It It Ain’t Broke…Change It Till Its Broke?


December 1, 2014 by JImbo

All respect due to General Powell, but I disagree. If something is working, why is it essential to change it until it IS broken? Just to have something to “fix?”

I’m sorry sir, but to use another old saying “That dog won’t hunt.”

Maybe it makes sense to change just for the sake of change if you’re an officer in the Pentagon, a politician in Washington, or a know-nothing out of college who is long on ideas and short on experience.

Only an idiot finds things to change that are WORKING. We have a world full of things that AREN’T working and you try to focus on the ones that ARE to find something to change?

Let’s be clear… there ARE times when things can be improved. However, PROVE IT TO ME FIRST. Don’t just change because it’s trendy or because you want a cool new program to play with.

That’s how we got the Beret and ACU uniform with the useless “camouflage.” Solving problems that did NOT need to be “solved.”

Why do I bring this up now? Well, because the attempts to “solve” our urban crime problems have MADE THEM WORSE!

Instead of looking at where we came from and what we need to get back to a more civilized time… we instead are told to throw out EVERYTHING from our past altogether and change….simply because change is “better.”

No, change is not better. It’s change. It is neither good nor bad of itself. It all depends on if it works better or not.

Holding “change” up as some solution is like saying “old is better.” I’m not saying that. It would be crazy to say that we had it better off crapping in outhouses and dying of diseases without medicine at 30 years old.

We shouldn’t run from change, but neither should we idolize it. Sometimes it’s an AWFUL idea. We need to judge by results and what makes life BETTER, not what is “new.”

As that saying goes… “Love and marriage are not always a horse and carriage.”

Well, “New and Improved” don’t always go together either.

Consider the theme of the month… Ferguson and the “racist police” yadda yadda yadda. The solution on one side is “We need black cops. White cops are racist.” The other side basically says “Shut up and stop complaining.”

If they could step back off their soap boxes, perhaps we could admit there IS a problem. And there is a solution that doesn’t violate our American principles.

Let me be blunt here. It’s inherently racist to demand “black cops for black neighborhoods.” That is racist. Period.

It is the DEFINITION of racism.

Hiring someone based on their race? You don’t GET more racist than that.

On a practical level no neighborhood is truly 100% anything. White, black, hispanic, gay, rich, poor, whatever. People just aren’t THAT neatly organized. So, if anyone in the neighborhood is singled out they won’t “resemble” SOMEONE in that community. It’s not only immoral to say “hire black cops.” It’s unconstitutional and IMPOSSIBLE to address the very issue you’re complaining about.

MY solution? Glad you asked.

Community based policing.

Replace “black cop” with “LOCAL COP.” Most jurisdictions have laws on the books that require local cops to live in the city they work in. However, not in the specific neighborhood and not for more than the first year or two.

After that initial period (living in a nicer area of the city surely), they get to move way out into the suburbs. After all, that’s the American Dream isn’t it? White picket fence? Two car garage? 2.3 children?

It’s bullcrap. The result is self-segregation. It’s not based on race. It’s not even based entirely on money (although cops do make enough to live in some relatively nice areas.) It’s about simply BEING A NEIGHBOR.

In the “olden days” cops tended to live on the streets they policed. If you are hiring cops that LIVE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, they will automatically reflect that neighborhood. You don’t have to specify a “black cop” or a “gay cop”… they will simply be whatever is in the neighborhood.

They will shop in that neighborhood. They will mow their lawn in that neighborhood. You do NOT screw with the people in your neighborhood. They are your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. You treat them like human beings, not like prisoners or mental patients.

THAT is what is missing in the modern dynamic. It’s that the police are often LITERALLY outsiders. They live up to 45 minutes away from where they work. They “go home” and forget about “those people.” It’s not racist. It’s simply how human beings work. Separated that much geographically, they are not IN their neighborhood they are not PART of the neighborhoods they patrol.

That is key.

Practically it is important. It takes an hour to respond to an incident in your “work neighborhood.” If you live in the city, then you are always around… a constant presence.. and APPROACHABLE.

(Another reason why I’m for getting rid of some of those surplus squad cars and putting people on foot…in teams. It’s very ineffective to have one cop on patrol in a car. You drive around, not stopping, are hard to approach and if anything happens have to request backup, escalating a simple discussion into an “incident.”)

We ran into these issues in Iraq. However, it goes back farther than that. Even back in Vietnam we had to win the “hearts and minds” of the locals.

The best way…the way that was PROVEN EFFECTIVE was the “Combined Action Program” (C.A.P)

Combined Action Program Great Success in Vietnam

Combined Action Program Used in Iraq

Essentially it’s just what I described… only on a military level. The troops don’t live in the locals’ homes, but they do live near the town in a combined unit with local militia. The American troops act as the leadership and with assets (radios, artillery, etc) but the locals form the bulk of the unit.

