Opinion — Why policing matters
When we drive a little fast and see blue lights, it is easy to question why we have so many police officers. However, that is not the reason that we have law enforcement. We have officers to protect the lives of our families, homes and businesses.
How It All Started
Once upon a time, we lived by the laws of the jungle. The strongest and most powerful ruled the roost. By sheer force, they decided for all. As we developed into more civilized societies, governments were established. Most governments have evolved with formal laws as to what is best for all to be treated fairly. To enforce those laws, it was necessary to have law enforcement officers to prevent the evil among us from harming or stealing from others. They cannot stop all crime, but the fear of arrest deters some who might be tempted to do harm. This is a part of civilized societies. We should be thankful to those who perform these services for us.
Our Current Situation
Some elected in the last four years believe law enforcement officers are the enemy. That has allowed drug dealers and thugs to demand that police be defunded and, in some cases, disbanded. In Portland, Oregon, the mayor was the cheerleader for defunding as vandals were setting fires to buildings. In Richmond, the mayor joined street demonstrations until they attacked his residence. This is happening all over America.
Governor Northam and his party, that now control both the House and Senate as well as all departments of state government, are no wiser than the mayor of Portland. They have already passed laws that handcuff officers who are trying to protect us. If they are still in the majority after the November elections, they will do more harm. Currently, officers are concerned that they will be criticized for stopping the wrong person. One bill that everyone should be concerned about is a proposal that would allow someone to sue an officer for an arrest. Currently, they can sue the locality or the department, but not the officer directly. Changing this immunity will put the officer’s home and life savings at risk. Even if the arrest was handled perfectly correctly and the officer wins, his defense costs will deplete his savings. Voters must elect those who will fight this.
Understanding the animosity of some lawmakers to law enforcement, officers at every level, state, county, city and town, are demoralized. The State Police is losing troopers faster than replacements can be trained. Some are retiring rather than waiting to see what happens next. Others are going to less stressful jobs, many of which are now paying salaries better than law enforcement. We are over 350 troopers short, which is more than a quarter of the force.
Many localities are suffering a shortage of officers of up to 30%. The worst of those in our communities, the drug dealers and predators, are well aware of that. Murder rates in cities are already starting to break past records. Four of the top 10 murder locations in Virginia are in or adjacent to the 15th Senate District. Many of those deaths occur because of turf wars between those dealers. However, often, as we have seen in the national news, the victims are innocent bystanders.
Murder increases are not the only problem. The drug users often prey on the weakest and elderly to steal from for drug money.
Governor Northam, and his predecessor Terry McAuliffe, gave patronage jobs to political cronies who were more focused on the guilty rather than the victims or their families. In the last year, there has been story after story about murderers released from prison. They followed neither policy nor the common decency to alert communities or families that those murderers were returning to the community.
That is only part of the story. Many others who were convicted of crimes as evil as rape were released on parole. The former chairman of the Virginia Parole Board, who was appointed by then Governor McAuliffe, not only released many from prison but also from parole office supervision. Supervision geared to watch their actions to prevent them from returning to criminal activities.
This election, you will decide whether you want Virginia to be civilized or uncivilized.
Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.