September 2011 letters to the editor E-mail

Dangers of prescription drugs

I read the article in the April issue of American Police Beat entitled "Pill Mills." I feel this article fell short in that you did not discuss programs such as "Painfully Obvious." This unique program encourages health care providers to speak with parents and kids about the dangers of prescription drub abuse. Rather than have a Police Officer, who can be intimidating, make the presentation, a health care professional such as a physician, pharmacist or nurse can provide watered down version of the pharmacology of these drugs.

I was recruited by several police officer friends to provide a session with kids and parents. After spending time discussing the dangers of "Pharm Parties" and "Skitteling," Imoved over and discussed "Dusting" or "Huffing" as well as Robotripping." I look forward to sending a more detailed article about these dangers.

- Steven Gewirtz, RPh. Pharmacist Brooklyn, New York

Taking on TASER critics

"Near-perfect rate strains credibility," was our local newspaper's headline regarding the Cleveland Police Department's reviews on the use of Tasers by their police officers. Officers reported that in only five of the times out of the 969 times Tasers were deployed was their use considered inappropriate. I would like to ask the police expert who was quoted in that headline to let us know what number of misuses of the Taser he thinks is appropriate.

When that number goes up is when the department and the community should start getting seriously concerned. If the misuse rate was at 80 percent, there would have been 193 inappropriate uses of Tasers and that would lead to marches on city hall or even worse, riots in the streets. Law enforcement agencies use electronic control devices to help prevent injuries to the officers and subjects they encounter.

Throughout the country Tasers have been deployed with great success and have no doubt prevented serious injury and loss of life. Use of force decisions can happen very quickly and there is often little time to deliberate.  Many times the officer is alone and may be facing multiple assailants.  Unfortunately, there is not always a bold bright line on when and what level of force is exactly appropriate.  There are many variables that can include factors like the size of the person to the lighting conditions around the officer.

Evaluating a use of force situation is not always easy as that line can sometimes seem blurry and those doing the reviewing may come to different conclusions. It's been my observation that officers who abuse their powers and use excessive force will eventually be fired or prosecuted. Many times it will be fellow officers who report their violations.  But it is important that officers are not apprehensive about defending themselves.

Second guessing in situations where seconds count could cost the officer his or her life. Holding police officers accountable is important and the newspapers' efforts of examining and evaluating their use of force actions have merit.  But it is important to recognize that cops who commit crimes or misuse force are not always indicative of systemic problems within their agency.

- Lt. Tom Wetzel

"Secure Communities" has deep flaws

The Immigration Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced initial changes to its controversial under fire jail fingerprinting program known as "Secure Communities" or S-COMM.  It also announced the creation of an advisory committee to review the program and propose additional changes. Although the program was originally designed to identify and deport undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes, ICE's own numbers show that 60% of those being deported through S-COMM have not been convicted of any crime, or been charged with low-level offenses like traffic violations.

These statistics have raised serious concerns across the country about the impact this program is having on the relationship between police and immigrants.  When immigrants become fearful that contact with local police could lead to deportation, it's a fact that they stop reporting crimes. While S-COMM is slated to be in place in every jail and correctional facility across the country by 2013, many communities have begun to remove themselves from the program out of concern for its impact on public safety.  In recent weeks, governors from Illinois, New York and Massachusetts have requested removal or suspension from the controversial program and California has legislation in progress to make major modifications to their S-COMM agreement with ICE.

Other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., have also requested removal from     We've been down this road before.  After federal auditors and inspectors found similar problems with the 287(g) program, the government failed to implement needed reforms.  This time, the government has to make good on its promise and reform this program fundamentally. This is serious business for community policing and local law enforcement.

We simply cannot police and protect a community that won't talk to us.  287(g) and Secure Communities have harmed our relationship with the immigrant community, and the damage needs to be undone. In my view, the only way this program can be improved and the relationship between police and the community saved is by limiting Secure Communities to individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes.

DHS must also clarify to state and local police that they do not have the 'inherent authority' to enforce civil immigration laws. Law enforcement does not like to criticize the federal government or programs that are supposed to ensure public safety.  We are speaking up now because this program, like 287(g), has failed, and it needs to be reformed. - Chief Arturo Venegas (Ret.) Project Director,  LEEI


Whereas the issue of Secure Communities relates to illegal immigration across the United States, if abused, this program may subject residents of largely Hispanic cities to more government inquiries simply because of the Hispanic composition of that city.  It is for that reason that I support the creation of an advisory committee to study current and future application of this program.

-Chief Victor Rodriguez McAllen, Texas Police Dept.

Looking for info

If any of you know of any instances where an officer was involved in an accident because they were using a cell phone or computer while they were driving their police vehicle, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you. Please email me at address below.

