1,000 more shootings than the year the red flag law took effect. The number of shooting victims in 2020 more than doubled. One would have to go back many decades to have even a chance at finding a year in which the city’s gun violence rose so dramatically.”  WSKG (08/05/2022) reported that New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a directive to the New York State Police to, “automatically invoke the state’s red flag laws and ask a judge for an order to temporarily seize the guns or other weapons of anyone they think might be a threat to themselves or others.” State Police Superintendent Kevin Bruen said, “It’s not possible for me to tell you a specific case of something that didn’t happen because we did this, but I know in my heart of hearts we have stopped specific tragedies from happening because we took action.” Clearly, there are a multitude of factors that cause crime rates to fluctuate. NYPD posted crime statistics for August 2022. These statistics indicate that the homicide rate in New York City has taken a dramatic decrease over August 2021. This drop could be due to the Red Flag Law, or it could be due to NYPD reinstituting the street crimes unit which was disbanded in 2020 as a result of a Mayoral change. 

In the last couple years, the murder rates in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and about any other metro area you can name have gone up. That being said, these murders still occur in very small areas within these cities.  James Q. Wilson, in 1983, proposed his broken window theory which suggests that visible signs of crimeanti-social behavior and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. This is not a difficult concept to understand, nor is it difficult to verify. The town where you live, unless you are the mega-rich, have areas where the crime rate is higher. These are generally low socio-economic areas with high unemployment, high drop-out rates, and offer little hope for the residents to escape this environment. These areas also tend to be inhabited by underrepresented segments of our society. Not surprisingly, these areas also have high murder rates. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention published findings that suggest that “Blacks had significantly lower educational attainment and home ownership and almost twice the proportion of households living below the poverty level and unemployed than whites in all age groups.” So, the fact that 58% of the murders in this country are perpetrated by less than 7% of the population should not be unexpected. 

The question is, what do we do about it? It is readily apparent that gun control does not work. New York, California, and Illinois had the strictest gun control laws in the country and they also had the highest murder rates in the country.  There is no statistical data the suggests that Red Flag Laws reduce gun crimes. Even the Superintendent of the New York State Police could not confirm one case where this law kept a gun crime from being committed. We know what does not work. How about we try something new!!

How about we fix the K-12 education system in this country? How about have high school graduates who can actually read, write, cognitively think, have a conversation? How about when a student graduates from high school, that student actually has a skill that will produce a living income? How about we make available an alternative track for high school students other than college? What I am about to suggest is not a reflection on the dedicated professionals who work in our schools. Without them, the outcomes would be substantially worse. However, WSWS.Org reported that in the first four months of 2022 there were nearly a half a million resignations from public K-12 education.  There has to be a reason for this. I have talked with numerous teachers in various regions in this country and their major complaint is the excess workload that has nothing to do with teaching. I have heard that as much as 60% of what they do during the day has nothing to do with teaching. It is about prepping for standardized testing and making sure that a metric is met for state and federal funding. They further explained that they cannot introduce anything outside the curriculum, which may improve student learning outcomes, because their classroom focus should be on the standardized tests. It seems to me that once government, at any level, got involved in education the student learning outcomes started to drop. 

It you want to learn first-hand what your typical high school graduate has to offer and have some fun, go into a convenience store and make a purchase. When the clerk rings it up, give the clerk a bill that is larger than the purchase. When the clerk rings in the bill amount and looks at how much change you are to get back, put down a couple coins. Watch the fun. I actually had a clerk tell me I gave her too much money. She could not figure out much change I should get back. This is a sad thing, but not uncommon. I used to teach at a university. I actually had students that expected a college class to be conducted like a high school class, where the teacher does all of the work and the student gets a C or higher. This was typical across all of my entry level classes and for a lot of years. It did seem to get progressively worse toward the end of my teaching career. 

Let’s look at some starting salaries as reported by Forbes for 2022.

Arts and Humanities$42,000 Plumber$43,000
Social Sciences49,000Construction MGT51,000
STEM60,000Heavy Equip Operator57,000
Teaching39,000Auto Mechanic46,000

There does not appear to a significant difference in the starting salaries between the college graduates and the entry-level tradespersons. So why does it seem like high schools focus on preparing students to go to college? Could it be because high school teachers, high school administrators, guidance counselors, and high school administrators are all college graduates? It there an educational bias? It seems to me that if a high school can afford to focus four years students’ education preparing them for college, they should provide the same outcome to prepare them for a lucrative trade. 

I was on the criminal justice program advisory board for a career college in Cincinnati. This school had a construction management program. Inside their building construction management students were taught to frame of a house. The plumbing students plumbed the house, electrical students ran the wiring, and HVAC students put in the heating and air conditioning. At the end of two-year program, these students had an employable skill. Why have we not put these types of programs in our high schools? Why are we adverse to opening avenues for high school students who either do not want to go to college or cannot afford college to get a marketable skill set? 

It seems to me that if we really want to address the violent crime in this country, we go to where the violent crime is happening. Problem solving is a funny thing. Particularly within the confines of the federal government. One could make the argument that our governments approach to problem solving is to put a band-aid on the symptoms then pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Addressing the violent crime issue is going to require more than putting a band-aid on it and saying, “Look what we did!!” 

For Sale: The United States of America; Or More Accurately the United States Congress!

Does our government represent the people? The 108th Congress of the United States (June 20, 2003) identified our form of government as, “a federal, representative, democratic republic, an indivisible union of 50 sovereign States.” The 108th Congress further elucidated stating, “Along with the constitutional responsibilities which accompany citizenship, such as obeying laws and paying taxes, the citizen is afforded a wide range of rights and opportunities to influence the making of public policy by the Government.” (Emphasis added). Was and is this really the case or was the 108th Congress so out of touch with how they actually function that they believed this? Or were they just lying to the American people? 

A study conducted by Gilens and Page (2014) examined nearly 2000 public opinion surveys and compared the results of these polls with policies that became law. They compared what the public wanted to what the government did. This study found that the opinions of 90% of Americans have essentially no effect on laws passed. To quote their findings, “…the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” (Emphasis added). Economic elites, which include the mega-rich, and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent influence on U.S. government policy, while the average citizens have little or no independent influence. 

