It’s pretty easy to understand nowadays why some communities want to change or reform the way they are policed.
The pendulum is swinging away from the ninja-like over-militarization of law enforcement and returning toward a peace officer mindset.
This, in my humble opinion, is a good thing and long overdue.
However, in Berkeley, the change they have planned is so outrageous and so ill conceived, the pendulum has swung completely off the damn clock. In fact, I hope they’re stocking up on body bags because they’re going to need a lot of them.
Berkeley is creating a special force of unarmed civilians to be called “crisis responders” — I would have called them “organ donors” — who will be assigned to duties that have been traditionally accomplished by sworn, armed and trained police officers.
According to published reports, one of their duties will be responding to people who are in a mental health crisis.
Make no mistake, this is one of the dumbest decisions I have ever even heard of.
Most cops know that the vast majority of folks who are experiencing a mental health crisis are nonviolent. Many simply need their medication levels adjusted, or a kind word or two from someone who cares.
However, the ones who are prone to violence can be vicious, and they’re immune from most less-than-lethal weapons like OC spray, Tasers and most defensive techniques because they don’t experience pain.
In fact, the only times I was ever hurt on the job was by an emotionally disturbed person, known in police parlance as an EDP.
I recall one restaurateur in his late 60s who went off inside his Italian eatery. He was a big man, a former masonry worker who threw us around the tight confines of his kitchen like we were pizza dough. It took four of us to get him restrained. He was strong like bull. We all were injured to some degree.
Other EDPs are fascinated with weapons — swords are a common theme. I cannot imagine what Berkeley’s unarmed finest would do with a would-be Highlander swinging a razor-sharp Katana. There will be only one.
“There may be situations where police do need to intervene, and so we need to look at all that,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin told the Associated Press.
No doubt, but by the time the armed police arrive the crisis responders will be sushi.
The other part of Berkeley’s police reform plan — the really, really stupid part — is to have the unarmed civilians enforce traffic laws. That’s right, they’re going to be making traffic stops, without guns, without years of training and experience, and without a clue.
Everyone I know who was either shot or killed had it happen during a traffic stop.
Outsiders talk about how dangerous a domestic can be, and they can be dangerous, but they’re nothing like a late night traffic stop.
Here’s the reason: You never know what you’re going to get.
The driver could simply sign the ticket and be on their merry way, or they could jump out shooting, or four people could jump out shooting. They could be drunk, high or both. They could be distraught and looking for a 9mm way out. They could have kilos of coca or a body in the trunk. They could have warrants and vowed to never be taken alive. They could be a Highlander armed with a damn katana. They could have just robbed a bank. They could be any combination of the above.
After the academy and a series of field training officers, I was fairly comfortable when I made my first traffic stop, but, in all honesty, it took several years before I was good at it — before I was tactically sound.
These poor untrained crisis responders — walking up to a stopped car with nothing but a smile — they’re going to become statistics.
California’s public policy gaffes have a history of wandering across borders and being adopted by other states.
In this case I hope Berkeley’s reforms are stopped west of the Rocky Mountains.
We don’t need that kind of foolishness over here.