-Terry Gallagher, Executive Director Ohio PBA This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Disturbing group of stories

I found several stories in the July 2011 edition of American Police Beat to have a disturbing theme, namely "Paper terrorism directed at LE," "Courts give police more power," and "SCOTUS says no warrant required for police entry if evidence is being destroyed."  These stories basically praised the increasing powers of government and more disturbingly, demonized anyone who dares to disagree.

The term "sovereign citizen" was used several times.  This is the new pejorative used to describe anyone who is for limited government, has libertarian-leading views or supports the Second Amendment.  One page 22, a classic association technique was used by stating that these people who have been labeled "sovereign citizens' are "out there looking to kill cops."

Please don't fall into this growing agenda of taking millions of liberty loving Americans and linking them to a few dozen nut cases scattered about the county. In the past few years, I've seen a growing trend during many Homeland Security training seminars I have attended that use this same technique. In my home state, the Missouri Information Analysis Center established a watch list for suspected domestic terrorists.

Upon examining the criteria for being placed on that list, I would dare say most police officers would qualify as a domestic terrorist.  The paranoia being promoted by some of our elected leaders against the average American should be rejected by our law enforcement community. I've been in law enforcement since 1993 and I can't believe the radical changes occurring before my eyes.

We have a judge ruling that TSA agents should conduct searches at high school proms.  We have SWAT teams raiding Amish dairy farmers for selling milk.  We are placing people on terrorist watch lists based on which political candidate they endorse with a bumper sticker.  We consider anyone who studies the Constitution to be some type of subversive. The recent court decisions that are eroding what is left of the 4th Amendment is nothing to celebrate.

In the past few years, we seem to have completely abandoned community-oriented policing in favor of a militant form of complete social control that will only lead to resentment and fear.  It is not in our best interest to resemble some type of occupying force that seizes control of every aspect of life.  Many of us have used the phrase "if you act like a criminal, I'm going to treat you like a criminal."

Well, if we as police officers act like oppressors, we will be viewed and treated like oppressors by our community. We took an oath to defend the Constitution and to protect the liberties of our community.  We are ultimately servants of the people, not robotic agents of the government.  If we continue to demonize those who fear the constant erosion of individual freedom and liberty, we have no one but ourselves to blame when the public turns against us.

- Shawn J Westbrooks Law Enforcement Instructor Three Rivers College Poplar Bluff, MO This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

editor's note: The term "sovereign citizen," is not a pejorative used to denegrate freedom loving Americans. It is in fact the term some anti-government extremists use to define themselves. At American Police Beat, we take our responsibility to report on all threats to the lives and safety of the nation's peace officers very seriously- regardless of their race, religion, politics or world view.

Done with APB

First off let me say I previously subscribed to your magazine and really enjoyed it, but your publication has drastically changed. I, like most federal agents that I work with, are strong conservatives and I will no longer read what appears to be a pro-union publication. Do you really think bashing Republicans and whining about pensions makes me want to read APB? It seemed like half the articles in the June issue were complaining about pensions and Republicans. You just lost a loyal reader.

-Jeffrey Hoffman

More on Brave Hearts

Brave Hearts is, by far, the best book ever written about what it really means to be a law enforcement officer - the highs, lows and everything in between. The author, Cynthia Brown,  has been able to get her 15 people profiled to express themselves with honesty and heart about every aspect of the job.

-Ben Miller New York City


WOW! What great stories about NYC's Finest. It is very easy to forget sometimes that law enforcement officials are real people with private lives and families. I walked away from this book with an entirely different perspective on what drives someone to a career in this challenging field -  a strong desire to help people, courage to step forward and get involved, the need to make a difference in their neighborhood or city. While the instinct to run away from danger or trouble is innate, some are compelled to run towards it.

To throw in and try to help others that need saving. This book helps you realize that these people feel the same emotions as you or I. At times they are afraid. They have children and spouses at home they love and want to see again. Yet they are willing to risk all when called upon to do so.

The press often vilifies these very same people or seeks to portray them in a negative light to appease the public's desire for scandal and sensationalistic news. This book sheds light on the often overlooked men and women that take the time to make the world a better place.

Ordinary people, who every day are called upon to do extraordinary things, as part of their "job". This book is a fantastic monument to those heroes.

-H. Smith

*******Brave Hearts is an extraordinary book. Thanks for bringing these stories to a wide audience.

-Kevin Shanley Director of Planning and Research (Ret.) Tampa, FL Police Dept.

********* I just finished reading Brave Hearts. The book was awesome, I did not think the amount of respect I had for NYPD could be any greater, until I read this masterpiece. I highly recommend it to everyone in law enforcement.

- Scott Thomson, Chief Camden, New Jersey P.D.

They love their new chief

Here in San Francisco, our new chief, Greg Suhr, is truly the choice of the rank-and-file and it is now time for all sworn personnel to validate his selection as chief by working as hard as we can and being as professional as he is. Chief Suhr understands that the only way to promote the Department and keep the respect of the rank and file is to do your time on the streets and learn the job from those who came before you.

-Gary Delagnes, President San Francisco Police Officers Association

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