Let’s look at some examples. The pharmaceuticals and health products industry, in 2020, spent about $306 million on lobbying. In 2021, special interests spent $3.73 billion on lobby efforts; $1 billion were spent on business, finance, insurance, and real estate lobbyists; $480 million on communications and electronics lobbyists; $300 million on energy and natural resource lobbyists; $255 million on transportation lobbyists; $150 million on agribusiness lobbyists; and $118 million on defense lobbyists, just to identify a few. 

Money wins elections. It’s that simple. Ninety percent of the time, the candidate with the most money wins. Two-thirds of political donations come from 0.2% of Americans and members of Congress spend 30% to 70% of their time fundraising. In 2014, to win a U.S. Senate seat, a candidate had to raise $14,351 every single day. Just .05% of Americans donate more than $10,00 in any election. What this means is, of the 168 million registered voters in 2020, 8.4 million would have donated more than $10,000. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the candidates got the rest of their campaign money. 

According to Represent.US, over a 5-year period, the 200 most politically active companies in the U.S. spent $5.8 billion influencing Congress while reaping a $4.4 trillion windfall in taxpayer support. 

Let us put this in perspective today. What is the most divisive and most highly politicized issue today? GUN CONTROL!!  What you have here are pro-gun politicians on the right who frame their position in the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution and anti-gun politicians on the left who frame their position on public safety concerns. What will decide this issue, the Supreme Court not withstanding, is which side can generate the most dollars to buy the most politicians. 

Maybe the Gettysburg Address should be updated to read, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the politicians, buy the people and for special interests shall not parish from this earth”.

To see a visual summary of the Gilens study, follow the link: 

Gilens, M., & Page, B. (2014). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, 12(3), 564-581.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The United States Supreme Court, on June 2, 2022, ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that there was no longer a Constitutional protection to a woman’s right to an abortion. This overturned Roe v. Wade (1973). While this is not a discussion on the efficacy of abortion, it is a discussion on the judicial process as it relates to the United States Supreme Court.

We have seen media coverage of the demonstrations and events that followed the Dobbs decision. One headline read, “in 48 hours of protest, thousands of Americans cry out for abortion rights” (Vox.com). The Washington Post headlined, “Abortion protests continue after Supreme Court Ends Roe v. Wade” (06/25/2022). The national news media has covered demonstrations is Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and numerous other cities throughout the U.S. One incident that made national news was the arrest of an armed suspect outside the residence of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Kavanaugh was also forced to flee a Washington D.C. restaurant through the back door to avoid protesters. USA Today reported that on 07/19/2022, seventeen members of Congress were arrested in an abortion rights protest near the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. These are just a few examples of the more high-profile responses to the Dobbs decision.

A couple questions arise from the Supreme Court’s change of direction, “Is a change of course of the United States Supreme Court unprecedented”? And “Is the response to this change of course unprecedented?” History suggests the answer to both questions is No!

According to the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court has reversed itself 232 times since 1810. This averages out to about one reversal a year. Capital punishment is one example where the Supreme Court has changed directions on a couple of occasions, both changes occurred in a relatively short period of time. Capital punishment had been legally practiced in the United States from a time before the birth of this nation. The Supreme Court ruled (Furman v. Georgia, 1972) capital punishment violated the Eight Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) of the Constitution. Four years later, the Supreme Court reversed and again legalized capital punishment, stating it was not cruel and unusual punishment (Gregg v. Georgia, 1976).

The Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation by applying the “separate but equal” doctrine. This ruling stated that separate treatment did not imply the inferiority of African Americans and, in short, segregation did not in itself constitute unlawful discrimination. The Supreme court reversed itself when, in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) the Court ruled unanimously that a separate but equal policy of educational facilities for racial minorities violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The essence of Brown struck down racial segregation in public schools.

The public response to Brown and the desegregation that followed are akin to the current response to Dobbs. In March of 1956, 101 of 128 Southern congressmen signed “The Southern Manifesto,” denouncing the Brown decision. There is news footage and historical photographs of federal troops escorting [Black] students as they attempt to integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. There is news footage and historical photographs of Alabama Governor George Wallace attempting to block integration at the University of Alabama in 1963.

What we are experiencing today in not unprecedented. People in this country have protested for their likes and protested for their dislikes since before the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party (1773) was a demonstration against taxation without representation. It is incumbent upon the citizens of these United States to voice their concerns to their elected officials. History demands that the citizenry voice their concerns. History demands that the citizenry act.

The Supreme Court did not state in Dobbs that abortions were illegal. The Court merely stated that there is no constitutional right to an abortion. What the Court did was transfer the abortion issue back to the states. This is not unprecedented. This is exactly what the Court did with capital punishment. Each state is free to determine its position on capital punishment just as each can now determine their positions on abortion.

The job of the United States Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution. The Court addresses current issues by interpreting and applying the principles of the Constitution. So, was the Supreme Court wrong in its ruling in Plessy? Was the Court wrong in Brown? Was the Court wrong in Roe? The answer to these questions is NO. The court was no more wrong in its interpretations of these cases than it is wrong in Dobbs. The reason the Court is not wrong is the Court interpreted the Constitution based on the facts presented and not on what a portion of the public sentiment may express. Saying the Supreme Court was wrong because one is pro- abortion is like saying a driver was not speeding because the speed limit was too low.

To have elected officials in this country, including the President of the United States, openly state that the Supreme Court was wrong is a clear demonstration that these elected officials have no idea how the Judicial branch of the United States government works. To my knowledge, the President nor any of these members of Congress who have been vocal since the publication of Dobbs, are constitutional scholars. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court ARE constitutional scholars. They did the job they were appointed to do.

Why Defunding the Police is a Good Idea (& Other Collateral Issues)

I know defunding the police is a sensitive issue. I also believe that my criminal justice friends and acquaintances will think I have lost my ever-loving mind. I just hope they read past the title.

Defunding the police “seems” to be a national movement as a result of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. I use the word “seems” because when one watches the national news, it “seems” that this movement is a nationwide phenomenon. The Guardian reports that amid the Black Lives Matter movement, “a dozen local governments have moved to reduce their police budgets by more than $1.4 billion, marking a significant shift in American politics”. Multiple media outlets have referenced Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington D.C. as cities that are defunding their police. 

