March 2011 letters to the editor E-mail

Keeping fit while on patrol

Thanks for running my article on keeping fit while on patrol. Below is a description of the stretches you can do while working.
1. Wheel stretch: sit in driver's seat; hold both arms directly in front of you gripping the stirring; keeping back straight, turn wheel to the right while leaning your head slightly to the left; repeat on other side.  This is a stretch that will help deter the side effects of writing or utilizing your computer in your cruiser.

2. Spotlight Pull: stand with right side bladed towards the spotlight; with your arm fully extended, place open palm on the spotlight closest to the window,  push your shoulder forward slightly and feel the stretch to the front part of your shoulder an area your vest usually rests.

3. Crash Bar Stretch: Stand directly in front of your cruiser with your back towards it; raise your right leg backwards, bending at the knee and finally placing the toe part of your boot on the crash bar.   Lean back and feel the stretch in your quads and hamstrings.  For a further challenge, create a wider stance and a lunge position, lunge 10 times balancing on the left leg.  Repeat on other side. These stretches will keep your legs limber and assist you in foot chases. -Karla C. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Confronting police suicides

Thank you for running the article by Gary Delagnes last month on police suicides. Here in San Francisco we have had three of our fellow officers take their own lives in the last year and each death creates a terrible sense of loss and pain.

I cannot even begin to imagine the devastation and grief engulfing their immediate families and friends of these three individuals. The deep sense of sadness and loss are often coupled with feelings of anger, anguish, fear, doubt and concern. Suicide is a short-term solution that leads to lifetime of grief and sadness for those left behind. Many of those closest to the suicide victim will forever be questioning himself or herself, wondering if they had done enough to prevent such a loss.

The national average of police suicides number approximately 300 in a year. There are many barriers that discourage troubled cops from seeking help for themselves. First of all, we consider ourselves to be the caretakers. People come to us for help, not the other way around. We are trained to be strong, resourceful, and resilient. We are trained to "man up" and deal with chaos. We are trained to discipline ourselves not to show weakness or emotions out on the street when things are going to hell.

We are taught and cautioned to "keep it together" and "move on." We can sometimes lose our own sense of humanity after witnessing man's inhumanity to man day after day and year after year. It is absolutely amazing the amount of sadness, anger, fear and despair we encounter over the years of our careers and even more amazing how we keep all that crap inside of us.

We have not been very good at being able to confront these feelings and often turn to unhealthy substances to get us through the pain or the daily rigors of surviving the trails and tribulations of this job. We don't want to be seen as "nosey" or intrusive into fellow officers' personal lives. There is also the fear among cops that if they seek help for a rather sensitive issue that the administration will learn about it and they will now have a "jacket" as being a "nut" or "unstable," or a person that "needs to be watched" or, even worse, they will have their star and gun taken away and sent away to "Siberia" or to the "rubber gun squad" never to be heard from again.

Cops fear they may lose their jobs if their bosses or the police administration learn about their situation. We often hear that our jobs and the madness related to it, coupled with substance abuse, stress, poor health, and all the other negative features in our lives, is a recipe for disaster, especially when you consider the access we have to guns and the opportunity to use them at a point of utter despair. In the San Francisco P.D. the Behavioral Science Unit is doing its best to address the private and sensitive concerns of our members in a professional, responsible, and respectful manner.

We have an outstanding PEER Support program within the department comprised of almost 300 members who are specially trained by professionals to listen and to communicate with our members and offer resources of help and hope. We also have a top notch Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) that responds care and assist members who themselves have been involved in a critical incident such as an officer involved shooting, an officer injured, etc.

We respond to such scenes to offer support and encouragement to those members and attend to their needs. We see them through the incident and do post incident follow-ups to check on their well-being. For those of you in other agencies, please remember that help and hope are often just a telephone call away. If working together we can save the life of even one of our fellow officers, then all of efforts will be incredibly worthwhile. Please take care of yourselves and  please take care of each other.

Our lives depend on it. I will leave you with one of poet John Donne's greatest meditations. It is absolutely an appropriate passage with which to close this discussion. "No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." - John Donne -Kevin Martin San Francisco Police Dept. San Francisco Police Officers Association

When I look at the badge . . .

My name is Jim Harris. I have been a part time officer for the Ashdown Police Department and a part time deputy for the Little River County Sheriff's Department, both in Arkansas. At present, I am a part time Deputy Marshal for the Foreman, Arkansas Marshal's Office. I enjoy expressing myself through writing. Recently I was  inspired to put down on paper my feelings when I put on my uniform and look at my badge.

When I look at the badge .  . . I am reminded that I am a servant of the people, that "To Serve And Protect" is more than just a motto. It is the duty to which I am committed. I am reminded of the oath I took as an officer. In that oath, I pledged myself to honesty, integrity, and faithfulness in performing my duty. When I look at the badge . . . I am reminded of my promise to enforce the laws of my state and my country without prejudice or favoritism and my responsibility to be an example of obedience to those laws to others.

I realize that I am representing something bigger than myself. It is not about me but about the many I represent and the multitudes that are dependent upon us. When I look at the badge . . . I get a sense of pride that I am part of a kinship that has as its purpose the betterment of our society and the protection of our fellow citizens. This pride does not cause me to raise myself above others but humbles me at the awesome task I face. I am reminded of brother and sister officers who, in the performance of their duty, have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the defense of others. When I look at the badge . . . I wear it with a sense of dignity and pray that I will never disgrace it or the many who wear it with me. - Jim Harris


The blame game

Editor's note: This blog post was sent to us by a subscriber to American Police Beat. This posting and the comments that follow about the Camden, New Jersey layoffs, give law enforcement a good idea of the change in attitudes they are facing from the public when it comes to their pay and benefits.

