“The Man’ is a term that garnered usage in the 60s as a description of law enforcement and the authoritarian practices often associated with it. For many in that volatile social era, “protect and serve” was code for “harass and detain.” Perhaps today, it’s deja vu all over again as the authority of law enforcement finds itself under increasing scrutiny and criticism.
The militarization of law enforcement and the ensuing estrangement of the general population accelerated following 9/11 but I like to point the finger to 70’s TV program ‘S.W.A.T.’ (I also blame the TV show ‘Flip this House’ for the housing bubble.) Every week, in what looked like a pimped-out UPS truck, a special police squad would race into action, thwarting hardcore evil-doers in an unidentified California city. In the early 80s there were an estimated 3,000 Special Weapons And Tactics raids per year in this country. That estimate has now climbed to 50,000, mostly involving drug-related crimes. Unfortunately, along the way there have been numerous innocent people literally “caught in the cross fire.”
I prefer the philosophy of law enforcement to be closer to Andy Taylor than to Darth Vader. Besides S.W.A.T, the 1970s also witnessed the advent of the concept of “community policing.” Pro-active practices such as developing community involvement and trust working to prevent crime rather than simply reacting to it, are core principles. A viable partnership between the community and police establishes the best environment for crime prevention and solving.
As a middle aged white male, I’m not exactly part of a demographic group that finds itself at odds with “The Man.” Locally, and on a personal level, experiences have been generally positive with law enforcement. However, a few aberrations fly contrary to the concept of good community policing such as an odd encounter last year at a late night checkpoint with a young NC State Trooper. For the first time ever, my identity as a passenger was requested. According to my wife who was driving, he thought I was a Hispanic lady. The Hispanic part is a compliment since I try to get my time in at the tanning bed, but I really don't think my hair gets that long. When I finally started to pay attention to the conversation, I asked the trooper why he was asking and then the story changed to “he thought he knew me.” Well, he didn’t know me from Adam, or should I say Adan (Spanish). His fibbing didn't exactly bolster the trust and respect that law enforcement critically needs. While this story of flawed policing is quite mild in nature, there are unfortunately many other accounts of greater severity that undermine the effectiveness of law enforcement.
As our area grows, community policing becomes more important. The town of Franklin has taken a significant step in that direction. Last month, David Adams, a 17-year veteran of the Hendersonville PD who rose to the rank of Captain over Investigations became Franklin’s new police chief. Complementing his skills and determination on the streets are his degrees in Criminal Justice and a Masters in Management and Leadership.
Adams has made a point of being visible in the community. I have served him a number of coffees and had the pleasure of insightful conversations. Certain traits of our new police chief stand out. While very personable, he commands respect, and equally important, he’ s someone you want to work with. Accessible is an adjective that fits Adams well. Make the time and meet ‘The Man,’ I think you’ll be impressed and our community will become a little bit more secure.