NPR reports the Chicago PD investigated 750 homicides in 2020, an increase of more that 50% over 2019. Los Angeles had a 30% increase in homicides and New York City had a nearly 40% increase. The National Police Support Fund reports Minneapolis had a 60% increase in homicides in 2020. Atlanta experienced 157 homicides, the highest number in 20 years. Now, is this increase related to Covid-19? Possibly. Is it coincidental that the homicide rates have increased in cities that have defunded the police? Maybe. 

The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that nearly 50% of the federal prison population has been incarcerated for a drug related offense.  Statistics on state incarceration rates vary a little. The Prison Policy Initiative published data that suggests that 191,000 of the 1.3 million state prison inmates are there for drug convictions. The Initiative also suggests that 713,000 state prison inmates are there for violent crimes. What this data does not differentiate is how many of these violent crime convictions were the result of drug-related activity. 

I had the privilege of attending several presentations by Dr. Odel Owens when he was the medical examiner for Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Ohio. Dr. Owens investigated ALL deaths in Hamilton County. The conclusion Dr. Owens presented to the audience was that if a person was not involved in the drug trade they would not be murdered in Hamilton Count. This is a very telling statement.  

The FBI (2018) published data that reflects there were 3,315 White victims of murder perpetrated by 2,677 White offenders. In other words, 81% of these murders were White on White. This same report reflects there were 2,925 Black victims of murder perpetrated by 2,600 Black offenders. In other words, 89% of these murders were Black on Black. 

Scientific American (2018) and The Guardian (2017) published articles linking murders to socioeconomic status. Both articles concluded that when inequality, particularly income inequality, “is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status- like a good job and the ability to support a family- matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.” These findings seem to be confirmed every night on your local news. When the families of murder suspects are interviewed, a consistent theme is the lack of respect. 

Protection 1 (2015) concluded that, “violent metro areas share similar economic hardships. In addition to murder rates that are five to 13 times the national average, these cities have lower incomes, higher poverty rates, and higher unemployment rates than the rest of the country.” This also suggests that these areas have high school drop-out rates and very low employability rates. 

The knee jerk response from the policing community and others is that defunding the police will result in a surge in violent crimes. While the murder rates have increased very recently, other violent crimes and non-violent crimes have been decreasing. There is not a national movement to defund the police. This is a figment of the news media pundits’ collective imaginations. Cities, counties and states are still hiring officers. Major cities have had and are continuing to have a very difficult time attracting quality police recruits. It should be no surprise that the “defund the police” cities are not only having a difficult time retaining officers, but also a difficult time recruiting officers, a phenomenon which has increased exponentially since the “defund the police” movement began.

So, for my conspiracy theory readers, here is why we should actively support the “defund the police” movements in these cities. Murders in these cities are increasing. The people getting killed and those doing the killing are                     low-socioeconomic-status individuals– generally below the poverty line– are uneducated, and either actively or peripherally involved with drugs. They collect welfare, unemployment, food stamps, government housing subsidies, free medical care and are essentially a drain on the public coffers. When these cities continue to defund the police, the police presence in these areas will be minimized, resulting in a continued increase in murders. Stupid people will be killing stupid people, thus increasing our collective IQ’s. Poor people will be killing poor people, thus reducing the drain on the taxpayer-funded public coffers. Addicts will be killing addicts, thus reducing the number of drug traffickers and drug abuses.  OD’s will not be resuscitated by police officers not there. 

Charles Darwin defined natural selection as the “principle by which each slight variation [of a trait], if useful, is preserved.” By defunding the police, these cities are ensuring the non-preservation of this segment of society that is not useful. 

What Makes a Good President?

I can say with conviction that I am glad presidential politics are over for a while. Facebook has calmed down, Twitter is not so abuzz, and one can actually take a deep breath for a few days without feeling like a six-year old on the school playground. I supported Donald Trump in his first run for president, but I didn’t support him because I thought he would make a “good” president. I supported him because he was different. I thought that, as a country, we were at a time and place where different would be good. I thought that if Donald Trump did not do anything else, he may convince some “qualified” people that they, too, could win the presidency. I hoped that Donald Trump would get more people involved, get more people to the polls, maybe even get more people to take an active interest in this country’s national politics. I think my hopes were granted on some levels; however, be careful what you hope for.

After Donald Trump secured the nomination for the 2016 election, I completed a questionnaire online to volunteer in his election campaign in some way. I was contacted by a Republican organizer in Ohio, where I lived at the time, and we met to discuss what role I could play. This organizer was a mid to late 20’s female college graduate. During the course of our discussion, I asked her why she liked Donald Trump. She stated she was not sure she did, but she knew what the other side looked like, and she didn’t like what she saw. I think this comment fit a lot of us in 2016. 

One of the major social media themes at the time was that Donald Trump was not qualified to be president. This seemed to be based on the fact that he had no prior political experience. Clearly, he did not, but what does qualify someone to be president? Article II, Section I, of the United States Constitution states that, “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of the President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years Resident with the United States.” From this one can deduce that any other “qualifications” reside exclusively in the mind of the individual voter. 

If you, as an individual, believe the president should have extensive political experience, then that is one of yourrequirements. If, in fact, you believe the president should have extensive political experience, then Senators Patrick Leahy and Mitch McConnell are eminently qualified to be president. But if you are of the mindset that there should be term limits, then these same long-standing senators are eminently unqualified. Is a requirement of yours that the president should have “some” political experience? Now there is a very definitive term. Barack Obama was in congress less than one term. Was that enough? Ronald Reagan was a two-term governor of California, and Jimmy Carter was Governor of Georgia for five years. Were either of those timeframes long enough? Is it a requirement of yours that the president be a veteran? If that’s the case, FDR was not qualified to be elected president four times; and neither were Donald Trump, Barack Obama nor Bill Clinton were qualified to be president. One of the Democratic talking points about Donald Trump was that he was divorced. Is one of your requirements that the president be of good moral character? If so, this clearly disqualifies John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. There is more than ample evidence to support both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s cocaine use; should this activity be a disqualifying personal trait? Is one of your requirements that the president demonstrate sound fiscal practices? The U.S. government ran a deficit every year between 1970 and 1997, and from 1999 to 2020. This suggests that every president for the last 50 years, except Bill Clinton for one year, has not been qualified. By the way, the last time the federal budget balanced was when Bill Clinton was president even though the House and the Senate both were controlled by Republicans.  