I assume that the Camden police know a thing or two about fighting crime. Their union, however, sure doesn't know much about basic economics. How else to explain the union's refusal last month tot take a deduction in police salaries in order to save the jobs of 100 officers.

Such a restoration would undo much of the cuts to the police force enacted when more than 160 officers were laid off. The reduction, affecting nearly everyone hired in the past 12 years, leaves about 200 officers on the job. The reduction thus cuts the police force nearly in half.

About a third of the city's firefighters were also laid off, as were many other city workers. The police pay cut would have come in the form of unpaid furloughs. Police officers would keep their jobs, but lose a certain number of days a month as unpaid days off. Factoring in those unpaid days, their annual salary would decrease. Both the mayor and the police union head agree that such reductions would allow 100 officers to be brought back.

But union officials said the membership voted 300 to 1 against taking the cut in salary. Let's forget for a moment that a few extra days off a month, even if unpaid, is not a bad perk. In a high-stress job such as law enforcement, getting some extra time to chill - or be with the family - doesn't seem like such a bad thing. And for those who absolutely must work 40 hours a week or more, there must be part-time jobs with which to make up those extra hours. But the union's refusal to take, in effect, a cut in police salaries to save jobs shows a lack of basic knowledge about economics.

Consider. If gas prices are artificially raised, for example, people will cut down on some trips, and purchase less gas. Similarly, if the Camden police union insists that the city "purchase" officers at full price - a 40-hour work week, at full salary - then the city consequently must limit the number of officers it can "purchase." The result is great for those police officers with jobs, because they are paid above what they would otherwise make. But the result is bad for the city, which must make do with fewer cops.

In Camden, as in most cities, the labor union representing the police has raised the "price" of police officers far above the market rate with the average salary, before benefits, has is now $77,000 a yearWe can't be sure what the market rate is, but surely many qualified people currently not employed would be willing to join the Camden police for less. If the police union was willing to reduce all salaries to the market rate, the city would then be willing to hire more officers.

But the police union has resisted this sensible economic step. That has put the city in an impossible economic situation. The city collects only $21 million in local taxes on a $138 million budget. The state provides much of the remainder, but the city still falls $26.5 million short. So at current police salaries, and with the city's limited budget, the city cannot afford as many officers.

At a press conference, there was agreement on base salaries, but not on how much extra each police officer costs the city because of insurance and other benefits. Mayor Dana Redd said that benefits bring the annual cost of each officer to $140,000, nearly double the base salary. John Williamson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 1, disputed that figure.

At the same time, police officers were hoping to get a court to trump economics. Unions representing both officers and higher-ups argued that the Civil Service Commission did not follow all the required procedures before it okayed the layoffs. A Superior Court judge was having none of it. He told the attorneys to take their complaints to the commission, or to an appeals court. Meanwhile, Camden's mayor said she will try to raise additional money by making an appeal to Trenton. But Gov. Chris Christie said he was not inclined to turn the taxpayers into an "open checkbook."

Responses to blog post: $140K per year, per cop is dumb. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost, and the damage will be horrific. Politicians accepted $2500 to vote for million dollar raises, while arbitrators just kept raising the salary bar. The pensions are impossible to maintain, if the younger generation is to have any decent standard of living. The final slap in the face from our public pensioners is when they go to a lower tax state and take their pension money with them.

The only answer is for Camden to go bankrupt, so a judge can re-arrange everything. Then, provisions for states like NJ, NYS and CA to voluntarily go bankrupt have to be implemented, if our young are to have any future. Meanwhile, the National Guard will be needed in Camden to limit violent crime. The innocent citizenry shouldn't have to pay with their blood for the greed of others fleeing with the public purse.

Don't give them an inch, unions. You could give them every concession they ask for and they'll still treat you like crap and the angry little people here would still be calling you every vile name under the sun.

I almost hope they try to eliminate teacher tenure just to see the empty schools when teachers strike on a massive scale (if they don't, then they deserve whatever they have coming).

One of my big complaints in all these lay off cases is that the cuts come from police, fire and sanitation. There are departments that have a big impact on the quality of life of the citizens. I never hear that the mayors office in any of the cities/towns is making any serious cuts to its personnel. In Newark, Booker defended keeping an aide, who is already getting an inflated pension, when making cuts to police/fire and sanitation. What is wrong with these mayors? Don't they care about what is best for their citizens, except during elections.

Shocked and angry

Everyone at the Los Angeles Police Protective League has reacted with shock and anger upon learning that there was no gunman in the shooting incident involving Los Angeles Unified School District Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos who claimed he was shot in the chest in late January after confronting a suspect attempting to break into cars near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills.

The law enforcement community is disgusted upon learning that Mr. Stenroos filed a false police report and apparently may have shot himself.  His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours including thousands of innocent school children.

While Mr. Stenroos is a disgrace to the badge, his individual and dangerous actions should not reflect on the hard working men and women in law enforcement. On behalf of all of us in law enforcement, we want to apologize to the public that a police officer would intentionally betray all of our trust.  If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars." - Paul M. Weber, President Los Angeles Police Protective www.LAPD.com


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