Jeff Sheldon: Safety issues go beyond state parks | TheUnion.com

Jeff Sheldon: Safety issues go beyond state parks

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Jeff Sheldon

Seldom do I wholly agree with Thomas Elias' writings, but his piece "How safe are state parks,", was worthy, at least, as far as it goes. I would like to add to it.

I agree our state parks are not safe, but most everywhere in our country is virtually unprotected. Yes, when one calls 911, the police do come out, but usually, after the bad guy is long gone and the crime already perpetrated. As a retired policeman and supervisor from long ago, I have witnessed the purposed disembowelment of our nation's law enforcement over the last three decades.

When I started my career in 1969, police officers prided themselves in proactive police work, aggressively pursuing the bad guys, as opposed to sitting back in their black and whites, handling radio calls and little else, causing no problems for themselves or management. Both scenarios have their own unique and problematic results and are equated.

Aggressive, proactive police work often results in the use of force, which is very distasteful to some folks. But that is the nature of the beast; real bad guys seldom voluntarily go to jail. Unfortunately, some folks do not wish to acknowledge use of force as a necessary part of the scenario. These are people who have never "been in the arena," or "sheep." That is not a derogatory term, it is meant to describe a protected group. With an unpopular use of force many of the sheep become mad at the very people who have been protecting them, the police, or "sheep dogs."

Yes, a lack of money and police officers, as you so cited, is a problem and will result in our being unprotected, to a degree. But more important is how our police officers are dealt with and supported.

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If the use of force is visually and publicly unpleasant then there is notorious public outcry usually orchestrated by a political effort. I acknowledge that there are incidents wherein the police officer does use excessive or inappropriate force. But those cases are so very infrequent when compared to the millions ofpolice contacts and uses of force each year. And they are dealt with.

If the, again often orchestrated, outcry is loud enough, police and political managers are then forced to step in. Now we have a serious conflict as police managers are often in place due to their political prowess and political managers due to their ability to get elected. Kind of birds of a feather. What comes next is dependent on the credibility, honesty and leadership abilities of the police and political managers.

If the sheep dog's use of force was both disgustingly vile but necessary and legal, the police and political managers, depending on their makeup, must decide to back up the sheep dogs and anger their electorate or throw the sheep dogs under the bus, sucking up to their electorate.

The bus throwing tactic results in incidents like Freddie Gray in Baltimore, wherein six sheep dogs were sacrificed by the police and political managers, but later exonerated by their peers, their lives and careers in ruins. Or in the case of Rodney King, where in a number of sheep dogs were sacrificed, two of them sent to the state prison. No matter how vile the Rodney King incident may appear to the sheep, those officers were not equipped, policy wise, to deal with an enraged, drugged, monster criminal.

Who should have gone to jail over Rodney King? The LAPD managers who failed their officers, both in use of force policy and leadership. Remember those officers were exonerated by a jury of their peers. And I challenge any of you sheep to have done better with the maniacal, drugged monster.

So now to my point, Mr. Elias. Yes, a lack of money and police officers, as you so cited, is a problem and will result in our being unprotected, to a degree. But more important is how our police officers are dealt with and supported.

If the sheep dog feels he will be supported by the upper levels when he honestly and rightfully goes after the wolf, no matter how vile and bloody the fight may be, he will go after that wolf with vengeance as that is what the breed is about.

But if he is not supported, when he is right, he will sit back and watch and wait till the dust settles, and, unfortunately, it will be the sheep who suffer!

We need our sheep dogs more than ever. People like you, Mr. Elias, in your and other's editorial positions, can provide exponential support to our American sheep dogs, providing you have the grit in a probable, unpopular journey.

Jeff Sheldon lives in Grass Valley.

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