Once you have decided what qualifications you think the president should possess, how do you determine what makes a good president? Are being “qualified” and being “good” the same thing? Academic historians and political scientists have identified Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and George Washington as the highest-rated presidents. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are often rated among the greatest in public opinion polls, but they do not make the top ten among presidential scholars and historians. The 2020 presidential election results indicate that there were in excess of 81 million voters who believed that Joe Biden would make a good President (or, maybe, that he would make a better president than Donald Trump), and there were in excess of 74 million voters who believed that Donald Trump would make a good president (again, or maybe it was that he would make a better president than Joe Biden). It just seems to me that many, if not most, voters are one-issue voters. Whether it is crime, gun control, taxes, the environment, LBGT, education or whatever, the candidate who supports their issue is qualified to be a “good” president. 

So gentle reader, the bottom line of what makes a president great is also what makes a president qualified. It is in the opinion of the beholder, and as we are all well aware, opinions are like rear ends: everybody has one, they are all different, and if it’s not yours . . . .


On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill- 3121 (AB-3121), Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. This bill authorizes the establishment of a task force to study and make recommendations on reparations for slavery. The crux of this bill stipulates that more than 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States from 1619 through 1865; slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the United States from 1789 through 1865.  As a result of slavery, African Americans continue to suffer debilitating economic, educational, and health hardships, a disproportionate representation in the federal and state prison systems, an unemployment rate nearly twice the current White unemployment rate, and an average of less than one-sixteenth the wealth of Whites.  

Reparations are understood to be compensation and other measures provided to victims of severe human rights violations by the parties responsible.  Reparations are measures taken by the state to redress gross and systematic violations of human rights law or humanitarian law through the administration of some form of compensation or restitution to the victims. Reparations are unique because they directly address the situation of the victims. Reparations, if well designed, acknowledge victims’ suffering, offer measures of redress, and provide some form of compensation for the violations suffered.  

The governments in these United States have paid reparations in the past in attempts to make victims whole. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, approximately 127,000 Japanese Americans (62% of whom were U.S. citizens) were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses and were relocated and incarcerated in concentration camps. The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been interned. Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have compensation statutes for those wrongly convicted and imprisoned. Payments range from $140.00 per day in California to $200,000 in the District of Columbia. In a majority of these states, payment is made either to the individual wrongly incarcerated or to their immediate family.  

The first indentured servants arrived in what is now the U.S. in 1617. The idea of indentured servitude was born of a need for cheap labor. Generally, indentured servants included redemptioners, victims of religious or political persecution, persons kidnapped for the purpose, convicts, and paupers. Servants typically worked for no pay for a period of four to seven years in exchange for passage, room, board, lodging and freedom dues.  While indentured servitude, per se, was not slavery, the life of the indentured was controlled by the individual with whom the indentured made the contract. These contracts could be sold, and if the indentured tried to escape the servitude, they could be forcibly returned.  The plight of the indentured servant forced them to move to the frontier when their period of servitude was over, as this was the only place they could obtain property and live free. 

In 1619 the first Black Africans came to Virginia. With no slave laws in place, they were initially treated as indentured servants and given the same opportunities for freedom as White indentured servants. However, slave laws were soon passed – in Massachusetts in 1641 and Virginia in 1661 – removing any small freedoms that might have existed for Blacks.

History tells us that the indigenous population of North America at the time of the first White settlement, Jamestown, VA in 1607, was somewhere between 50 and 60 million. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the 2020 total population of Native Americans is 6.79 million, or about 2.9% of the total population of the U.S. European colonization of what is now the United States resulted in a precipitous decline in the Native American population through the introduction of disease, warfare, ethnic cleansing, and slavery. After its formation the United States, as part of its policy of settler colonialism, perpetrated a systematic ethnic cleansing of the Native American people, and those who survived were removed from their ancestral lands and were subjected to one-sided treaties and to discriminatory government policies.  

So, why would California pass a reparations bill? California was admitted to the Union is 1850 as a Free State.  While some slave owners who brought slaves (less than 4,000) to California refused to recognize the State emancipation of slaves, numerous court cases from 1849 to 1858 routinely found in favor of the slaves, including California’s refusal to recognize the Fugitive Slave Law. This law gave the slave owner the right to seize runaway slaves and return them to the State from which they fled.  

Why did California limit the reparations bill to the decedents of African slaves? The California gold rush spanned from 1845–1855.  This brought White immigrants to California. Native Americans became the major and immediate source of labor for mining. In those 10 years the Native American population in California decreased by two-thirds. In order to craft California’s own code of labor, An Act for the Government and Protection of Indians was passed in 1850 which “legally” curtailed the rights of Native  Americans. Native American children could be seized for indenture, while convicted Native Americans could be hired out of jails as forced labor and a Native American could not testify for or against a White. From 1845-1855, 24,000 to 27,000 California Native Americans were taken as forced laborers by settlers. This included the forced labor of between 4,000 to 7,000 children.  Between 1851 and 1852, three Native American commissioners negotiated treaties with the Native Americans which resulted in eighteen treaties being written, allocating 7.5% of the State as reservations. The United States Senate rejected these treaties and in 1853 the government designated its own five reservations. These reservations had very poor living conditions and displaced many of the Indians from their native lands. 

Why did California not include the descendants of other depressed populations?  The descendants of Appalachian coal miners are still living well below the poverty levels, are undereducated, and suffer with higher than average medical compromises. The coal miners in Appalachia lived in company towns and shopped at company stores. The miners pay was even given as chits to the company store. The amounts of the chits and the cost of the goods and housing kept the miners in debt to the mining companies, which prohibited them from leaving. These conditions were not unique to Appalachia. The same types of working conditions, housing conditions, and indebtedness were experienced by laborers in the industrialized North. There have been academic discussions that suggest the living conditions of the Appalachian miners and the laborers in the industrialized North were equal to and in some case less than the conditions experienced by Southern slaves. The Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanics all suffered severe human rights violations in this country, but California did not include these populations in their reparations bill. 

Why has California not addressed the modern-day slavery that exists in these United States? An article published in 2018 estimates the number of “. . .people living in conditions of modern slavery in the United States right now is 403,000.” Kevin Bales,  co-founder of Free the Slaves, defines a slave as someone who is, “forced to work without pay under threat of violence and unable to walk away.” In today’s language, we commonly use another term in place of slavery: human trafficking.

