Saturday, February 18, 2023

hints of what is on the way....

         A friend to the east in Arizona posted snow pictures. Friends back east in the midwest and on the east coast are through with winter. Our Mediterranean climate gives you a look at what is coming your way in a month or so. Unless you are like our friends in upper lower Michigan. For you we are glad you enjoyed your daily vitamin D during your visit.

     Here's a look at what's happening on the California central coast.

As I make a weekly hill climb and hike I've been paying attention to the soil. Most of the trails on the incline are almost normal dry. There are a couple of crossings and a few low spots that are still boggy. If we get ample sun and warmth, all of that rain from those massive storms have probably prepped us for a great wildflower bloom.  Stay tuned.  The Fungi are happy already.

    See you down the trail. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


  •         Police Violence
  •        Stopping Putin

        Before joining the ongoing national debate about "police reform" you deserve to know my "bona fides" or "where I'm coming from" when I say the issue is training and education. Learning is the reform that is needed.

        I was a college freshman and newly minted police beat reporter for a commercial radio station in my midwestern state university small industrial city. The first murder I covered was in Muncie. A poor soul was spotted by his wife in a country bar in the company of another woman. Mrs. went home, fetched his fishing knife and returned to nearly decapitate her cheating man. 
        The police beat seasons a young reporter.
        I asked to ride with the cops on Saturday night as they patrolled the south side dives and the downtown bar district. It seemed that for sport as much as for public safety a couple of officers liked to round up the drunks and haul them to city lock-up. Woe to the resistant inebriate! They became billy club target practice and were handled like tossed bags of garbage. Some of them were guilty of nothing but being out cold, dead drunk. They could not hear the order to get up. 
        Sometimes they got hosed down, and sometimes they were deserving, being covered in their own bodily output. 
        I'm embarrassed to say I didn't question the excessive force until a light went off during a sociology course. That led to questions, a couple of news stories, disconcerted cops, changed relationships and a new view of my work and that of the cops.

         Over forty years I worked with a lot of cops. Some were friends. Some scared me with their ideas about their work and their power. Some were genius investigators, some were politicians, some were real heroes and some were dirt bags. As the years passed and cities became gang ridden, and more guns hit the street, cops adopted a kind of siege or survival mentality. It's easy to forget that first they are just people with their own families and lives and hopes and fears.

        If I needed a particular kind of information I'd drop into a cop bar. Off duty, amongst their own was a great place to see the men and women for the humans they are, good and not so.
        I trusted my life to cops on several occasions. We had armed protection when we broadcast from violent a neighborhood where a drug gang had taken over. We hired off duty officers to be "crew" when we confronted armed and angry Ku Klux Klan members on their job site. We accompanied police on raids, and had to take cover from gun fire. I spent tense hours with SWAT members deployed in a dramatic hostage incident. 
        I understand the pressure they work under. But I've also watched as police departments that once touted Protect and Serve got militarized by hand me down Homeland Security or military weapons, outfits and vehicles. It has been the rise of the warrior cop.

        A crystalizing moment occurred when I began reporting on police training. With the help of an FBI agent and friend, I spent time at the National Law Enforcement Training Academy watching how they "upgraded" the quality of local police. 
        I've interviewed psychologists, educational designers, chiefs, administrators  elected office holders, judges and cops.

        US citizens are 60 times more likely to be killed by police than British citizens.  The American cop gets on average 600 hours of training while Finland trains cops for 5,500 hours. German cops get 4,500 hours, Australia 4000 hours, England 2,500 and Canadian cops are trained for twice as long as US cops.
     In the US cops are required to get less training than plumbers and cosmetologists. 

        When I followed a new class of FBI agents through 16 weeks of intensive training and psychological rigor I was convinced that states and cities needed to rethink how they recruit and train police officers. 
        Mental health and fitness, cultural and human relations, better crisis management and decision making are as important as weapons better suited for a battle field. 

        US police academies stress firearms training, as much as 3 times more than on training how to deescalate a situation. Some nations require academic degrees. 
        In addition to better psychological evaluation of job candidates we need to give cops better care. Police officers are five times more likely to kill themselves than to be killed in the line of duty.

        There is no excuse for the police violence we all have witnessed. It is police murder. But a government that does not pay more, or require more and better training and care and be willing to assign the resources needed is an accomplice to police violence. So too are the politicians who are willing to lament and complain in the media, but have not the courage to vote for additional funding, or better gun control. 
        In this way, police violence is systemic. 

        I am a realist, but I also pray for peace. In a few years people and governments will wonder why this generation of ours did not or could not stop Vladimir Putin. It is a nasty legacy for us, since we saw in our own century how a mad man bent on dominance was the evil factor who was responsible for the war that claimed 75 to 80 million people.
       Putin's war is purely his messianic complex at work. The world watches daily war crimes and atrocities. We have rallied opposition, we have assembled weapons, but the UN and all the alliances on the planet have not done what needs to be done, remove Putin.
       With Putin gone, it is an entirely new equation and it will then be a matter of standing down, disengaging and starting all of the repair and healing that needs to occur.
        Time and time again history tells us a timely removal of a delusional tyrant saves lives and prevents suffering and the work of destructive power. 

        Wishing you strength and endurance. 

        See you down the trail.