Editor’s note: The following is a guest editorial submitted by George DeAngelis.
There is an adage in criminal justice that goes like this: a community gets the kind of law enforcement it demands; not the kind it deserves. I keep reminding my students of this in just about every course I teach about law enforcement and criminal justice because it rings true from my many years of related experience. I urge my students to become involved in their community and don’t gravitate to the sidelines. Sidelines are reserved for spectators. The community needs takers and shakers. Those that will step up and take on some civic responsibility and leadership and then shake up the status quo of the local criminal justice system. Never before has the time been more urgent than now.
The news has been filled with disappointing reports of police misconduct over the last eighteen months. The misconduct allegations involve supervisors which add another degree of seriousness to an already worrisome problem. Besides the allegations, we have a police department that is seriously understaffed and underequipped to serve a jurisdiction the size of El Paso. If that wasn’t enough, the Department has to continuously tight walk the incessant sales pitch that we live in the safest city with a population of 500,000 population or more. The Chief of Police has not been allowed to run his Department because apparently, El Paso has a police commissioner in the persona of City Manager Joyce Wilson and Deputy City Manager David Almonte. Between them both they have zero law enforcement experience. Yet, Mr. Almonte oversees the police and fire departments, and of course, Ms. Wilson oversees the universe.
When scandals erupt, and corruption is exposed, citizens must not forget to look at the total picture. The accountability just doesn’t extend to the police department. It must extend to city hall to include Mayor Cook, council, and city manager Wilson and Deputy City Manager Almonte. Citizens must get on their feet and start demanding better law enforcement. Sitting back and watching is the same as giving City hall your tacit approval of their “fine work.” Demand that public safety become a city priority. Don’t listen to the standard response of inaccurate statistics that the city has prepared to counter any such arguments. The fact remains that things are not good within the police department. And when things are not good in the police department, they are not going to be good for the community either.