“Ask the Chief” Forum

Comments on Current Events and Questions to the Foundation

Question:  “Where did we go wrong in policing America?”

Answer by Chief Stone:  Many Police Chiefs who read this analysis will cringe.  But most street Police Officers will affirm its validity.   I believe that “Community Policing” has led to the decline of our profession in the eyes of many citizens we serve.

And here’s a shocker.  As a Police Chief, I accept leadership accountability for what we tried to accomplish and my share of the responsibility for what went wrong all across America.

Dallas once practiced a style of policing known as “Beat Responsibility.”  Officers were charged with taking care of and protecting citizens within a specific geographic area assigned to each officer.  An officer’s performance was evaluated based on reported crimes on his or her “beat.” Our fundamental duty was to enforce the law and keep the peace.  To do that, society granted us powers that were extraordinary: the power to arrest and the power to require a person’s compliance with our orders.  But it was the respect by the community for our powers that was the key.

We carefully exercised our powers with judgment and restraint.  Above all, we did the right thing.  Citizens surveyed during that era perennially voted the Dallas Police Department as the single most highly respected agency in city government.  We were held up as superheroes imbued by law with special powers to guard the thin blue line between good and evil.

Then things began to change.  “Beat Responsibility” morphed into something called “Community Policing.”  Our initial steps into “Community Policing” in Dallas were educational.  We added news reporters to our recruit classes as full time students and we created the Citizens Police Academy to show others how we really did our jobs.  The Police Channel debuted on local cable TV and dozens of other really creative educational ideas were implemented.

As a Police Chief, I adopted the “Community Policing” concept in other cities across America and we implemented the philosophy with all our energies.  Our business cards included the definition of “Community Policing” on the back: “Treating everyone with dignity, courtesy, and respect while utilizing all available resources to solve problems.”  No one in their right mind argues that police should not treat everyone with dignity, courtesy, and respect.  Unfortunately, we took this noble concept too far in adding the belief that our special powers could somehow solve societal problems.

And therein lies where we first began to go wrong in American policing.  The police stopped being strictly law enforcement officers and peace keepers and became something totally different.  We played hoops at the neighborhood park, passed out ice cream at birthday parties, and embarrassed ourselves break dancing with gang members.  Our dignity was sacrificed on the altar of “Community Policing” and we lost the basis of the special powers granted us: the respect of the citizenry we were charged with protecting.

We weren’t seen as super heroes anymore.  We weren’t Superman.  We were Clark Kent.

Community Policing became our Kryptonite. 

Police Chiefs stopped focusing on their officers and began focusing on writing ever more complicated policies or seeking technology to address every problem.  Ever so slowly, we stopped being respected “Police Officers” and became “Cops.” We weren’t special anymore.  We were just like the mailman, the used car salesman, or the neighborhood grocer.  And, even worse, inside policing, we began see ourselves in the same light.

Away went the respected uniform symbols of authority, including our polished badges, to be replaced with embroidered golf shirts, shorts, and baseball caps worn backwards.  Away went the requirement for a college education to be replaced with a GED.  Away went patrol units deployed geographically based on  a scientific analysis of crime locations and call load activity to be replaced with bicycles.  Away went the emphasis on rapid response to citizen needs for law enforcement and peacekeeping duties to be replaced with large “Community Policing Units”, who were not responsible for answering any 911 calls for service.

And away went the unquestioned power of the police to say “Stop” or “Show me your hands” or “You’re under arrest.”  Disrespect to officers and non-compliance with police authority has now become the norm in America.  What is the one common theme you watch unfold on our body cameras every day?  A lack of compliance for commands given by officers.  When someone absolutely refuses to comply with an officer’s lawful authority we now have two basic choices:  Use force or just walk away and say “I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking.  Of course you don’t want to be arrested.  Never mind.”

Why?  Because who follows orders of a mailman or a salesman or a grocer?  These occupations have no special powers to control the actions of others.   Respect for the police who DO have these powers has eroded beyond all recognition.

We thought we could improve our effectiveness by allowing everyone to become familiar with us.  We were wrong.  An ancient Aesop proverb dictates that familiarity breeds contempt.  Over time, the respect we had earned was replaced with what you see today: contempt for the police as individuals, contempt for our profession, and contempt for the powers granted us under the law.

To repeat: We aren’t seen as superheroes anymore.  We changed from being Superman to just being a mild mannered reporter of crimes like Clark Kent.

Community Policing became our Kryptonite. 

Sadly, we were led astray by Police Chiefs like me who thought “Community Policing” would result in something different than what it ultimately became.  That is where we went wrong.

