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Warring Cops: Making Our Mission Even Tougher

Warring Cops: Making Our Mission Even Tougher

Video Screenshot

I’m sure many of my fellow law enforcement professionals watched the video carried on Fox News Channel, myfoxphilly.com and other outlets that showed neighboring Pennsylvania law enforcers at war with each other. I think all would be as embarrassed for our profession as I was.

A far cry from good community relations, the viral video makes these officers from Darby and Colwyn boroughs look like the proverbial keystone cops, and worse.

According to Fox, the incident caught on video all started when a Colwyn officer crossed the street into Darby to nab a man that had just punched a woman in the face. The officer had apparently been flagged down by the woman.

The problem (at least in the eyes of the Darby Police chief) was that it was in the neighboring Delaware County borough of Darby. While I understand the jurisdictional legal concerns that may be present, I would argue that the officer couldn’t just continue driving and ignore the woman. So he stopped to render aid and control the situation.

As the report details, the Darby Police chief came soon thereafter to the scene yelling at the Colwyn officer to get out of Darby. Incredibly, officers had to use their skills – you know, the ones they use on emotional members of the public at calls for police service – to de-escalate the police chief, but it was to no avail. Officers then had to physically intervene to stop the fight from escalating to a physical level. All of this played out in public view involving the very type of behavior that we are called to control. Incredible.

Now, I know it’s best not to believe all that is put out by the media. And I also know that sometimes events happen before the video is rolling that help to put what is seen in context. That said, the video speaks volumes of the situation. I am hard pressed to find any justification for what I saw on the tape.

The damage to officers everywhere, including those on scene, is immeasurable. This impacts all of us in a number of ways.

1) We’re in an era where budget cutters do not see police officers and firefighters as the untouchable sacred cow immune to layoffs. Witness what happened in Camden, NJ not too far from the Philadelphia area. Officers were pushed off the public payroll. The same thing happened in Newark, NJ. Incidents like this do not help bolster the fiscal health of law enforcement agencies or their employees.

2) Many people who viewed this disgraceful video have used it as fodder for their call for regionalization of law enforcement services. While the concept itself is worthy of debate, it should not be on the coattails of clearly avoidable schoolyard kid style conduct.

3) That particular area of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, is apparently rife with crime and drugs. Such displays do little to convince the beleaguered community that their police are up to the task.

4) Leadership emanates from the top. If this is the hot-tempered publicly displayed behavior of the police chief, who should be the most seasoned, rationale, and calm person on the municipal police agency, I shudder to think what some of his subordinates may have done.

5) As a defensive tactics instructor who has handled volatile calls in uniform where emotions are high, I know it is a basic tenet that you must have control of yourself before you can expect to have control of the scene. With a man in custody and a woman being treated by medics on the street, no ongoing scene safety or investigation has control or integrity while the law enforcers themselves are arguing emotionally and publicly on the scene.

6) From a national perspective, long-standing critics of the police are already pointing to this video to bolster their anti-police argument. Their contention has long been that crime fighters are just street fighters with badges. They want people to believe their skewed view of law enforcers. This video does nothing to refute their argument and does everything to bolster it. They are able to apply a broad paintbrush to the 700,000 ethical and hardworking police officers, deputy sheriffs, and state troopers in the United States based on the actions of a few.

Specifically in regard to this incident, while we can blame the video and the news media for disseminating it, the reality is that if the officers, starting with the Darby police chief, had not acted in such a manner, there would be nothing news worthy to display. The Colwyn officer should have walked away from the chief and not been baited into a confrontation.

As professionals, we need to address this conduct and identify it as not worthy of our position of trust in the community. The days of circling the wagons or sticking our head in the sand are long gone in policing. Our credibility is at stake and we need to distance ourselves from such conduct and repudiate it.

The intensely bright spotlight on isolated viral episodes, such as what transpired in Darby, are diminished if we acknowledge them as being outside the standard of professional conduct we as professionals hold ourselves to. We need to highlight the good work done by 700,000 law enforcers in the United States, and many more internationally, that gets overshadowed by the tarnished badge behavior of a few. It’s hard to get the mission done that with emotionally charged, warring police chiefs and officers out there fighting.

As I’ve told basic law enforcement academy students for a number of years, we live in an era of video technology. You should always assume that you are on camera and should act in a professional manner worthy of the oath we took and the badge we wear. In short, the conduct should be such that it that would make your mother proud. I doubt the Darby police chief’s mother would be proud of her son today.

