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Community Voices (Wack): While we’re lucky in Carroll County, police misconduct includes far more than ‘a few bad apples’ l COMMENTARY

The protests against police brutality occurring across the country in response to the longstanding abuse and murder of minorities at the hands of some law enforcement personnel have been a long time coming. White Americans are finally seeing, thanks to cell phones and social media, what Black people and other minorities have been reporting for decades.  We’re lucky here in Carroll County that our police agencies have historically been well-led and don’t engage in this behavior. However, local commentary includes two conservative talking points that merit rebuttal.

“It’s just a few bad apples,” and “the liberals want to defund the police” are the only two conservative responses you hear regarding the daily barrage of documented wrongdoing by reckless police across the country.  

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There are many factors that result in the kinds of police misconduct we’ve been seeing too often in some cities, but the main ones are leadership and culture. For sociopaths, white supremacists, and other extremists to feel like they have a free hand to assault and murder American citizens, as clearly documented on the dozens of new videos circulating every week, they have to feel empowered, by their leaders and their colleagues.

Bad cops are nothing new. They exist in a particular police department because they are allowed to. Police leaders either turn a blind eye, or worse, encourage the behavior. Fellow officers either support it, or are intimidated into silence because of “anti-snitch” culture. But the sheer volume of police brutality clearly documented, much of it coming from the same cities, makes “a few bad apples” a ridiculous conclusion based on available evidence. This is merely an attempt to minimize and deflect to avoid addressing the root causes. Conservative Republican lawyer T. Greg Douchette does excellent work collecting and sharing daily updates on social media that disprove “a few bad apples.”

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Here in Carroll, we’ve been blessed with outstanding professionals like Ken Tregoning, Jeff Spaulding, Jim DeWees, and Tom Ledwell leading our big departments through the years. Their training, integrity, and ethics create an environment that does not tolerate misbehavior in the rank and file, which then creates a culture of professionalism and high standards persisting through leadership changes.

An FBI Intelligence Assessment from Oct. 17, 2006 titled “White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement” gives a good idea of the nature and longstanding character of the national problem. Even heavily redacted, the report details the risks such infiltration poses, primarily to intelligence gathering at the local level, and the existence of multiple efforts across the country for white supremacist groups to recruit sympathetic police. A classified FBI Counterterrorism Policy Guide from April 2015, published by The Intercept, confirmed the problem continues.

Clearly, in some agencies, particularly in bigger cities, there are significant numbers of police who believe they can harass, torture, and murder citizens who are ethnic minorities. The excessive use of force against protesters looks like something you’d see from a Third World country where dictators deploy state security forces to oppress and control the population. The video evidence is indisputable.

There is also plenty of video evidence of police doing their jobs with professionalism, integrity, and compassion, serving and protecting their communities the way we all expect and require. We are fortunate this is our experience here locally the vast majority of the time.

Which leads to the second conservative talking point about “defunding the police.” Yes, some protesters have waved signs with these words, and some protesters have also engaged in stupid behavior like tearing down statues of anti-slavery heroes, as occurred in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Just because a few ignorant people say something doesn’t mean it represents an entire political party or political perspective. This is  called a “straw man argument,” propping up a fake argument, and acting like this is the point of debate, rather than address the real issues.

We have a major problem at the national level which will require significant changes in how use of force is documented, how bad cops are disciplined and held accountable, and how all police are trained, deployed, and managed. Our local law enforcement agencies are a model others can emulate, and we’re lucky to have them. Other communities deserve the same level of professionalism.

Robert Wack writes from Westminster.  He can be reached at Robert.p.wack @gmail.com.

For any member of the community who would like to submit a guest community voices column for publication consideration, it should be approximately 700 words and sent to bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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