Voice from Inside the ECSO
Again the Escambia County Sheriffs Office was recently in the news. Again, it is not there for the right reasons. Again an officer is in the spotlight for an act that was destructive—what boils down to a domestic violence incident. Again the administration tries to disassociate themselves from the deputy as fast as they can.
I am not going to discuss the officer or the issue that made the news because that isn’t what I’m here to address. The thing to address is the administration response and part within this story. It is a terrible situation and none of us know the specific details. We know that it is obvious the deputy was in a psychological place that none of us would ever want to find ourselves to be. Emotional agony is difficult and all of us have had a time that has caused us to feel depressed and temporarily desperate. Not everyone makes the mistake that we know he made. Or could it be that some have just never been pushed past the point that they can control their actions?
Our agency has had many years of experience leave in the past 7 years. We have lost officers that possessed the ability to apply logic and common sense to everyday situations. It is often difficult to understand what is legal and illegal if compared to what is right and wrong. Just because a person does something that could be worded in a report as illegal doesn’t make it right to take law enforcement action. There are many times a person could be arrested because it could be articulated that a law was violated. There is more to making an arrest than that or there should be. An officer should evaluate the full scope of the situation. What are they actually seeing? Then they have the discretion to decide if an arrest is warranted, possibly a warning issued, or maybe even just a moment of human understanding, where the deputy uses common sense or compassion to not make an arrest. Deputies should first learn to use that tool before slamming down the rule of law. Balancing law enforcement with the overall good is a balancing act. We are given the discretion that allows for compassion and consideration that should be applied to a human being in a human situation. It keeps an officer from viewing individuals as simple numbers on a list. Understanding discretion means that an officer sees a person first and starts at that point to do the job that has been tasked.
Many of the officers I work with now believe the action they take is not ever a part of the equation. They simplify the matter by rationalizing that it was not any fault of their own that a person was arrested. It is the job of cops to arrest people when they violate the law. That is true to some extent. However, our first responsibility is to help people. If an arrest is being made so an officer has the numbers at the end of the month to impress our administration, then maybe not. Maybe the administration should understand that some of our best work could never be gauged by statistics measuring how many arrests we make.
Taking the time to talk to a child that interrupts you having lunch, is not measured at the end of the month. Stopping to help a person that is stranded on the side of the road is a good thing. Taking an extra minute to walk around the homeowner’s house because they were scared of a noise is reasonable. Explaining why we do take people to jail is understandable if a person wants to know. All of these acts are expected of an officer, in my opinion. None of these acts get any credit when totaling up our monthly statistics. They are not factored into any officer evaluation.
I say all of that to make a point. I am not attacking the officers doing the job. I am not attacking the way they do the job. They are doing the job the way our administration expects them to do the job. It has been said many times that our leaders have not ever been real cops. Here is the proof. Any law enforcement leader that believes an officer's worth is based on the total number of arrests made each month, is not a leader. In fact, it is more important to keep citizens from violating the law. It is much more difficult to turn a life around than it is to drive them to jail. The problem is it takes much more effort to help a person in a struggle with life than arrest them for a mistake that was made. Officers will have the chance to make more than enough arrests in their career. They should just understand that an arrest is made for a reason more than making statistics. That is where the lack of law enforcement in the ranks plays a factor. There is no encouragement to use personal judgment to evaluate the situation before making an arrest. The administration sees the world in black and white, but we all know that is not the case.
My point was recently made clear in a post that was made on Facebook. A comment was made concerning the deputy recently in the news. The poster stated that he felt the administration could have done more to stop the deputy from going too far. I do not know if that is true. It is very possible that the officer reached that point and it could not have been detected even with the best of administrations in place. Who can say? We have the administration we have and it is far from accomplished. It can be said that the issue, I believe, exists with the agency was displayed in the response from our very own Chief Eric Haines.
True to form Haines responds to the post asking several rhetorical questions that the poster could not possibly answer.
