Monday, March 27, 2006

WP: Police find it hard to fill vacancies - Highlights -

WP: Police find it hard to fill vacancies - Highlights - :
"Elsewhere, departments have dropped their zero-tolerance policy on drug use and past gang association, eased restrictions on applicants with bad credit ratings, and tweaked physical requirements to make room for more female candidates or smaller male candidates, police officials said. Departments also offer crash courses in reading and remedial English for the written parts of the entrance exam, and provide strength and agility coaches for the physical part -- all of which have raised concerns about how qualified some of the new personnel will be.
"In the past, some recruitment drives have resulted in questionable hiring. In 1989 and 1990, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, seeking to quell a crime wave, mistakenly hired numerous gang members and people with substantial criminal histories and drug and credit problems. Some were later implicated in questionable police shootings."

In an otherwise fairly thorough survey of the problem, this article manages to minimize the point that there is always a great danger of corruption in police forces. We Americans like to think our own police agencies are squeaky clean - and I believe, taken as a whole, they are among the best in the world, there are always some bad apples.

It is curious that when a constable here in Pennsylvania turns out to be a crook, a pervert or otherwise unsuitable, there is always some newspaper editorial saying maybe we ought not to have this class of elected police officers anymore. After all, they are not subjected to the same background checks, competitive interviews, examinations and psychological screening as municipal and state officers.

Yet, when a municipal or state police officer turns out to be a bad egg, it never seems to occur to those editorial writers that all that bureaucratic screening may not be any more effective than asking your neighbors to vote for you.

One of my instructors in one of the numerous training sessions I attended as a constable was a lieutenant in a small city's police force where recruiting was a part of his responsibility. He told me that he had never known the psych eval to be of any use whatsoever - lots of totally unssuitable candidates came through it with flying colors.

Back to the shortage of suitable candidates. Maybe we could get by with fewer officers if we had fewer laws. How's that for a libertarian alternative?


At Mon Mar 27, 10:03:00 AM EST, Anonymous Ed Reid said...

A combination of fewer laws, clearer laws and unquestioned enforcement would go a long way to reducing the number of law enforcement officers required. The current imperative to consult an attorney, a psychiatrist and a social worker before making an arrest is ludicrous.

At Mon Mar 27, 10:35:00 AM EST, Blogger J. Keen Holland said...

It's not quite that bad, Ed. Of course, as a constable I mostly arrested people on outstanding warrants - just haul them in before a magistrate and either cut 'em loose or take them to the county prison. I could make arrests, but it was always easier to call the state or local police and let them do the paperwork.


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