Associate Magazine-Jan/Mar 2021
NOTES FROM THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION – THE LAST ONE
F B I N A A . O R G | J A N / M A R 2 0 2 1
As I view the current unrest in American society and its uncomfortable focus of policing, I have a perspective that is fading from our collective professional memory. A half-century ago, I was a spectator, a participant, and eventually a beneficiary of the law enforcement focus during the last great social revolution in the United States. A look back at those times provides some valuable lessons for law enforcement today.
W hen Lyndon B. Johnson was President, 1965, is an easy reference point for the beginning of a decade of national unrest and some major forward progress. Just a few of the symptoms of the time: a newborn civil rights movement; well- founded mistrust of government and other major institutions; the Vietnam war; campus unrest spreading to cities or vice versa; and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Radical groups targeted symbols of government and military power, including law enforcement, with demonstra- tions, bombings, and murder. The establishment pushed back. Four students were fatally shot, and many others wounded, at Kent State University by National Guard troops who were there to control protests. One defining image of policing from that time includes the beating of the late John Lewis, a voting rights marcher and later a long-serving Congressman, by helmeted state troopers. One of the Presidential commissions to arise from the rubble of this unrest was directed squarely at law enforcement, defining weaknesses and problems and proposing solutions. The final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforce- ment and Administration of Justice, entitled The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, is available online today. In 1966 I started college at an urban university. By 1969 I was certainly caught up in some of the revolutionary fever, but as a literal and figurative Boy Scout, I wanted to help change society from within rather than through destruction, bombings, and mur- der. Law enforcement seemed like an interesting and challenging way to contribute. Just like all recruits, I wanted to help people. In January of 1970 I joined a suburban Kansas City police department where, except for a couple of years serving in the Army, I spent nearly three decades, retiring in mid-1998. I was squarely in the middle of the 1965-1975 decade of upheaval and progress, much of it aimed at law enforcement.
I was an oddity in my department, and certainly would have been in many other departments at the time. I had three years of college under my belt, whereas my coworkers were older, mostly military veterans with high school diplomas or GED’s. College education was not seen as necessary or even desirable in polic- ing. They were largely good hearted, and they taught me some great lessons about taking responsibility for a community where they would never live. At the same time they could be Neander- thals. More than once my lieutenant, in the course of routine conversation, would give me a quick punch in the gut, laugh, and say “See, you’re not so smart, college boy!” By mid-March of 1970, I had completed my required three weeks of intensive police training in the state’s academy and was a certified officer. In 1974 I completed my BA and by 1977 had earned a master’s degree in criminal justice, both paid by LEEP, the Law Enforcement Education Program, a direct result of the Presidential commission. I ascended the ranks in my depart- ment, eventually serving for 17 years as Chief of Police. A look at the last paragraph sets the stage for lessons from my life and career that I see as lessons for law enforcement today. In the 20+ years since retiring, I haven’t been in a cave, living in the past and pining for the good old days – you know, when my supervisor sucker-punched me. I have remained joined at the hip with my beloved profession in both employment and volunteer pursuits without pause. I managed training and traf- fic safety programs for police and oversaw security in a bank company. I am a life member of IACP and state and local associa- tions and a proud graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 143rd session. I serve as secretary/treasurer of an NA chapter for the second time, and I am Vice Chair of the FBINAA Charitable Foun- dation. I am involved with Crime Stoppers at the local, state, and national level. continued on page 42
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