Here is his post from Facebook and Escambia Citizen’s Watch page:
Eric Haines: Tim Dorsey -- the expert in law enforcement administration. Enlighten us Tim. What's your background? What resources are offered to officers having problems? Is there random drug testing? Would it have caught this? Do you even know who this deputy is? How long they've worked there? What is their work history? What did they do at the ECSO? What do they pay Facebook LEO experts these days? You're a piece of work. Please share your wisdom with law enforcement administrators everywhere as to how to ensure officers won't make terrible life decisions.
I’d like to respond to Eric directly:
Eric,I am a cop with more than a decade of experience than you. I have worked patrol, investigations, narcotics and a couple of office jobs at the ECSO. During my career, I have told parents that their children were dead and children that their parents were dead. I have witnessed suicides and murders. I have seen children that were raped. I have seen people who have died from gunshot wounds to the head, face, back, chest, stomach, and other places if you care for me to continue. I have seen people in car crashes that were killed. Sometimes I was lucky enough to get there and hold their hand before they died so they didn’t have to feel alone when they died. I wish I could have helped them all out from the mangled cars but it just wasn’t always possible. If I continue with my background, I'll add I became a cop because I think cops are decent people and I like to help people. I really didn’t realize I wouldn’t get to help more than I have. I thought it would be much easier than it turned out to be actually.Going in order of your questions, you ask about resources. I feel more than sure the poster could never answer this question. I said at the start I have been here a decade longer than you and I have no idea. I am aware of the place we go when required after a shooting or something that it is mandatory to visit. It was always my belief that we went there to reduce agency liability. I have been for my share of visits at that place and with the contract doctor. I believe that unless I was actively murdering a person at the time I was in his office, he would not notice if there were any serious mental concerns. Why should he? He is a busy guy and has dozens of court ordered pedophiles to see after me. I guess you couldn’t expect more than that from the lowest bidder.Then you ask probably the most ignorant of your questions. Random drug testing? That wouldn’t have caught anything in this situation. The deputy does not have a drug issue. Maybe you were just spouting off because you knew the poster wouldn’t respond because you were at an advantage in this exchange.The next several question I will answer all at once. I have known him for over 25 years. He is a great guy. He was a respected officer and he had a ton of knowledge when it came to being a cop. He has proven himself as a cop on so many occasions I couldn’t count. He has done nothing in his life but be a cop. He is a man I am proud to know and proud to have worked with for many years. Find a single person to say half the things I just said about that man when describing you ………..and mean it without laughing.I don’t believe there is any pay for being an “LEO expert” on Facebook. I do believe that it is possible to fake being one at the ECSO and get paid over $100k a year. You already know that because you have had that position for a bit now. You are the only Chief Deputy in history that screwed it up so bad that they hired a second one to come in and run things. I just don’t get why they kept you around.The most telling of all of your post and how you have molested our agency is in you last line. The wisdom I would want to share is simple. Treat people like they matter. Don’t pretend you know when you don’t. Realize that it is people who are hired to fill those positions and not machines that can be programmed. Understand most that it is about choices. The choices you make on how to treat people included. That man didn’t make a “life choice”; he was emotionally weak at this point in his life. He was broken down mentally from many things I am sure. Issues that will never bother you in your life may have got to him. You will never be in that situation or feel what he feels. You believe that it is because you are so much better but that isn’t true. You will never have those feeling because you were never a cop. This is the wisdom I can pass on. Don’t ever be a good cop and you will never have to think of all the horrible things you seen being a good cop. Your mind will stay fresh and ready to judge others for something you never could do.
My point is that we have people without the good sense God gave a goat that are making evaluations of people and affecting lives through their scope of ignorance. Having LEO’s that live in a community is a must because they understand the community. Yet the ones we have don’t have the life experience to make the better choices and are not ever going to get the training from a simulator that prepares them for real life situations. When cops are slaves to arrest numbers, innocent people go to jail. When cops are under extreme pressure without the support of the brotherhood—the agency—there is no telling how that will manifest. It’s a pressure cooker situation at that point and people get shocked because cops—human beings—snap. It happens in all occupations but in this administration, at this time; it is more prominent than it has ever been. There is no sense of belonging within the agency that builds teams and support. Deputies are pitted against each other to keep them isolated and less likely to question poor leadership decisions. But this isolation from other officers may end up being the death of that cop. How can the leadership justify that?