So how do we right the wrongs that were done by adopting an impossible policing philosophy and our complicity in accepting responsibility for resolving  complex major societal maladies that had nothing to do with our original duties of law enforcement and peacekeeping?   Perhaps it is as simple as getting back to the basics.  Perhaps.

 

Question:  “The Dallas Police Chief appears to be on her way out.  Are you interested in the job?”

Answer by Chief Stone:  I go through this flirtatious dance with the City of Dallas or the executive search firms they hire about every twenty-seven months, which is the average tenure of a major city police chief.  The current chief is not even gone yet and this question has come up again.  Really?  C’mon, let’s show some professional courtesy for someone who has one of the toughest jobs in America.  To answer your question, my leadership philosophy is well known.  I told the present City Manager in Dallas the last time this issue came up that there would be no improvements in the organizational effectiveness of the Dallas Police Department until both the City leadership and the Police command staff learned to “focus on their people.”  People do the job.  Not systems, not processes, not policies, and not more expensive studies by so-called experts who have no real idea how to implement the practical principles of supervision and command.  So, save the 300,000 taxpayer dollars  the current Dallas administration is considering spending for another study about how to fix things in the police department and listen up to the answer for free:  “Focus on your people, focus on your people!, focus on your people!!”  Say that 300,000 times and write it down 300,000 times and maybe this novel idea will finally sink in.  The bottom line is that no one in Dallas government wants to hear that from me or anyone else and until they do, you can count me out.

 

Question:  “What are you most proud of in your law enforcement career?”

Answer by Chief Stone:  The answer to this question has absolutely nothing to do with medals or awards or any of that other hero stuff.  In fact, I am most proud of something  for which I have no right to claim any  credit.  It’s simple:  no man or woman under my command ever lost his or her life in the line of duty.  Before I first became a supervisor  and later began rising thru the ranks, I did lose friends who were killed in the line of duty around me .  A lot.  Twenty-one in sixteen years.  The phrase “not on my watch” was a grim determination and focus of my police leadership philosophy.  Every minute, every hour, every day.

Here’s my honor roll of police officer friends loved as family and lost during my time in Dallas:

Badge #1181 Donald P. Tucker, Sr. Thursday, December 13, 1973 Age 40
2831 Leslie G. Lane. Jr. Saturday, March 2, 1974 25
3660 Duane Hallum Thursday, August 21, 1975 29
3532 Alvin E. Moore Saturday, November 13, 1976 26
3641 Robert E. Wood Sunday, November 28, 1976 27
4162 John T. McCarthy Wednesday, February 25, 1981 24
4210 Charles J. Maltese, Jr. Friday, July 31, 1981 23
4545 John R. Pasco Sunday, January 16, 1983 27
1773 Carl J. Norris Wednesday, March 2, 1983 43
4264 Ronald D. Baker Monday, May 2, 1983 24
1599 Robert L. Cormier Tuesday, July 24, 1984 46
R7868 James C. Taylor Tuesday, July 24, 1984 46
4641 Thomas L. Harris Saturday, July 20, 1985 37
4500 Gary R. Blair Thursday, March 20, 1986 30
4949 James A. Joe Thursday, January 14, 1988 34
5231 John G. Chase Saturday, January 23, 1988 25
5508 Gary D. McCarthy Friday, February 26, 1988 33
4994 Walter L. Williams Tuesday, August 2, 1988 47
3166 Lawrence R. Cadena, Sr. Tuesday, December 13, 1988 43
5580 Lisa L. Sandel Friday, January 13, 1989 26
5626 Mark L. Fleming Saturday, January 14, 1989 24

The heroes above were not under my command when they died but I was wearing the same uniform at the time.  In a few cases, I was at the scene and saw things that I would just as soon erase from my memory.

Everyone who has ever been a police officer has had “police dreams.”  I once saw my lost friends in my dreams regularly.  They were always frozen in time.  They never aged a day in my dreams.  Now decades have passed and police dreams don’t haunt me anymore.  I have stopped yelling in my dreams: “Don’t stand in front of the door, Don!” and “Watch his hands, Al!” and “Wear your vest, Robert!” and “Chip, listen to me for once; pay attention to the traffic!” and “Slow down, Tommy!”

So if I became your supervisor or commander or chief and I yelled the same kind of things while we were working together, you can blame me for raising my voice to you.  But you should credit the guys and gals above for being able to go home to your family at the end of each shift.

And, that is what I am most proud of in my police career.