What is the motivation for California AB 3121 and why does it only target African slaves? Are the California Governor and legislature so short sighted and narrow minded that they just failed to fully examine the issues? Is the motivation truly to make third and fourth generation descendants of Black slave’s whole?  Could it be that the California legislature focused on African slave descendants because there are 2.3 million African Americans in California as opposed to 720,000 Native Americans and it all comes down to votes? 

Why has California not addressed any of the issues outlined in AB 3121 at the state level? California posted a near all-time high graduation rate of 83 percent for the Class of 2018, but the rate of student eligible to apply for state universities did not improve, according to data released by the California Department of Education. This might suggest that the high school educational standards in California are so low as to allow 83% to graduate but are too low to allow these graduates to enter college. Data indicates that the average income in Los Angeles County is approximately $300,000 for Whites and $4,500 for Blacks. There are in excess of 150,000 homeless persons living on the streets of California and Blacks are still overrepresented in the jails and prisons in California. 

So, what is the motivation? In the last several years, California has experienced a flattening of the State population and businesses are leaving the State. For the last several years, California’s unemployment rate, Covid 19 notwithstanding, has run about 4-4.5%. With a very high cost of living and a minimum wage of $12.00 an hour, and high school graduates not being prepared to enter college, and a State deficit in excess of $54 billion, maybe California is running out of money. Could it be that California limited their reparations bill to Black African slave descendants because race relations in this country are declining and adding other oppressed groups would dilute the outcome? Could it be that California hopes the Federal Government will pick up the mantle of reparations and ease California’s financial strife?

A number of years ago, I read an interesting article about Governor George Wallace, who was the Governor of Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. Because of Governor Wallace’s stance on integration, he was vilified as a racist. The crux of the article suggested that Governor Wallace was not a racist, but he used Alabama’s integration opposition so the Federal Government would seize control of the Alabama school systems. When the Federal Government took over the school systems, the Government assumed the financial responsibility for improving Alabama schools for which the State of Alabama did not have the recourses to make the requisite improvements.  Maybe California is trying to do the same thing. Just food for thought!! 

Legislative Term Limits

I have seen numerous postings on social media during this election season that call for term limits for the US Congress. This usually happens when a long-tenured, ranking member of Congress makes a statement or proclaims an opinion that supporters of the “other” party don’t like. Then there is a hue and cry for term limits. Clearly, these ranking members have outlived their usefulness, according to some, and their age and longevity have diminished their critical thought processes to the point where they should be retired. Thus, Congress needs term limits. 

Let’s look at some longevity dates. The longest tenured member of the 116th US Senate is Patrick Leahy (D Vermont). Senator Leahy’s seniority date is January 3, 1975. He has been a continuous member of the US Senate for almost 46 years, or nearly 8 terms. The next longest tenured Senator is Chuck Grassley (R Iowa). Senator Grassley’s seniority date is January 3. 1981. He has been a continuous member of the US Senate for almost 40 years, or nearly 7 terms. Senator Grassley is followed by Senator Mitch McConnell (R Kentucky). Senator McConnell’s longevity date is January 3, 1981. He has been a continuous member of the US Senate for almost 36 years, or nearly 6 terms. Senator Richard Shelby (R Alabama) has been a continuous member of the US Senate for 5 ½ terms, followed by Diane Feinstein (D California) with nearly 4 ½ terms.  Don Young (R Alaska) is the longest tenured Representative with a seniority date of March 6, 1973. He has been a continuous member of the House for nearly 47 years, or 23 terms. Jim Sensenbrenner (R Wisconsin) has a seniority date of January 3, 1979. He has been a continuous member of the House for nearly 42 years, or 21 terms. Hal Rogers (R Kentucky) and Chris Smith (R New Jersey) both took their House seats on January 3, 1981. They have been continuous members of the House for nearly 40 years, or 20 terms. Nancy Pelosi (D California) is the Speaker of the House. She took her seat in the House January 3, 1987. She has been a continuous member of the House for 34 years, or 17 terms. 

A review of the 116th Congress shows there are 100 Senators and 436 Representatives. The average age of the Representatives at the beginning of the 116th Congress was 57.6 years; of the Senators, 62.9 years.  The average age of the newly elected Representatives to the 116th Congress was 47.9 years; of the Senators, 58.1 years. The average length of service for a Senator at the beginning of the 116th Congress was 10.1 years (1.7 Senate terms); for a Representative, 8.6 years (4.3 House terms). 

Some additional investigation reveals that, of the 100 US Senators,  Bob Menendez (D New Jersey) is the 25thranking member by seniority. He has served continuously since January 17, 2006. This means that he has served 2 1/3 terms in the US Senate. This further demonstrates that there are 75 members of the US Senate with less than 14 years of continuous service, or, three-quarters of the US Senate has served less than 2 1/3 terms. By contrast, the 25th ranking member of the House of Representatives is Joe Courtney (D Connecticut). He has served continuously since January 3, 2007. This means he has served for 13 years in the House of Representatives, or 6 1/2 terms. This indicates that there are 327 House members who have served less than 13 years. What this tells us is that 402 members of Congress (75 Senators and 327 House members) have less than 14 years of continuous service. 

I have to admit, the first name I recognized on the seniority list of Representatives was Peter DeFazio (D Oregon) at number seven, followed by Nancy Pelosi (D California) at number ten, then Maxine Waters (D California) at number nineteen. The Senate is a different story. I recognized nearly half of the top twenty Senators on the seniority list. This could be because the Senate is much more vocal than the House, with the exception of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A further reason could be because a House term is two years and a Senate term is six, making for a higher turnover rate for the House.

With 75% of House and Senate members having seniority of less than 14 years, the questions become these: Is there a need for term limits, and what should be the length of said limits? Those who are very vocal in support of term limits generally do not have a clear vision of what they believe should be the length of these term limits. They just want them. They have even less of a clear vision on how to impose term limits. They just want them. I had a brief exchange with a friend on how he proposed to enact term limits. His response was to start with electing legislators who support term limits. Think about this, each state has two US Senators, each with a six-year term. How long would it take to elect the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate to have the required votes just to move forward with a term-limit Amendment? Now think about the House with 436 Representatives. There is a process for a Constitutional Convention to amend the Constitution, but this requires two-thirds of the states (state legislatures) to support the initiative just to have the convention. Does anyone really think that a member of the US House of Representatives or the US Senate would actually vote themselves out of a job? 

