A law enforcement officer is walking on egg shells every time he or she pulls a driver over for a minor traffic offense; who knows if the motorist is an embarrassed citizen or a meth-fueled slimeball?
Police work is dangerous. The pay rate is low and the divorce rate is high. Since I’m not cut out for it, I’m thankful others are.
But that doesn’t mean law enforcement decisions should go unquestioned. Two incidents in northern Utah should be examined for subsequent changes in policy.
Like me, many of you were probably queasy about the 2012 late night raid on the Ogden home of a suspected drug user. Rather than a military-type assault while the man was supposedly sleeping, couldn’t officers better handle the arrest by waiting near his home when the man returned from a regular work shift at a retail store?
As we now know, the arrest led to a gunfight between officers and an addled man who says he thought criminals, not police, were barging into his house. Several officers were wounded, one was killed, and a man who grew a few marijuana plants in his home is now being tried for murder.
Still, it’s difficult to judge a law enforcement decision without knowing all the information the police had in planning the evening raid.
But then a second incident occurred. Recently, Ogden police went to the wrong home in a botched attempt to arrest an AWOL soldier. The couple living at the house contend that officers brandished three assault rifles and two shotguns at 2 a.m. The stunned husband could easily have been shot when he appeared with a baseball bat.
A citizen’s group is complaining that the police terrorized the family. Again, why couldn’t the officers serve an arrest warrant during the daytime? An AWOL soldier who left his post without permission in the hopes of seeing his dying father doesn’t sound like a target for a heavily-armed posse team.
The official police response is that the arrest was “procedure.” But that procedure deserves at review since two daughters are now traumatized by seeing their innocent father handcuffed at gunpoint in the middle of the night.
We live in an increasingly dangerous world. We have seen a rash of recent incidents in which police were either fired upon or forced to dodge the automobiles of hopped-up drivers. Yet our support for law enforcement should also make is clear that public safety procedures be appropriate in both timing and restraint.
A guy who grows some pot in his basement and a military deserter should not be confused with a serial killer or kidnapper, and, as the Ogden newspaper editorialized, these incidents “might exacerbate violence rather than keep the peace.”
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.