Thursday, August 27, 2015


    The terrible loss of Alison Parker and Adam Ward is more tragic because of the senselessness of it. A malcontent and troubled former colleague robbed the life of two young journalists denying them a future.
     I used to hire and manage people like Parker and Ward. Those of us who worked in broadcasting can picture our own young colleagues and their families and loved ones. And we can recall versions of the accused from our own experiences.
    In reacting to the tragedy national organizations have cited the increase of violence to journalists who have become a new target of terrorists, criminals and the deranged. I know what it is to be a victim of violence intended to intimidate or stifle reporting. In two car bombings, being bound and robbed in my home, being roughed up or shot at I was doing investigative reporting. Parker and Ward were doing a light feature in a morning news cast. My attackers had a motive and were not merely unbalanced or evil. Journalists in war zones or doing investigative work are willing to take the risk. Injury or loss in those instances is still heartbreaking, but not so senseless. A San Francisco crew was robbed and pistol whipped earlier this year, simply for being on the street and reporting. 
     Too often people with gripes or vendettas go off. I don't know how that can be prevented, but there is a stain of violence in our culture and it has many faces.
trained violence
     A local case is more sinister than the all too frequent NFL thug crime report-spousal abuse, assault, murder.
     A high school senior and his parents have been given judicial approval to seek punitive damages from a well respected San Luis Obispo High School, its football coach, a former captain and his parents in a case of violence made even more disgusting by the "logic" of a couple of lawyers.
     Here's the background-In a practice last year a player bested the team captain. The suit contends an assistant coach then ridiculed the captain. The San Luis Obispo Tribune reports on the next play "the captain used his helmet to smash into" the other kid. Apparently the captain continued to smash into the other player repeatedly. The victim was diagnosed with a concussion, a brain stem stroke and sensory deficits.
     Where were the coaches and the other players? 
     After the injured boy went to the hospital, the law suit says he was bullied by the captain and others and taunted including in social media until he quit the team. 
      The high school has refused to talk to the media but the lawyers for the captain and his family say he was only playing aggressively.  They say "this type of gamesmanship is an integral and inherent part of football."
      Even more disturbing these legal aces say "football is a game that requires players to assault and battery to play the game." Let that one sink in for a moment. Required A&B. The Superior Court Judge Martin Tangerman said the lawyers argument was "misplaced."  Amen!
     A ray of light in this tome. The LAPD is being told they are to be transformed from "Warriors on Crime" to "Guardians" of the city.  The word is going out from the top brass to all new officers. 
       It is an attitude thing. Officers are being told they are to "watch over" the community.  The shift in thinking is to make the department more empathetic. The brass believe it will affect how and when officers use force or their weapons and the attitude they evince.
       It will take time to see a difference, but the LAPD has continued to reform. This is the kind of mind set that local police departments should adopt. Out here in the old west they used to be called "Peace Officers."  "Guardians" could be a good start to something.

      See you down the trail.



  1. All the things that you went through Tom weren't as bad as ending up with Tony Kritsis as your best f'ing friend. There was a picture this morning in the LA Times of an LAPD Sgt. holding the hand of a relative of a shooting victim over the yellow police tape. Maybe the change has started.

    1. That is a profound image, Lets hope for good change.

  2. Empathy? Hmmmm. Rather than wandering thru some ridiculous psychological explanation, how about we explain what promises to be a huge positive change with the common sense implied by language.
    Warriors on crime vs Guardians of the city.
    The grammar evinces meaning.
    Same subject: the police.
    Equally transitive verbs: to war on vs to guard
    But VERY different direct objects: criminals vs citizens
    i.e. the OBJECT (as in objective), the raison d'etre (the reason for existence) is completely different.
    It remains to be seen if the common sense and discretion that is implicit in guarding the community will be permitted. Being a good protector requires that certain behaviors be nipped in the bud long before a law has been breached -- that activities falling short of criminal threshold be noticed and addressed. Thus a small group of bully boys harassing an immigrant shopkeeper might be "policed" long before a crime is committed. Similarly, that experiential, non-threatening breaches of law be treated as "learning experiences" not crimes. (Thus, for example, a barely drunk 18 year old after being properly frightened in the back of the squad car was told he would be followed home by the policeman. He in this case being me.)
    We can only hope that such a gigantic change in mindset will yield a return to the kind of common sense policing that your idyllic western Peace Officers practiced-- when cops were free to apply the law flexibly as their individual moral sense discerned situations. Claims of discrimination ultimately ended such common sense. And, indeed, discrimination is exactly what made such policing effective. Will be interesting to watch this tussle.

  3. ML-
    Your great response reminds me of how much I miss our Churchill exchanges and those great days of sharing political coverage and reporting. Fun to watch your mind work!

  4. I like the P.R. idea of coaxing peace officers toward a "Guardian" posture. Semantics should reflect good movements within a social force --and advance them. I can only hope the rest of society can practice some similar improvement --in common sense and common courtesy.

    1. Geo., Thanks for the wise words. I share your hope.

  5. The police have a dangerous job to do and I support any program that brings the police and the community together.

    1. Their job is dangerous indeed. It is also extraordinarily vital to a civilized culture. It's hard even when it is not dangerous. Police should be better appreciated in pay and in training.

  6. From Steve Figler

    Do not believe for a moment that there is no direct link between your high school football report of disgusting teaching and the attitudes of police toward the public. My dissertation at Stanford dealt with aggressive response to frustration among athletes and non athletes. (In fact, that was its title.) Guess who the most ego-defensive extro-punitive [this is correct spelling] subjects were. (FB players). Even back in the 50s when I was playing HS football, we were taught spear-tackling and to try to disable opponents.

    At one time I was going to do research on the proportion of police officers who played high school and/or college football, but I went on to study other topics.

    1. Steve-
      Thanks for the support on that drift. Your research must have been revealing and the link between football and law enforcement is a white box waiting to be filled.

      I think you are fortunate not to have continued your football career into the NFL. Your spear point remains lucid and expansive.

      My father benched me when I started into boxing at the PAL. Glad he did.

  7. That news was shocking and upsetting but most of all saddening. Makes you stop and wonder what's happened to the world and what can we do to change.