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Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Best Move in Oregon Is To Simply Walk Away- The Sunday Collage

Please allow me to meander just a bit....

One of the great gifts of small town policing, the kind we saw in the Andy Griffith Show, was Andy's ability to resolve every situation amicably. This happens or used to happen in small town America. In my old policing days, I am not ashamed to say that often enough- drunken bar patrons would call the police station directly for a ride home and if we had time as we often did- we drove them home.

Back in those days, we didn't fear some public backlash. There was severability- which meant we were free to do our jobs as policemen without getting sued for the actions of others. That all changed in my lifetime as groups like M.A.D.D. and large award seeking lawyers found ways to sue the police and our employers, (government and thus taxpayers) for our actions. The lawyers were always looking for the most money or "deepest pockets." In the end, I won't speculate whether that was all good or bad. but it changed the way we did business and it also spelled death for policing ala Mayberry style and the places that policed in a similar fashion.

I remember being in Jackson Hole, Wy. in the early 90's once  and reading about a big debate in the local paper in which the cops were defending the practice of taking would be drunk drivers home- long after the rest of us had thrown in the towel.

The next big police controversy to take center stage were vehicle pursuits. People were getting killed needlessly over small infractions and misdemeanors all over America. It was a big deal. Ultimately pursuit policies were revised and thinking changed. Law enforcement quit engaging in frivolous pursuits. We were consistently weighing them for their ill effects and refusing to engage in pursuits if they were too dangerous.  I believe there are thousands of people alive today because police officers began to see the error in that "one size fits all" approach to pursuing drivers for every minor offense.

The point of those two illustrations is that circumstances beyond our control caused us to rethink the way we did business. We became better risk managers. We began to see the larger picture and the ill effects of our actions. Every way of resolving a situation was examined. We made better decisions.

Which brings me to the current state of affairs in Oregon. Last week, armed militia members took over an abandoned (for the winter) wildlife visitor center in a very remote and un-populated part of Oregon. The militia are protesting the treatment of a local ranching family who live near the Malheur Wildlife refuge- the Hammonds. The Hammonds have apparently been getting the worst of it for several decades as the Federal government employs it's brand of big city policing in the middle of nowhere. Here is the best, most comprehensive history of the situation- shaded a bit for the underdogs.

In the story you will see a picture of a small visitor center. This I guess, is what the militia has taken over and occupied. Big deal.

What would Andy do?

Well, let's think. Nobody has been hurt or taken hostage. There have probably been a couple of minor crimes committed, trespassing and burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, but all in all- not much of anything has really transpired. The Bundys and their supporters are responsible- they have publicly claimed responsibility thus investigating this at some future point and charging them appropriately seems pretty easy- albeit a little time consuming. What's the worst thing that can happen if law enforcement packs it up and goes home? Maybe a government building gets destroyed. Big deal. I doubt they will do that anyway.

So you know what I'm thinking?

The smart move here is to simply fold up shop and go home. Nobody gets hurt, the Bundys' will no longer have a stage with which to draw attention to this situation or their plight, and the media will conduct a few interviews and go home.  If the Bundys' and their friends break any serious laws- it will greatly damage their future credibility and subject them to the consequences.

So if this was my Mayberry, I'd tell the troops to go home. Maybe check in on things once in awhile to make sure Cliven Bundy doesn't accidentally shoot himself in the foot or poach a deer in the off season. Sooner or later they'll run out of food, energy, and passion and go home.

We'll see if the Feds can sort this out. Perhaps they will worry and speculate that leaving this mess behind will embolden other groups to take over the parking attendant jobs at Mt. Rushmore or the guard shack at the Grand Canyon where the Feds shake us down for 20 bucks. In a way, the whole thing seems pretty comical. Never under estimate the ability of government to screw things up. They can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory nearly every time.