Dr. Richard Weinblatt, “The Cop Doc,” is a former police chief, ex busy jurisdiction patrol deputy sheriff, and criminal justice educator who has written articles and provided media commentary since 1989. He can be reached via www.TheCopDoc.com.

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  • Thinker_max50

    darsavmo

    over 3 years ago

    11362 Comments

    We all need to work together as 1 and at least put on our game face and show we are together as 1 unified LE community (Federal, State, Local, etc.) and address our differences as professionals in private...

  • Hpim1329_max50

    tstanfill63

    over 3 years ago

    1508 Comments

    "Gangs of Newyork" seen the movie didn't think that kind of crap would happen in 2011. Silly

  • Munz_max50

    TheMunz

    over 3 years ago

    340 Comments

    Typical reaction of a "politician" cop .. trying to keep jobs no matter what. That is not what we are here for. The thin blue line gets thinner :(

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 3 years ago

    Law enforcement officers are human beings; they make mistakes. But still, this type of behavior isn't right. When on duty, they need to stick to their profession and follow the guidelines they're suppose to follow. Instead of working together, this breaks out? Very unprofessional.

  • On_duty_at_haems_max50

    kosherdeputy

    over 3 years ago

    8 Comments

    As a police officer in a neighboring state and a resident of PA I feel qualified to offer an opinion. The part of Delaware County depicted in the video is indeed rife with crime. It is also filled with Borough Police Departments or as many of us in the area describe them fiefdoms. Unfortunately, while PA does have minimum requirements to become a police officer the standards vary from county to county. Delaware County's standards are less stringent than in neighboring Montgomery County and don't hold a candle to what I endured in a border state. Those interested in becoming Officers in PA can shop academy to academy and pay their way through to gain the coveted ACT 120 certification to be certified as a Police Officer. The quality of officers produced by these academies therefore has great variances and can and has led to situations like what was shown in this video. A few weeks earlier local news reports trumpeted the fact that 15 currently serving Delaware County Police Officers cheated on their recertification tests leading to their automatic terminations. Unfortunately there is a mentality in PA that sort of goes like this.... "If we have more than 100 residents we need our own cop and our own fire department." This fiefdom mentality diminishes the quality of service and the level of professionalism. In reality neither of those two boroughs combined is more than a total 2 square miles.

  • 014_max50

    securetexas

    over 3 years ago

    1038 Comments

    Take it out back...There is a time and place for everything...

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    bluebrother

    over 3 years ago

    774 Comments

    All in supervision, I agree with MidnightMIke.

  • Police_car_max50

    MidnightMike

    over 3 years ago

    470 Comments

    The Darby "Police Chief" needs to step aside, so that a true professional can take over the department. That would go a long way towards diffusing this situation. If he won't step aside, the City leadership needs to take action and replace him. This person has disgraced the profession.

  • Csi_max50

    haim357

    over 3 years ago

    72 Comments

    As always I enjoy reading you Richard,

  • 063_max50

    jims4

    over 3 years ago

    2610 Comments

    And when the Darby chief calls on the radio for assistance, the Colwyn officers will be the first to respond. Fooish behavior by this cheif.

  • 1410_max50

    CITYPATROL1099

    over 3 years ago

    332 Comments

    Out of all the viral law enforcement videos, this one has clearly made me the angriest. That police chief should be sitting on the unemployment line. He is a total disgrace to law enforcement. I can count many times where I happened to be in another jurisdiction(which happens to be another state) while in uniform and was flagged down for incidents. I took whatever action was necessary and let their officer take over the scene. No one showed up and screamed at me nor try to pick a fight because I was on their turf. They gave me pats on the back and even wrote my chief in appreciation. That is how the police chief in the video should have handled it. Once again, he is a total disgrace to us.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    someday

    over 3 years ago

    26 Comments

    I understand turf animosity, I understand the Darby Cheif's amger. BUT No matter what, there is a time and a place. Good article, I hope folks will read it and recall it when they feel their tempers about to fly.

  • Old_glory_1_max50

    Jonas

    over 3 years ago

    44136 Comments

    Well written article. @ Kettenhund831 - Diaper comment, right on!!!

  • Stmaarten2_max50

    bumperdog831

    over 3 years ago

    264 Comments

    wow.....i live near that area and had no idea disputes like this actually still happened.........

  • Steveportrait_max50

    Kettenhund1954

    over 3 years ago

    12 Comments

    This is absolutely unbelievable. An officer from a neighboring jurisdiction does an outside assist to another police agency and the Chief gets outraged over "turf". How did this clown get to be Chief of Police? He need to be sent home to have his diaper changed.

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