Commentary by Richard Masterson: Police Citizens Academy, week 2


Capt. Dave Baer led this fascinating discussion that I will bet very few people have even thought of before now. I for one felt astonished that I never pondered this question before.

The police, by the way, the most visible arm of government, have the authority to arrest and use deadly force to protect folks from losing their liberty and safety. It is important that the police not abuse that authority.

Officers themselves will give note to the fact that there are those among the ranks of police officers around the country that have and continue to abuse that authority. However, citizens should be comforted to know that those who abuse are in a minority among our 765,000 police officers in this country. We, the press, in an effort to report and expose those officers who abuse power, pressuring departments to terminate an officer guilty of such, fail to help promote the good that police officers do to protect and serve us. There are not enough good stories of police officers that move us to personally thank everyone of them. Did you stop and thank a police officer in the last two weeks around town? Readers: send us selfies with your favorite police officer!

What about the history of the police? In earlier times, when villages and towns were small or just encampments, someone stood guard mostly at night, "night watchmen." Some were volunteers encouraged by the church, "parish constable." Many did not want to take their turn out of fear or not wanting to risk life as the likely first target of invaders. Wealthier folks hired someone to take their place as watchmen, you can say the profession was born at that time. In England, the first organized department, the Thames River Police, formed in 1798. The first public department was formed in England in1829 and were issued badges made of copper thus, "cops for short."

Today many officers are well-educated and are put through long training both before and after they graduate from the academy. Most police departments average 10 officers; Marco has 34, including two female officers. Fifty five percent of them are college educated with 5 percent having earned a master degree.

Next week: Marco's unique laws and the use of force.