Homeland Security begins with police departments and hometown security

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Let’s remember that according to our own Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “Homeland Security begins with Hometown Security.” Somehow during the past year, we have lost sight of this fact putting our country at risk.

The case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin proved to the country that the justice system is our most valuable resource to hold police officers accountable if they violate the law. This has always been the case and will remain so in the future, the same as when individuals in other professions are held responsible when the law is violated. As it should.

After a year of politicization of policing issues, we are at an urgent inflection point and the country now finds itself at risk of losing the best law enforcement institutions in the world and a future of chaos across the country. As attrition rates climb and recruitment efforts drastically decline in departments across the country due to lack of political support, threats of removing qualified immunity, increased scrutiny, name calling, second-guessing, and an increase in targeted violence against officers, now is the time to improve law enforcement where needed by offering support to further professionalize a career that has far too often been neglected, politicized, demeaned, vilified and suppressed. 

Moving forward with possible solutions will require reasonable and realistic adults to be at the table in Congress, like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who has taken the lead in offering reasonable options in response to extreme proposals that don’t make the country any safer. This profession won’t be saved by irresponsible sound bites like defund, dismantle and abolish which fly in direct contrary to what the American public expect — safety and security in their communities.

Law enforcement is a profession largely comprised of dedicated men and women who risk their lives to protect ours. Politicians at all levels owe them the tools to succeed. Areas like recruiting, hiring, training, technology, community policing programs, mental health support and overall consistency in enforcement are all welcome areas of improvement to help law enforcement officers succeed in challenging environments. And guess what!? This requires not just stronger dedication and support from communities, but more money, not less!

Make no mistake about it, time is running out. If we want to see what a collapse of state and local law enforcement institutions looks like, I refer you to look at Mexico who has never recovered from wide-spread corruption within their police departments and is now forced to rely heavily on their federal police and military to police the country. I can assure you that this does not bode well for those wanting to see improvements in community policing strategies.

To the contrary of hyperbole that we hear from some politicians and community groups, society needs laws and to have laws enforced to remain a civilized country. During the riots of last summer and continuing throughout this year, we have seen what happens in places like Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., New York City, Chicago, Ill., Minneapolis, Minn., and Louisville, Ky., when laws are not enforced, and law enforcement is prevented from doing their jobs — chaos! It is also no coincidence that these are the cities being hit with the loss of senior police officers, the inability to recruit new diverse talent to the profession of law enforcement and increased levels of homicides and violent crimes. I ask, would you take a job as a police officer in any of these cities right now? I think the answer for an overwhelming majority is no. So why would we expect others to do differently in today’s climate where officers are not only subjected to increased targeted violence but increased risk of being jailed or personally sued? 

Let’s look at a direct consequence of defunding efforts and vilification of law enforcement so far in major cities, some of which have caused violent crime to get so bad that even places like Portland and Minneapolis have reversed course and now asked for increased funding and greater police enforcement. I refer to this as the political yo-yo effect.  

Directly tied to the increases of violent crimes in this country are the illegal guns that continue to flood communities and need to be taken off the street and kept out of the hands of the wrong people. This remains a prime example of where coordinated law enforcement efforts are needed. This starts with the political will of local leaders to allow their police departments to do their jobs and enforce the law. We know that when allowed, police departments can make a significant positive impact within the communities they serve. Instead, the mayor of Chicago, which saw a 50 percent increase in murders in 2020, is currently evaluating whether officers should first gain approval from a supervisor to begin a foot chase of a fleeing subject who may pose a deadly threat to the community. This is not how illegal guns are taken off the street.

Let’s remember that law enforcement officers are human beings who have volunteered to take on a career that many would shy away from. They are the people that are willing to help others and step directly in front of danger regardless of the race, religion, ethnicity, or sexuality of those they are responding to help. There will be mistakes and there will be some officers that just aren’t meant for police work. This is the reality. 

Let’s not lose focus of the millions of positive interactions that law enforcement has around the country during any given year with the public that we never hear about. Let’s not forget the lives lost while protecting others. And let’s not forget that we need them to do their jobs to respond when we call and keep us safe. While this is a profession that strives to get it right all the time, to vilify all 800,000 officers when they don’t is disingenuous. 

One more thing, let these brave men and women get the illegal guns off the streets!

Charles Marino is the CEO of Sentinel Security Solutions, a global security and crisis management firm, and previously served as a supervisory special agent with the U.S. Secret Service and as senior law enforcement adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. He regularly appears as a homeland and national security analyst on cable news networks.

Tags community policing Derek Chauvin verdict George Floyd demonstrations Law enforcement Law enforcement in the United States Minneapolis Police Department Police police reform violence defunding funds race Tim Scott

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