Dave Smith: Just How Do We Do This?

The new rules being forced on police are making crime fighting extremely difficult, if not impossible.


With the “defund the police” gang slowly losing the argument around the country, as crime runs rampant and “no cash bail” reforms wreak havoc on communities nationwide, a new idiocy has raised its goofy head in the name of “police reform;” the limitations on police actions when the officer only has “reasonable suspicion” instead of “probable cause.” In other words, don’t pursue, detain, use force, or interview unless you have probable cause. For the non-police folks reading this, it means you have to tell me the ending of the story before you can read the book.

This new idea is based on no actual reality in which any law enforcement officer can function. It means a fellow walking down the street from a business with a silent alarm going off, who sees an approaching police vehicle and turns and runs, can’t be detained until the officers have: 1. Determined a crime has been committed; 2. Find evidence linking that running fellow to the crime; 3. Have enough evidence to charge that runner with the crime. Probable cause is very often what an officer has after investigating, not during an investigation. Reasonable suspicion is what guides the investigator to find evidence, suspects, additional victims, and witnesses, and leads to the determination of probable cause.

What is happening is that bureaucrats, politicians, and activists are finding new ways to hinder basic police activities. Citizens who don’t understand the day-to-day common-sense application of reasonable suspicion may not be easily persuaded that this ridiculous demand creates an undue burden on fighting crime. Worse, the effect will be increased danger to the very communities activists claim to represent, not to mention the hesitation created in the minds of officers in those critical moments of a deadly encounter when anxiety skyrockets and the intent of the suspect is ambiguous.

With officer ambushes up around 148% over last year as i write this, the one thing apparent to me is the single-minded intent of those who seek to hinder crime fighting and my sincere doubt as to their motive. What are the consequences of these types of reforms, and what social, political, and statistical data would drive this movement? How do we get the citizens of our communities to understand how absurd these restrictions are on law enforcement, and how drastically and negatively will they affect our ability to fight crime?

First, our leaders need to speak out about how wrong the restrictions are and what intervening during the commission of a crime actually requires. Probable cause is the result of, not the initiation of criminal investigations, which are often started by, and sustained by, reasonable suspicion. An officer’s use of force has traditionally been judged by what a “reasonable officer,” not an untrained civilian, would do; in the same way, reasonable suspicion is based on the common sense of the officer in the moment, without the benefit of hindsight. That is one of the key points that the citizens of this country need to understand: hindsight and foresight are not related in any way. In fact, we often misremember our perceptions in hindsight, forgetting the nonrelevant issues that we paid attention to during an event. Police are constantly in high threat, intense situations where only in retrospect (hindsight) do we know what was, and what wasn’t, a threat, an ally, a weapon, a phone, a suspect, a witness, or a victim. It is extremely difficult for humans to recall exactly what happened in a crisis; putting this additional burden on police will serve no purpose other than to further increase the lack of proactive policing, which is growing more and more common today.

In the end, the only winners in this odd social experiment being foisted on the American people are the career criminals, the gang bangers, and the extreme social activists. Speak out when you get a chance, explain these things to citizens whenever you can, write editorials, and keep faith that we will collectively come to our senses soon.

A positive note among all the negatives is that the fox show “COPS” is returning to a TV near you. It is a clue that, in this bizarre time, corporate powers are realizing that Americans love their police, and watching us do our daily activities further reinforces the difficulty of the job and reveals the mental gymnastics required to do the job well and “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs,” to quote Rudyard Kipling.

So, for all of you still on street in the fight and keeping us safe, have faith. I believe if we keep our wits, keep speaking the truth, hang tough, and never give up, we will win.

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