Not long ago, one of the great cops I have ever known told me that, often, the troops on his shift at the San Francisco P D have calls that are stacked 10 deep. As a Sergeant, Adam Plantinga said it’s up to individual officers to determine, as best they can, which calls to respond to first or, quite possibly, not at all. 10 calls deep, for God’s sake.
And that’s just the start of their shift.
I’d imagine that is not an infrequent quandary for cops in busy districts and precincts in every metropolitan area of the country. By the end of their shifts, many calls just never get answered and fade away like so many fuzz balls billowing out of sight on a lovely spring day.
Then, it dawned on me how unbelievably many calls for police are total and complete bull jive.
Take, as one recent example, the games people were playing with the Newport, Oregon, P. D. where they were admonishing 911 callers that “We cannot bring you toilet paper.” “It’s hard to believe that we even have to post this,” Newport Police said on Facebook. “Do not call 911 just because you ran out of toilet paper, you will survive without our assistance.”
The department went on to suggest several alternatives…some more possible in modern times than others. Or you can do what farmers did…used corncobs or pages from the Farmer’s Almanac.
True enough, my 93 year old aunt told me that in 1930’s rural Kansas, she and her sister, my late mother, had to resort to old catalog pages from Monkey Ward to clean their behinds.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flat out surreal ’emergency’ calls for police assistance.
How about this one, the lady trying to call an ambulance because she opened a package from Amazon at home and was afraid that her kid was about to have a major allergic reaction from the packing peanuts. The kid was allergic to real peanuts and when her kid mentioned what they were called, she freaked out.
Or…”I’ve been a police 911 operator for 15 years. I’ve had someone call 911 to find out how long to smoke a brisket.”
“I’m a paramedic. Once we had a young woman call 911 around 2 a.m. saying that her legs were turning blue. Well, it turns out she had worn a new pair of skinny jeans to the club that night.”
Cops and dispatchers have known it for years, the public can be a real challenge:
<Two 911 calls>
Which is why, I’m saying here and now, the coronavirus adventures are, in my ever humble opinion, going to change policing in America… forevermore.
Because, departments from sea to shining sea, are never again going to be doing business as usual, and the coronavirus is giving police a green light to introduce what will become a new law enforcement paradigm.
From Pensacola to Portland, Oregon…Denver…Kansas City to Maine, it’s becoming not to protect and serve. It’s becoming yes, we will protect but serve okay, but up to a point.
Soon, and I am saying very soon the public will need to forego 911 calls not only because they’re pissed off about a late pizza delivery or have a bleeding wart or scab they just picked…but also for old standbys like car thefts or car break-ins not in progress…identity theft, shed burglaries, minor situations that are over and do not require collection of evidence. Granny’s stolen rocking chair from the front porch or junior’s bike from the front lawn. And, in some instances, crimes that indeed, in years past would have brought cops a running.
Such as the Philly P. D s decision to delay arrests for all non violent crimes, including narcotics offenses, theft, burglary, vandalism, prostitution, stolen cars, economic crimes such as bad checks and fraud, and any existing bench warrants. If an officer believes that releasing an offender would pose a threat to public safety, the officer will notify a supervisor who would decide whether the suspect should be held.
Or Lansing, Michigan. P D. where they will no longer send officers to larceny, malicious destruction of property or retail frauds with no suspect or evidence or where the value is under 1000 bucks, attempted B and E of unoccupied buildings, including garages and foreclosed houses. Fraud off unauthorized credit card use when the venue of the crime is outside Lansing…harassing communication’s, lost property…and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, amidst coronavirus concerns, Denver police say they could stop making arrests and instead issues summons if their staff is greatly impacted or if there are problems at the jail, i.e. coronas.
In San Jose, traditional briefings with upwards of 100 officers in the room? Gone. Now, supervisors get briefed, then they meet their officers in the field for more one on one updates.
In Maine, the Kennebec County S O announced only staff members, vendors and lawyers with clients who are appearing in court via video will now be allowed into the Kennebec County Correctional Facility in Augusta.
Work crews will be required to clean all county grounds, not just the jail.
So, the times they are a changin’ and the coronavirus has really goosed it. Cops will still be there when there are emergencies, real ones. But, the definition of ‘real emergencies’ is taking on some radical makeovers. We’d better believe it because it is in our faces. Anyone who longed for the days of old when the ‘broken windows’ theory of policing was the rage will soon have nothing but yellowing articles in dog eared scrapbooks.
Is that a good thing? The jury is still way out.
How will it work out when cops take only phone reports on low level crimes or, more likely, take them online?
If you’re Sgt. Plantinga overseeing 1/2 dozen cops on the night shift in one of San Francisco’s busiest crime district’s with calls stacked 10 deep, it’s gotta be a godsend.
If you’re one of the six or seven calls out of 10 that never get answered by a real live cop, then, it may well work the other way, right?
Who would have ever thought a region of China which no American had ever heard of until recently, would be the catapult for change we’d never before imagined?
And it’s still unfolding, isn’t it?
One thing we know for certain is that the handshake is going the way of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the kiwi. Make way, ladies and gentlemen, for the elbow bump.
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And that’s Stuff You Never Ever Learned at the Academy. Thank you for listening. I’m Ron Barber.