My sense of things is that the people who call for term limits are doing so because they disagree with a position of a long-tenured Senator or Representative from another state. I doubt a majority of Californians have an issue with the longevity of Speaker Pelosi. If they did, she would have been voted out, as I doubt the majority of Kentuckians have an issue with Majority Leader McConnel’s longevity for the same reason. The fact of the matter is, we do have term limits in this country. They are called elections. People vote for who they believe will best represent their state at the national level. These term limits are demonstrated by the fact that the average longevity of a US Senator and a US Representative is less than 14 years. 

Why Do the Police Shoot so Many Times and Miss?

Police officers are required to qualify at least once a year with their service weapon. Generally speaking, an officer is considered qualified with a minimum score of 70%. In most states, officers who fail to qualify are suspended from duty until they pass. When the police are involved in a shooting, have you ever wondered why these qualified officers fire so many rounds yet they miss so often? Let’s examine this phenomenon. 

In the late 1980’s, police departments began a transition from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols. This transition increased police firepower from 6 rounds with a revolver to about 16 rounds depending on the make and model of the semi-automatic pistol. Over time, this has brought into focus the fact that the police miss a lot. The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) published in 2017 reported that the initial police officer involved in a shooting fired 9.7 rounds and hit the suspect 3.9 times   for a 40% accuracy rate.  A 2018 Dallas Police Department report examined 149 officer involved shootings over a 15-year period. The results suggested that officers who fired at a single suspect missed 65% of the time. In other words, more than six out of ten rounds fired by the DPD missed the suspect. According to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department from 2012-2016, officers involved in a shooting hit the suspect 33.4% of the time. The report concluded that more than six out of ten rounds fired by the LAPD missed the suspect. 

There are many factors involved in why the police shoot so many times and miss. Let us examine this using two interconnected factors: physiological responses and training. Research suggests the response time of the average adult is one-half to three-quarters of a second. What this means is that from the time the average adult perceives a threat (their brain recognizes a threat and begins to send stimulus to respond) until they begin to move in response to this stimulus (begin to turn to run, begin to reach for a weapon, etc.) one-half to three-quarters of a second passed. This same response time works in reverse. From the time the average adult recognizes a threat is over until their body begins to cease an action is also one-half to three-quarters of a second. Research further suggests that the average adult, not under the stress of a life and death situation, can fire four rounds a second from a semi-automatic pistol. This means that the time the average adult fires the first round until the fourth round is fired is approximately one second. When the requisite level of stress is added, the number of rounds per second increases. 

Let’s examine how police department training addresses these physiological responses. While these are just a very small sample, I did not find any states that had radically different qualification requirements. The State of Kansas requires officers to shoot three rounds in three seconds from three yards; three rounds in five seconds from five yards; and four rounds is ten seconds from seven yards. At twenty-five yards officers shoot five rounds in fifteen seconds. The State of Arizona requires officers to shoot three rounds from three yards in four seconds; three rounds (with a simulated malfunction clearing) in seven seconds; three rounds, magazine exchange and three rounds if fourteen seconds from fifteen yards; and three rounds in ten seconds from twenty-five yards.  The State of Alabama requires twelve rounds (six strong hand unsupported and six weak hand unsupported) in twenty-five seconds from five yards; two rounds in eight seconds and twelve rounds in twenty-five seconds from seven yards; four strings of three rounds in five seconds from fifteen yards; and twelve rounds (six standing barricade and six knelling barricade) in thirty-five seconds from twenty-five yards. The State of Ohio requires three rounds in five seconds from four feet; two rounds in the torso and one round in the head in six seconds from nine feet; four rounds (dominate hand only) in eight seconds from twelve feet; three rounds reload and three rounds from twenty feet in twelve seconds; three rounds from thirty feet in eight seconds; and two rounds from fifty feet in eight seconds. The State of Ohio also requires the qualification to be conducted during daylight hours. The State of Vermont requires three sets of two rounds fired from three yards, each two round set fired in three seconds; three sets of two rounds fired from five yards, each two round set fired in four seconds; six rounds (two strong hand and four support hand) in fifteen seconds from seven yards; six rounds in seven seconds, also from seven yards; four rounds magazine change and four more rounds in twenty-five seconds from twelve yards; four rounds in unlimited time from twenty-five yards. For full disclosure, some of these states require a flanking step, firing while retreating, the use of barricades, and other similar physical movements.  However, there seems to be a limit to the physical demands placed on the qualifying officer. 

How does all of this relate to the number of rounds fired in an officer-involved shooting and the number of misses? As the UCR published in 2017 indicated, the initial officer involved in a shooting fired 9.7 rounds. This may suggest that the initial officer involved actually fired for less than two seconds. One interpretation of this is that the officers involved used a “grip it and rip it” response to the threat.  Research supports this “grip it and rip it” theory, finding that officers rarely use the sights, looking across the top of the barrel at the suspect, and instead they pull the trigger as fast as they can. Decades of research suggest the physiological changes that occur to an officer involved in a shooting include tunnel vision, audio breakdown, reduced manual dexterity, hypervigilant (failing to recognize the threat has ceased) decision-making–and these are just the high points. This suggests that the theory behind police firearms training does not meet the reality of a shooting situation, since firearms instructors spend vast amounts of time instructing in the use of sights, grip, and trigger control. These are all needed and are required fundamentals of good pistol marksmanship. They are clearly most beneficial in a situation where the officer is behind cover and can take the time to line up a shot and take it. 

One skill generally not taught, and the one skill that is paramount in a “grip it and rip it” response, is recoil management. All of the qualification times described above give the shooter ample time to recover the recoil and fire the next round. It is very easy to do even when firing one round a second. Recoil management is not so easy, however, when firing four or five or even six rounds a second. The reality is that in close quarters officer involved shooting, this is exactly what happens.

Most of the police qualification courses and times I reviewed were nothing more than “plinking” at the target. These are skills that every Saturday afternoon shooter can successful accomplish plinking at the range. When they are finished, they can go home and feel really good about their pistol proficiency. Most of the indoor ranges I am familiar with will not allow rapid fire for safety reasons. One round a second is not considered “rapid fire.” 

