The ‘insensitive’ cop

Columnist : Albert Paschall

Sensitivity training is a favorite phrase in big organizations these days. People learn things like how to understand the opposite gender in the workplace, the kinds of jokes you can’t tell, even the perspective you should use in looking at people in this enlightened age.

It seems to work. Some find politically correct language easier to deal with even if you can’t tell the ‘did you hear the one about?’ jokes any more. In some jobs sensitivity training might come in downright handy.

Imagine that one of the high notes of your job is to stop speeding cars on remote highways in the middle of the night. You get to walk alone up to a car that might have a few armed drunk or drugged people in it. Help is likely to be miles away. You’ll want to understand everybody in that car very quickly.

There’s nothing funny about going to a rural home to investigate a domestic dispute that was called to your attention when neighbors heard gunfire.

If you have to call the families of dead people that you have scraped out of wrecked vehicles, especially the ones that were drunk, you might need to maintain some perspective.

These are some of the ‘sensitive’ things that we pay some 4,500 members of the Pennsylvania State Police to deal with every day. >From Lake Erie to the Delaware River state troopers have the responsibility of patrolling the state’s highways and act as local law enforcement in several hundred rural communities. They are charged with inter-municipal jurisdiction all over the state including running the state’s anti-drug undercover network. For fun they get to stand around shopping malls on weekends teaching new parents how to hook up the baby seats in their mini-vans while begging people not to drink and drive.

There are some serious accusations of sexual abuse within the state police ranks. In addition to one heinous conviction the accused look like they are shaping up to be about 1/10 of 1% of the force. Any thought of abuse is absolutely unacceptable in any police force but in some of the published cases some ill-timed, bad locker room humor seems to be just that. Colonel Jeff Miller, appointed commissioner of the state police this year, has promised to end abuse and enforce zero tolerance harassment policies. He has personally recommended outside review of any accusations. Everything in his reputation indicates he’s a guy who gets the job done. He deserves every chance and the time to do that. Whatever his success in the short term, the political class will demand more sensitivity training for the troopers. They’ll be forced to sit through it, though the veterans long ago learned most of the politically correct lessons the hard way.

Sometimes though all of the sensitivity training will fail. A cop might be testy if he has to get out of his cruiser at night on a busy highway during one of the summer’s worst storms to find a teenager standing in front of his disabled car in the passing lane. He will sound insensitive when he yells at the kid to get back in the car right away as the trooper pushes it off the road. Someday I’d like to find the insensitive state cop who did that to my son last month on the turnpike and tell him exactly what I think of that bit of attitude, the one that probably averted disaster. Whoever you are: thank you, thank you very much.

Albert Paschall
Senior Commentator
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.
[email protected]