Saturday, May 31, 2008

Police Focusing too Much on Minor Crimes

I recently read an interesting article in the UK about how law enforcement were focusing too much on minor crimes, just to meet a quota. The same thing is happening here in the US. Officers are on a rampage, stopping, writing tickets, and sometimes arresting individuals over minor offenses at a pace that of approximately one every 10 minutes. How did I arrive at this number? By watching our fine officers perform their duty of protecting and serving.

Police often choose to tackle "trivial" offences instead of serious crimes to help them meet government targets, a right-wing think tank has said.

I was doing some local shopping today, paying a few bills, and running errands that needed to be done, all the time watching not only local law enforcement, but Highway Patrol officers, stopping individuals at a record pace. It is known that it takes an officer an average of 15 minutes for each stop he performs, but not recently. Just one block from leaving my house. I encounter one officer out of his car writing a ticket to a lady. Before I made it to the stop sign at the corner, I saw the officer pull away and hit his lights on another victim.

Police forces, and the government, risked alienating the public by concentrating on "easy-to-deal-with offending" like speeding.

Just a couple more blocks away, I watched as an officer whip around in the road in front of me and went after someone else. A little farther down, I see a highway patrolman pulling a woman over. I drove just a couple more blocks, near O’ Riley’s Auto Parts store, and saw a man pulled over with two police cars ‘assisting’ him with a ticket or two. And I’m not even a mile away from my house!!!

Arresting or fining a normally law-abiding person for a minor offence was a good way of achieving this target and pleasing those higher up.

I pick up some food from Sonic as I’m watching the officers, one of them finally leave and immediately hit the lights on someone else. Totally time driving through town, I watched as over 15 people were stopped and giving tickets. Time...less than one hour.

The pamphlet, written by journalist Harriet Sergeant, said many officers were expected to complete a certain number of "sanction detections" a month, either by charging, cautioning or fining an offender, and are offered performance-related pay bonuses.

"In order to meet targets, police are now classifying incidents as crimes that would previously have been dealt with informally, classified differently or ignored," said the pamphlet.

One officer was quoted as saying he warned his teenage son to take extra care at the end of the month when police were looking to fill their quota.

"Complaints against the police have risen, with much of the increase coming from law-abiding, middle-class, middle-aged and retired people who no longer feel that the police are on their side."

The author recommended the problem be tackled by removing targets and that a new local tax should pay for policing.

Officer Warren Knight Accused Of Assaulting Family Member

A Norwich police officer faces assault charges, the third officer to have been arrested in the last year.

Officer Warren Knight, 45, was arrested Wednesday and charged with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct. State police said Knight turned himself to Troop E in Montville after a warrant was issued for his arrest. He is accused of assaulting a male family member.

Police said Knight, who lives on North Burnham Highway in Lisbon, was off-duty at the time of the assault.

Knight reportedly made the Norwich Police Department aware of the incident and was put on desk duty. The department will also conduct an internal investigation.

Knight isn't the first Norwich officer to get in trouble with the law. Lt. Michael Blanchette was recently charged with drug possession while in New York, and former Officer Jamie Longolucco faces multiple charges after a fight with two women at a New London apartment.

Some Norwich residents said the numerous allegations have them questioning the integrity of the police department.

"He shouldn't be doing that," Norwich resident Eric Gallegous said. "They obviously know better, especially Norwich police."

Norwich resident Ken O'Neal said the arrest has shaken his faith in the police department even further.

"Honestly, I didn't have too much faith in the Norwich police department to begin with," he said. "So, is it shaky? It makes me nervous to think that the people that we're supposed to respect to serve and protect are now assaulting their family members."

Knight was released on a promise to appear in court. He will be arraigned Thursday in New London Superior Court.