Police officers don’t miss because they aren’t qualified. Police officers miss because they don’t train as if they were in a shooting situation. A flanking step or a retreating step does not provide the physiological response training to adequately perform in a shooting situation. Police officers don’t train in recoil management. There is enough time in the qualification courses to allow the officer to successfully recover from the recoil. Current police training is set up so the officer is successful. It is set up so there is minimal risk the officer won’t qualify. It is set up so the officer can continue to carry a firearm.  

So, the next time you wonder why police officers miss, go to the range, set up your target at 10 yards (30 feet) and “grip it and rip it.” See how many times you hit the X-ring. And remember, the only stress you are under is trying to hit a piece of paper that is not moving or shooting back. 

Maybe It IS Time for a Change!

Affecting change is difficult, particularly in the culture and environment of policing. Policing in America has gone through some major metamorphoses since the early 1900’s. The Political Era   (1840-1920) of policing was dominated by political corruption, graft, and bribery. Appointed by political leaders, police officers often were given the job description of carrying out the often dubious mandates of those in political office.

The Professional Model Era (1920-1970) was ushered in with the goal of centralizing police administration, improving the quality of police personnel, and removing policing from the political arena. The Wickersham Commission Report (1931) recommended that policing move away from the service-centered model and toward a law-enforcement model. Policing was to be based on well-trained, well-disciplined, and tightly organized police departments, embracing technology and incorporating a merit system for hiring and promotion.

The 1960’s and 1970’s proved to be a very challenging time for policing in America. Crime rates doubled, the Civil Rights movement began, and anti-war sentiment was prominent, as were urban riots. These events spawned the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice as well as the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Police were seen as partially responsible for the continuing high crime rates and civil unrest. The number of complaints and civil actions brought against the police skyrocketed during these decades.

The Community Policing Era (1970-2000’s) changed the focus of policing from Sgt. Joe Friday approach (“Just the facts, ma’am!”) to recognizing that embracing the public and encouraging its cooperation, could improve the effectiveness of the police department in the areas of crime control and order maintenance. This era also saw the emergence of community relations programs, citizens police academies, fear reduction programs, and D.A.R.E.

Problem-oriented policing was a spinoff of community-oriented policing. Such an approach analyzed the connections between events that on the surface may have appeared to be unrelated. It allowed officers to work with citizens and representatives from various city and state agencies to find more permanent solutions to a variety of problems that have gradually migrated to becoming a policing responsibility.

Contemporary policing strategies have brought forth several notions, including “one size fits one” policing, reassurance policing, and intelligence-led policing. Today, police utilize crime mapping and other such technology-based methodologies that have a significant effect on the prevention and investigation of crime.

These shifts in policing philosophy were implemented with the purpose of making policing more efficient and more effective, precipitating fundamental changes in how policing has been operationalized in the last 120 years. These changes were driven from two distinct camps: the judiciary and politics.

The responsibility of the judiciary is to interpret whether or not the statutes have been enforced appropriately. As judiciary changes are top-down driven (i.e., from the United State Supreme Court down to local courts), police trainers have had to adjust to these judiciary fiats.  For example, when the Supreme Court ruled on Miranda, the typical response from the policing community was that the “Miranda Warnings” would greatly impede criminal investigations. This did not turn out to be the case; nevertheless, it is reflective of how the policing community tends to resist change.

The bulk of changes in policing over time have been politically driven. Something has happened that has caused the political entities to become involved in policing. The George Floyd incident is the most recent and possibly the most consequential happening in recent history.  And now, the political influences, particularly in metropolitan areas, have stepped forward attempts to “correct” the perceived problem.

The focus of this narrative is not on the historical changes in policing, but rather to ask the questions: Why don’t the police drive the change? Where are the forward thinkers? Why do we do the same things over and over, until there occurs an event that forces change upon us?

There has been a school of thought for decades that suggests the police psychological evaluation should shift from a “select out” process to a “select in” process. Instead of having an evaluative instrument that identifies candidates who “demonstrate an abnormal psychopathy” and, hence, would be deemed unfit, why not develop an evaluative instrument based on the characteristics the community and the police department consider desirable for the type of policing that meets the community’s standard? Not all community standards are the same, so why do we tend to hire police officers from the same mold?

The Institute for Criminal Justice Training Reform reports that 36 states allow a police officer to begin working, for as long as a year, before attending the police academy. The website Trainingreform.org reports that on average, the time requirement for police basic training is 647 hours, with the range being from 408 hours (Georgia) to 1,321 hours (Connecticut). Mandatory police in-service hours average 21 per year, with a range of 6 (Alaska) to 40 being required in several states. For comparative purposes, to become a licensed barber requires 1,300 hours, which does not include varying lengths of apprenticeships and exams.

De-escalation is a hot topic for police. A training deficiency has been identified and nationally exposed by virtually every news outlet both in America and around the world. To address this issue, 13 states have initiated “de-escalation” in-service training. This preparation ranges from requiring the training with no minimum number of hours set, to one hour of training per year, to three hours of training every three years. Wouldn’t you think that learning how to de-escalate a situation like the one involving George Floyd would be of paramount importance? Yet, 37 states do not require in-service de-escalation training.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that police academies run by POST agencies and colleges/universities were more likely to use a “non-stress” training model, which is based on academic achievement, physical training, and a more relaxed and supportive instructor-trainee relationship, as opposed to a “stress” training model, based on intensive physical demands and psychological pressure. How do you teach police recruits critical thinking skills if you do not put them in situations where they have to think and respond immediately? How do you teach a police recruit to critically assess a situation and initiate a response when their training is sitting in a classroom and memorizing “Student Performance Objectives” to regurgitate on a written final exam?

In the early 1980’s, the Commonwealth of Kentucky required a Basic Academy instructor to have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, five years’ of on-the-job experience, and the completion of a 120-hour Instructor Development Course.  As of this writing, the police academy instructor requirements are a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent, a minimum of three years’ experience, and the completion of a 40-hour Instructor Development Course. So, over the past four decades, while society advances, the requirement for those charged with training the police in Kentucky has diminished. I am fairly certain that Kentucky is not the only state that such a digression has occurred.

Research has been neutral on whether or not college-educated police officers function more effectively than do officers with a high school diploma or GED, with one exception: the use of physical force. The research is clear that a police officer’s educational level is inversely related to the officer’s propensity to use physical force. What this means is that the higher the level of education a police officer has, the less likely the officer is to use physical force. One could make the argument that the critical-thinking skills learned in college makes de-escalating a potentially violent confrontation more manageable.