You use the locals’ contacts and relationships to connect with the people in the community. People will defend their own communities. That’s where we often screwed up in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan… assuming that people gave a crap about the bigger picture.

They don’t.

Civilians care about THEIR neighborhood. Bringing in “allied troops” won’t work. It HAS to be locals from that area. It has to be the people defending their OWN HOMES AND FAMILIES.

And the presence (military or police) has to be constant. It has to be people living IN that community. It has to be a local base in that village, or a local police substation in that neighborhood. It has to be approachable.

In fact, the trend in policing has been the OPPOSITE. It’s also logically predictable.

As the police move OUT of the neighborhoods, crime goes up. As crime goes up and the locals feel abandoned, they stop helping the police. Crime goes up more.

Once crime reaches a certain point, the police “militarize” and start carrying around assault weapons and body armor. Once the locals start seeing them as “outsiders”, then they themselves start to see themselves as “invaders” or “prison guards.” Then it all goes to hell and it’s no longer a neighborhood. It’s a battleground.

The way to fight this is to reverse the process. Go back to basics. Do what we tried to do (with varying degrees of success.)


Stop all the heavy weapons, armored vehicles and SWAT team/infantry assaults. Stop the no-knock raids in the middle of the night. Start Respecting the law and citizens.


Get out of the damned cars. Go out on foot and talk to people. Don’t act afraid of the people. Be ONE of the people. Just because you have a badge doesn’t mean you aren’t human. Act it.


More a substation in. I don’t care what it costs. The cost of all that crime is higher. Invite locals in to be part of every activity.

In fact, have integrated squads. Pair your people up with locals from the citizenry. They aren’t cops, but they’re good liaisons with the people. They know what the cops don’t, and while it sounds bad… the cops really NEED an “interpreter” to provide social cues and interpret hidden meanings and slang. It really can be almost like another language sometimes…especially for a cop who has been living 45 minutes away for the past 20 years on the force.


Mandate that cops needs to live in the communities they work in. Or at least very nearby (as in… a few blocks away or within the next precinct over.) No excuses.

You can grandfather existing cops in, but ALL new cops should be in the new system. The cry will go out that “we won’t get the best cops.” Yeah? Best by whose standard? The highest score on a paper test? Or the best guy for the job? I’m not convinced they’re the same thing.

I’ll take a local guy I can trust and loves the community rather than some paper genius who could care less about people. Again, it’s not about racism or anything like that. It’s simple geographic and cultural awareness. You have to be personally invested in something to care about it. You can’t be ordered to care, or be paid to care. Living there, you HAVE to care because that’s where your FAMILY is.

I’ll be the first to admit… no I’m not a cop.

I am in the fire department however. The local VOLUNTEER Fire Dept. We’re required to live in the district or the next one over. It’s practical and it pays off in personal investment in the community. When we need something, the community responds because we live IN the community. We ARE the community.

I worked in Downtown Rochester for years, with city government, police, planners, store owners, workers, residents and visitors. It was fun, but it just showed how different programs can have a tremendous impact. And I could tell from a glance when neighborhoods had cops in them that worked and lived there. It was very obvious. You could see the difference between cops in a car and cops on foot, engaging the locals and being part of the community.

I also saw how we did things overseas. Again, I wasn’t a cop or a regular foot patrol guy. However, I went out quite a bit and met some locals. Our approach was the “community” one because we were National Guard. We were citizens 90% of the time, so as “Weekend Warriors” we WERE civilians mostly.

hence, we related to the locals as civilians. There wasn’t a huge wall between us. More than we’d like at times, but you’d be surprised how forthcoming the locals can be if they think you’re there to help them and will keep your work.

I lost track of the times we were told about weapons hidden in a school by angry parents or a principal. Or terrorists floating in the river because they pissed off the wrong neighborhood/community leader. They take family and tribe seriously there. They may not have loved us, but the terrorists (foreigners too, often from far off parts of the world) would be even more strange. And they didn’t try to convince the locals to help, they tried to intimidate them.

Bad move, Jihad Joe.

Anyway, my point is that I’ve seen a lot of what works and what doesn’t. I’d LOVE to see this stuff tried in Rochester, or NYC or Ferguson. However, I just don’t see it happening. We keep getting farther and farther away.

In fact, the latest proposals involve further downsizing and “consolidating” offices again to further reduce the local neighborhood presence of cops. Put them even more in cars and even more mobile. Possibly eliminating the neighborhoods system. Even calling in State Police for lots of calls.

That is only going to lead to more violence and crime. Even requiring “more black cops” (as immoral and racist as that would be) doesn’t solve the problem if THEY TOO move to the suburbs. The answer can’t be top-down. It has to come from the streets.


2 thoughts on “It It Ain’t Broke…Change It Till Its Broke?

  1. Pat Russell says:

    Mich, much to ponder.


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