• author
    • Tom McMasters-Stone

    • October 3, 2015 in Columnists

    Police… Lives… MATTERS?

    That’s what the separate signs in the picture circulating on Facebook said.

    Exactly that.

    There were three police officers, each holding a sign. They were all decked out in their vests, weapons and gear, and certainly looked official. The picture started showing up soon after one of their own was assassinated at a gas station.

    I am going to believe it authentic, legitimate.

    As I write this, we are noting the 153rd anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and, sadly, we are still having this discussion after all this time. BTW, Lincoln was not the saint that some people think of — not completely. He actually favored creating a homeland for the slaves in Liberia, and shipping them back there at some point.

    So — is the grammatical error intentional or accidental? Was it done to create attention, or to poke fun at, and follow in the footsteps of, some of the more illiterate amongst those they protect, and who have adorned Facebook with some of their grammatical faux pas?

    I dunno.

    What I do know is that the police community is outraged after the heinous, cowardly killing of one of their own, and now Police Lives Matter.

    Huh. Funny. I thought they always did. In fact, all lives matter.

    Where was the police outrage over Freddie Gray? Or Michael Brown? Where was their outrage over Sandra Bland, when she was sent to jail by a misogynist cop over nothing, and ended up dead?

    Nothing. The Thin Blue Line remained mum.

    As it does every single day, when hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of police officers cross the line.

    Of course, let’s be very clear — there are hundreds of thousands of times every day where they do not cross the line. That’s what they are paid to do. And it is not just police officers — it’s some of the judges, district attorneys, parole officers and probation agents as well. Many of them are in jobs they should not have, in some cases never should have, and others just don’t care anymore.

    The lives of the thousands of juveniles that are charged as adults every single day matter, and they are being hijacked into adulthood by a system that they have no say in, get no vote in.

    The lives of those students suffering in lesser schools, often with, frankly, lesser teachers, matter very much, and, yes, in far too many cases they are predominantly minority students.

    The lives of some of the people on death row matter, especially when we routinely see people exonerated after originally being guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and yes, some of them are there because of police officer or prosecutor negligence or misconduct.

    The life of my good friend of two months matters. Despite being under constant supervision for the entire time I have been here at Skyland Ranch, my alcoholic friend tested positive for morphine.

    Everybody knows that the first thing a still-struggling alcoholic does when s/he gets some money is go out and buy drugs for the first time, bypassing the much cheaper and more easily accessible alcohol. Yeah, right. His judge decided that the test did not need to be redone, while at the same time deciding that the positive test for morphine was really positive for heroin. Three days in jail.


    He was grateful, though, that it was not 30 days, and he came back to us safe and sound.

    Those tests are not infallible, as I have seen many times, once personally. I tested positive for meth. Yup. True story. The counselor who administered the test laughed, and said he knew that was a false positive, because I showed no behavioral signs of meth. (I do love tweakers, though. Seriously. Interesting personalities early in recovery, fun to watch, and the cleanest windows and carpets you will ever see! Not only do they shampoo the wall-to-wall carpet, they shampoo the carpet pad!)

    Another example: In California, it takes an Act of Congress anymore to shut down a freeway in order to airlift a patient out to a hospital — unless it is a police officer, particularly a California Highway Patrolman.

    Nope. Police officer, drunk driver, murder suspect, or grandma and grandpa on their way home after celebrating Christmas with the kids and grandkids. Without prejudice, without judgment, solely based upon my assessment, and that of the paramedics on scene. You don’t think I wanted to fudge that anytime I saw a Maltese Cross sticker on one of the vehicles involved in the accident? Of course — but that’s not what they paid me for. ALL their lives matter, badge or not.

    Do I expect perfection from those people I have cited? Did I expect perfection from myself when I had peace officer powers for 25 of my 30 years in the fire department?


    But if you are being unethical, or even criminal, in order to pad your statistics, to help your chances of reelection, or to deprive somebody of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you have crossed the line.

    Me? Well…

    At some point, it was no longer acceptable to Mirandize suspects from memory, it had to be read from a card, one that we were all issued. There were a few times I was called out from home, and did not have my card with me. A couple of times, I simply pulled a business card out of my wallet, and pretended to read from it.

    Did I properly Mirandize them? I think so, as I know I got it 100 percent correct. If the attorney their subsequently asked them if I had read it from a card, and they said yes, so be it. If the attorney or judge had ever asked me directly if I had read from the card, I would have said no — under oath or not.

    And did I ever lie to a suspect? Of course — that’s legally allowed.

    For instance, you separate two suspects, still visible to one another, talk to one, ask him his friend’s name, and to point him out for you. The other person sees the finger-pointing. You walk over and say “Your buddy just fingered you,” and the jabbering begins, usually starting with “That son of a bitch!”

    There are some gray areas, but not planting or withholding evidence, not hiding or “forgetting” exonerating witnesses, or even witnesses that just weaken your case.

    And absolutely no undue force.

    If you are not capable of properly and proportionately going mano y mano, get into a different line of work.

    The “Black Lives Matters” discussion has even wormed its way on to the Seahawks, with Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett as disagreeing point men on, not so much where the general issues lie, but in what order things need to be addressed.

    The bottom line: All lives matter.

    And, yes, at some point, even unborn lives matter.

    As far as I am concerned, the Bible gets it wrong when it says in numerous places that life is “breathed” into a person. That’s too late. The Bible is closer to the truth in Genesis, where it says that the death of an unborn child will result in a fine as the judges determine, but the death of the mother shall result in death. Of course, anytime I quote that, or the couple other, similar quotes, I get told I am reading it wrong by the myopiates.

    Human life certainly does not begin at conception, nor on the morning after. I believe it is somewhere after three months, but beyond that, I don’t know. At some point, the rights of the mother start to disappear almost completely, in my opinion, except in extreme situations. By extreme situations, I am not referring to the fabricated “horror” stories, or even to the “I Survived Abortion” miracles the Christians are parading around the country. I am referring to legitimate medical emergencies.

    Life is precious, as well as fleeting, and a free society demands that those in positions of authority do the right thing each and every time when interfering or altering the lives of those they serve and protect.

    The goal is not 100 percent achievable, or even 90 percent — but the effort certainly is.

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