I used to work with a police officer who was not overly successful in high school. He graduated but not anywhere near the top of his class. I remember once when he and I responded to a domestic call. He was attempting to give some direction to the husband. When the husband did not respond as the officer wanted, the officer repeated the exact same instructions, but louder. When the husband still did not respond, the officer repeated the exact same instructions, but louder still. Apparently, the officer felt getting louder would make the husband understand the command better. After the husband again failed to respond, the officer hit him. This is clearly a lack of critical-thinking skills. While only one example, what if this happens during 1% of the police-public contacts? This would mean it’s happening approximately 3.5 million times a year.

I attended the 83rd session of the Administrative Officer’s Course at the Southern Police Institute (SPI). The education and training program was geared for police management personnel. This was at a time when Community-Oriented Policing (COP) was hitting its stride. Dr. Forrest Moss, then director of SPI, had finished a presentation outlining the benefits of COP: how will making the police more transparent to the community and how involving the community help the police be more effective and efficient, just to name a few. The basis for the presentation was how police departments could implement the COP program. At the conclusion of his presentation, I asked him if this COP program was new and for whom was it new? At this time I was the police chief in a small-town and we had been doing COP policing for years, but we did not know it. Generally, small departments look to larger departments for policing strategies. This is because it was and may still be believed that due to the sheer number of calls larger departments take, they are much better at responding to particular incidents, and smaller departments want that insight. It may be time to invert the formula, encouraging larger departments to look at how smaller departments respond. In the aftermath of George Floyd and the calls to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, one of the changes proposed was hiring social workers to take non-emergency calls. I refer you to Bulletin of Applied Criminal Justice (www.bacj.us Vol 1, No. 3) for an article written by J. Michael Ward, Police Chief in Alexandria, Kentucky. Several years ago Chief Ward initiated a program where social workers responded to non-emergency calls and the program works very well in Alexandria. This is an example of forward thinking.

It may be time for a change . . . a change in policing philosophy. It may be time for a change in how and whom we hire. It may be time for a change in how and what we train. It may be time for a change in identifying who the police should be.

Let’s encourage the forward thinkers to show themselves. Let’s get away from our comfort zone of “how we have always done” policing. Let’s finally take control of our industry before the politicians ultimately mandate what we will do and how we will do it.

While We Are Rewriting History . . .

I find it interesting that there is a need in this country to rewrite history. I understand that history is written by the victors (just ask the indigenous peoples of the United States). Their sense of history differs radically from the traditional, textbook version. That being said, the removal of Confederate monuments, the removal of Confederate battle flags, and the renaming of parks and highways in an attempt to address the issue of racism is an interesting phenomenon. A phenomenon I find very skewed.

George Washington, the once Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and first President of the United States, has a 555-foot monument erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This obelisk commemorates his profound contributions to this country. History depicts President Washington as a hero. He was a hero of the Revolutionary War, he was a hero as the first President of the United States, and he was a hero in the founding of this country. But George Washington was no hero. George Washington should be depicted for what he really was: a white supremacist, a racist, a slave owner. He owned slaves prior to the Revolutionary War, and he owned slaves during and after his presidency. Some accounts suggest he owned as many as 317 slaves. The name “Washington” should elicit a white-supremacy-oriented, racist response. Clearly, the Washington Monument needs to be demolished and his name removed from our nation’s capital.

Thomas Jefferson was the third President of the United States. The Memorial erected in his honor is a national landmark listed in the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places. The National Park Service website describes Jefferson as a “Renaissance Man.” The statue of Jefferson inside the Memorial was intended to represent the Age of Enlightenment, reflecting Jefferson’s stature as a philosopher and statesman. The architect’s intention was to synthesize Jefferson’s contributions as a statesman, architect, President, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, adviser to the Constitution and founder of the University of Virginia. However, history depicts Jefferson through a skewed lens. Thomas Jefferson, in fact, was a white supremacist and a racist. He owned more than 600 slaves, far more than any other president. DNA testing has confirmed that Jefferson also fathered numerous bi-racial children. While we are re-writing history, we surely need to demolish the Jefferson Memorial as it clearly exacerbates the racial divide in this country.

James Madison was the fourth President of the United States. He is memorialized as a hero and founding father of our country. There are numerous cities, counties, rivers and parks commemorating James Madison. Buildings were constructed in his honor. The James Madison Memorial Building is one of three United States Capitol Complex buildings that house the Library of Congress. Madison Square Garden in New York City is named in honor of James Madison. There is James Madison University, James Madison College, and the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation all bearing his name.  But let me ask you: has history depicted Madison in the proper light? Madison possessed in excess of 100 slaves. He owned slaves prior to, during, and after his Presidency.  He is the author of the “Three-Fifths Compromise,” which counted three out of every five slaves for purposes of taxation and legislative representation. This highly respected and highly regarded historical figure drafted legislation that did not count a slave as a whole person. This clearly was a demonstration of white supremacy and racism. Therefore, Madison’s name should be removed from all cities, buildings, parks, and universities because his name is an obvious manifestation of white supremacy and racism.

Arlington House, the 1,100-acre estate of Robert E. Lee, was seized by the Federal Government during the Civil War for failure to pay taxes. This occurred even though Lee’s wife, Mary Anne Custis Lee, attempted to pay the taxes on several occasions. This seizure ensured that Lee could never return to his estate. Statues of Lee have been removed in New Orleans, Richmond, and a stained-glass image of him was removed from a church in Idaho in an attempt to address suggestions of overt racism. If we follow this logic, then Arlington House and the estate are clear representations of slavery and, therefore, racism as Lee did own slaves and these slaves worked on this estate.

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, clearly needs to be eradicated as a U.S. National Memorial. It needs to be removed from the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The 1,100 acres, which were separated from Arlington House by the Government, also clearly need to be plowed under as a National Monument. It needs to be completely repurposed so as not to reflect any connection to white supremacy or racism.

If you are going to re-write history, you cannot pick and choose what parts of history you want to re-write. You cannot remove a statue of a Confederate general in the name of white supremacy and racism and let stand the monuments to our forefathers who owned slaves and used slaves in the founding of this country. If you do, you are just as racist as those about whom the statues commemorate.

Oh, by the way, Robert E. Lee’s 1,100-acre estate is Arlington National Cemetery!