Commentary: Cop Talk

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, December 21, 2007

Rick Braziel wrote “Cop Talk” in 1999 with Sac State professor Virginia Kidd. It’s a textbook for cops and it reads, well, like a textbook. But one anecdote impressed me.

It tells the real story of two officers who went before a hostile crowd at a tough public housing project. Residents were angry because they said cops were stopping their kids for no reason.

The officers let the audience vent for an hour, then explained the legal technicalities of stops and searches. Then, they suggested a role reversal exercise.

They tapped their most vocal critic to play a police officer looking for a suspect with a gun. He asked a few questions and performed a pat down search on the officer playing suspect, found nothing, and sat down. That’s when the real cop pulled a pistol from his boot, a larger gun from the rear waistband of his pants and very slowly, a sawed off shotgun from inside his jacket.

Someone in the crowd shouted. “We get the point. You can search my kids any time.”

The anecdote offers a reassuring glimpse into how our new chief wants his officers to interact with the public. Treat people with respect. Allow them to vent. Make allies out of enemies. If Braziel can translate that message to his officers on the street, Sacramento will be a better and safer city.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.