The Voice of Experience in Law Enforcement



By Richard Eber

My friend Randy is a proud retired policeman with over 30 years service.  If one did not know Randy is a level headed guy, who in the time I have known him has never uttered a racist remark nor made any disparaging remarks about other races.  His comments on politics and policing are insightful and worth listening to especially in the polarized times we are living in.

Last week he sat down answering questions from the CPN&V on the State of law enforcement today

Looking back did you witness in your career racist actions by your fellow officers towards those of dark skin?

On the question of racism I can only say this. When I was hired, along with 10 other new officers within 18 months, the department was in need of change. It had a reputation such that it was under a consent decree to hire more minorities. During my time there the decree was ended because the department had done a good job following the decree.

If racism was there prior to my hiring I was unaware of it since I was not there. I certainly saw exchanges between employees and citizens, and employees to employees. I would not call them racist because I do not believe they were motivated by race. If I saw that something was going that way I usually stepped in, or pulled people apart. Racism certainly has no part in policing or elsewhere,

Were these deficiencies corrected or changed while you worked in this field?

I saw more of the excessive force or officers acting without control than I did any racism or racists act toward anyone and certainly the public more so.

As an officer when I witnessed these types of acts I, and other officers would either report them. Instances like these are usually due to anger, unable to stop the adrenalin or just wanting to win . But an officer that is kept after being identified as having problems is where the real problem with a department lies, not the entire organizatio

I would say that officers at the least counseled; but never were they fired.

Community policing seems to be a hot topic today.  How do you view this strategy?

True community policing needs to be addressed. In fact the term should be changed. It should not reflect policing of the community but an involvement by the officers that are assigned to communities to get out of the car and interact on a different level, which most police departments do not, or cannot do properly. An office of community policing is not community policing. It is a department that involves itself in the community.. Laugh as people may, Mayberry is community policing.

Knowing your community and what problems exist is a large part of being successful as a department. Showing up at a park with balloons and candy for the kids is not the answer. Get to know a person on a one to one basis when tempers aren’t flaring and people are agitated is the answer.

How do you get rid of bad cops?

Stop passing around bad cops. Departments know through their own investigation if someone is bad. Most officers at a department know the questionable if not outright bad cops are. Yet for many different reasons they don’t fire them. They allow them to resign and then they move on to another department.

Supervision is another area that could address bad cops. Bad supervision or no supervision is one reason that cops can continue to do wrongful acts during their career somewhere. That is the basic reason for vicariously liability..

Are you concerned that the safety needs of law enforcement officers are being met by proposed ideas of banning no knock search warrants, limiting police actions on crowd control during protests and having as many options of restraining  law breakers?

I am concerned. I am concerned for the officers and for the public. The officers deal with the underbelly of society. Not all the time, but certainly a lot of the time. That world is different than what the law abiding citizens see or think it is.

They have to put on bullet proof vests in order to try to come home at night. Who else does that? And why should they have to do that? The reasons are plain, but some just want to focus on the few bad actors and paint all of them with the same broad brush. Doesn’t work and be beneficial to all of society. If the police are not allowed to properly, and I underline properly, do their job then society is in trouble.

How would increased liabilities of police officers in restraining suspects translate to the way law enforcement is enforced?

Increased liabilities for police officers could be something that might work a bit. Right now the way that suits are lodged,  they are against the officer, his supervisor, command staff, the chief and then the cities. The officer has to do something outside of procedures to be held responsible and then the liability works its way up to the chain of command and eventually into the deep pockets of the city. The city is where the money is, not with the officers.

In civil court they don’t need as much evidence and more is available at trial because the criminal court’s legal guidelines are more stringent. That is why OJ Simpson was found not guilty in criminal court and yet had a 33 million verdict against him in civil court.

Making the officers more liable could make some officers more apt to stop and think about what they are doing before they do it. It is a godsend to be able to stop and think instead of instantly reacting on what you have been taught. I could not begin to try to remember how many times I did something based on training and experience and did not have the time to stop and think. . When I could I would stop and mull things over, but not always possible.

Can you see instances where civilians can better do jobs currently being done by the police?

Yes. I think that police are asked to do too many things that could be done better by a different  professional. But if a law has been broken, or violence has occurred then the police need to be the first responders with a secondary type of response by someone else. If a homeless person is not violent or has not committed any crime than a homeless type service should respond and take care of the situation. The courts do this to an extent, although the police have to arrest them first. A court can put the charges aside and make the arrested person go to different types of counseling and then probation can occur, which can have a better outcome than jail.

How can the police better deal with the homeless problem?

The homeless problem is complex. You can’t just take all their stuff, tear down their living spaces and hope they move on. The cities and politicians have failed in this area. Police can try to enforce laws. Give them water and give them transportation but that does nothing to solve a problem that is going to return time and time again. The police do not have the services that the homeless need. I would rather see cities spend the money on attacking the homeless problem rather that paving streets that people can still drive down.

Were you a young guy starting out his career, would you choose law enforcement as a career path?

I would be leery about becoming a police officer again. It would have a lot to do with where I was applying. Most people these days just want a profession to get into. I was lucky. I grew up in The East Bay and knew what it was all about. I worked in a small department where you could make a difference and that allowed for true community interaction. It was very rewarding but even so there were many sleepless nights.

I did not do it for power or ego, which can be prevalent in some departments. And there are many such officers. There were many high profile cases in which I was instrumental in that occurred, but you could probably find my name once or twice. The police chief that was removed I played not only a large part in lodging complaints against him for which he was placed on administrative leave, but as the newspaper later stated, I was the “midnight patrol officer” that caught him trying to remove files and property later that same night. Officers that need the notoriety don’t make good officers.

Thank you Randy for your time, service, and insight on policing today.


Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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Mark Savalla
Mark Savalla
5 months ago

Thanks for a fair and impartial presentation. You chose an excellent person to interview. Having spent 33 yrs with LAPD in numerous assignments, I can support Randy’s responses. I participated in the Rodney King investigation and can say that Randy’s comment regarding poor use of force was the primary fault of that incident. Had nothing to do with race.