Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Guest Blogger Larry Watts, Co-Author of Dishonored and Forgotten Writes About Policing and Minority Community

I am very concerned about race relations/police. What we see and hear everywhere is always about excessive violence, especially with African-Americans... What we see is, at a minimum, disheartening, and, in reality, scary and heartbreaking. 

I had just finished the book by Larry and Carolyn Ferrell Watts, and, based upon that story, I felt comfortable asking Larry about this major issue in America... He graciously provided the following. 

Policing Will Change and Minority Community Demands will be a Factor

by Larry Watts

Some believe the relationship between police and minorities is at an all-time low. I am not so sure. A look back at the 50's and 60's during the civil rights movement might convince one that we've been down this road before. If true, we should ask whether the tension, accusations and demonstrations then changed the relationship between police and minority citizens.

The answer is a resounding YES! Police were used for generations to keep certain people in their place. This was particularly true in the South, but it was prevalent all across America, even if not as blatant as in some of the southern
Rosa Parks
states. When those minority communities began demanding to sit up front on the bus, to eat in restaurants with whites, and to send their children to integrated schools, political leaders eventually succumbed to the pressure and the losses in courtrooms. When they did, a funny thing happened in police departments across our country. Cities began hiring more minority officers, taking complaints from those communities more seriously, and ultimately recognizing a greater duty to those segments of society.

Police officers today become frustrated because they are trained and encouraged to be enforcers of laws.  In other words, they believe they are expected to operate in real life as such former screen stars as Clint Eastwood portrayed in his several Dirty Harry movies. 
But when they shoot the bad guy in real life, often the community demonstrates, demanding the officer be fired and sent to prison. It doesn't often turn out like the movies.

What police departments should be instilling in young officers is that they're not expected to work the mean streets of the city by reacting to every crime they encounter as if it was the next Brinks armored car robbery. Some communities don't want lethal force used to apprehend a shoplifter or to endanger others by engaging in high speed chases through city streets. In fact, some communities may not want any force at all used to apprehend violators of minor laws. But to expect officers to act in a way totally contradictory to virtually all previous police training is not realistic.
  • Officers should be made aware of EXACTLY the conduct expected of them. If they are expected to retreat rather than confront an armed suspect, to take cover rather than approach that suspect, and wait for backup rather than act swiftly, all of which are legitimate but not widely accepted responses by police agencies, then it must be a significant part of officer training and publicly acknowledged.  
  • It must also be introduced as a change in culture so that officers who comply are not branded within the police community as cowards who are not to be trusted. 
  • While the demands are being made and demonstrations conducted, both police and community groups should spend some energy insisting on clear guidelines without political wiggle room for the leaders.

When all the noise, created by both minority and police communities, has subsided, there will be change in how policing is conducted and there should be. 

That's not leadership, it's simply political expediency for the purpose of placating the loudest voice, whether it be the law and order crowd or the community activists from minority communities.

But an important part of that change should be to make sure political leaders and police chiefs clearly convey the instructions to the street officers and to the public. Too often, these leaders simply stand silent as they judge the direction of the political winds after an incident, before either sacrificing the careers of officers or touting them as heroes. That's not leadership, it's simply political expediency for the purpose of placating the loudest voice, whether it be the law and order crowd or the community activists from minority communities.

After high school, I found myself in Houston, Texas, trying to make a living as an industrial painter. I soon realized that hanging from water towers and scaling 100 foot high smoke stacks was not for me. I needed to find another occupation.

At the time, ads ran on television daily, touting the great pay and adventure for young men who became Houston police officers! The pay was a whopping $400 a month. I had never considered such an occupation, but decided it was worth a try; surely I could at least make it through the training.

I spent the next 21 years giving police work a try. After that I took a job with a union that represented police officers across the State of Texas. It was about 15 years into that career that I decided I to write a book.

Finally, in 2011, my first novel, The Missing Piece, was published. It’s a story set in Austin, Texas and details the disruption in the lives of all those involved when a police officer uses a weapon in the line of duty. My second novel, Cheating Justice was published in 2012 and tells of a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife.

I have since published a book of short stories, The Park Place Rangers, and three books in the Tanner & Thibodaux series. My most recent work, Dishonored and Forgotten, published January of 2017, is a historical fiction set in Houston during the 1950’s and relates the account of Houston’s first police drug scandal.

I live on the Gulf Coast in Texas, with my wife, Carolyn, who is also a published author of parenting and children’s books. I hope you try my writing. If you enjoy it, please let me know. You can e-mail me at Larry@LarryWatts.netAll my work is available here on my website, at Amazon, and wherever good books are sold.

Thanks so much to Larry Watts for his insightful and informative article...I believe he is right...If you, do, too, please share this article... I just picked up one of Larry's early books, so you'll be hearing about his work again, sometime in the future...

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