 

Question:  “Chief, I found an old newspaper clipping about a baseball game played at Arlington Stadium in 1986.  Are you the same Rick Stone mentioned in the article?”

Answer by Chief Stone:  Two baseball games were played at Arlington Stadium on July 30, 1986, then the major league home to the Texas Rangers.  Official attendance for the games was 15, 632 who braved 109 degree heat to watch the games.

Baltimore Orioles future “Hall of Famer” Cal Ripken, Jr. hit a homerun in Game 2.  Rangers’ catcher, Don Slaught, hit a home run of his own in the 11th inning to provide Texas with a 5 to 3 win.  Rangers’ shortstop, Scott Fletcher, and Rangers’ center fielder, Reuben Sierra, each stole a base.  A pinch runner in the 7th inning of Game 1 and also stole a base becoming one of only three players that day to successfully swipe second base in the sweltering 109 degree heat.

It would be the pinch runner’s only professional career appearance in a major league stadium.

I think you have correctly identified the player.

 

Question: “I have managed with your help in tracking down where my uncle’s remains might have been buried as an “Unknown” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) has his dental, they have my DNA, they have an X-Ray and circumstantial evidence. Now how long will I wait for him to be identified?”

Answer by Foundation:  Eleven years from receipt of remains in the DPAA Laboratory to identification is the AVERAGE time, according to their own internal study.

 

Question:  “What is the worst policy at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) that hurts MIA families?” 

Answer by Foundation:   MIA families tell us that their biggest complaint about DPAA is that the agency refuses to release any specific information about a MIA’s recovery at the time of the agency’s first public announcement of an official identification.   While one family is correctly thrilled to first learn their family member has been identified, the family is not initially told any specific details about the recovery.  DPAA’s policy is to await the conclusion of a meeting with the identified MIA’s family before they provide ANY details of the recovery to anyone.  This policy looks good on paper but the meeting may be months, years, or even NEVER before it occurs.  At the same time, hundreds of other family members whose MIA may have been a candidate for the same set of remains that were identified are left to agonize completely in the dark by DPAA.

Here’s some examples on how the current DPAA policy works in real life:

  1.  In March 2017, DPAA announced that PFC Jack Fox had been accounted for as an “Unknown.”  To this day, DPAA refuses to release exactly which “Unknown” was identified as PFC Fox!  Did all the members of PFC Fox’s family die before a meeting could be scheduled?  We don’t know.  What we do know is that there are currently 394 other MIA families whose own MIA’s are candidates to be the “Unknown” identified as PFC Fox, whichever one he was.  The families tell us they want to know if their own missing hero can be eliminated from the list of possible matches.
  2.   In March 2019, DPAA quietly posted on their web site that Captain Edward Walker  had been identified as  “Unknowns” who were recovered from an American military cemetery in 2017.  The problem is that Captain Walker’s remains had been misidentified in 1946 and these remains were buried in his family plot in Tennessee.  Whose remains were buried as Captain Walker in 1946?  We don’t know.  In response to a Foundation request under the Freedom of Information Act,  DPAA illegally refused to release any information about Captain Walker’s case.  What we do know is that a total of 1,090 families of American servicemen are awaiting these answers.

 

Question:  “What happened to the guy who claimed he was affiliated with one of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s (DPAA) paid contractors who was charged with theft of government materials from the National Archives?”

Answer by Foundation:  He pled guilty in Federal Court and was convicted of misdemeanor theft.  He was sentenced to 18 months supervised probation for the theft conviction and fined $5,000.  According to media reports, the convicted thief and his wife have been banned from the National Archives.  A “non-profit” corporate contractor with whom he claimed affiliation has now been paid over $12 million dollars by DPAA.

HISTORIAN, RESEARCH, & ANALYST AT HISTORY FLIGHT, Inc. – By Linkedin 

VIRGINIA MAN SENTENCED FOR STEALING WWII DOG TAGS FROM NATIONAL ARCHIVES – Claims to be historian for DPAA Contractor History Flight, Inc. – By David Aaro, Fox News, January 23, 2020

 

Question:  “Where does the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation get its MIA research materials?”

Answer by Foundation:  Our Foundation’s research is based on unclassified documents we have lawfully obtained through hundreds of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to various government agencies, two successful Federal civil lawsuits to obtain public records, information provided to us by family members and other researchers, and online research of public records.  Our Foundation’s investigators also do on site research at the National Archives and the National Personnel Records Center where we must pay the Federal government from our limited funds for copies of the materials.

 

As always, thank you for your support!  Don’t hesitate to contact us by using the form below if you have any questions that the Foundation can  answer for you.”

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