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From the Sheriff's Desk

 Sheriff Dickerson's  commentary on issues affecting the Sheriff's Office.  For the Sheriff's archived comments from previous years, click on the associated year below.

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 Sheriff Reacts to  Dallas, Tex. Police Shootings

July 8, 2016

Anyone who has traveled around the world can tell you that we have the best criminal justice system that universally flawed human beings can produce.  It obviously isn't perfect, and sometimes injustices occur.  But our justice system even recognizes that fact, requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt in order to convict any person of a crime. 

And even after someone is convicted, our system generally works to correct problems, not just punish those who create them.  Prisons and jails--including ours here in Columbia County--are always looking for ways to make a positive impact on those we hold. Our intent is to create an environment where people take responsibility for their lives and hold themselves accountable to internal standards that make for peaceful re-entry into society.

Still, no one is under the delusion that law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections officers and probation officers perform their jobs flawlessly. We train constantly to be aware of our own human weaknesses in carrying out our duties and have processes in place to ensure that when mistakes are made, we find a way to correct them.

When it comes to carrying out the functions of law enforcement and corrections, we expect our deputies to stand in the gap between law and order and those who seek to break the peace in our County.  This entails risk.  This requires vigilance in the midst of having to sometimes make split-second, life-and-death decisions--often in regard to the use of force.

And while there will occasionally be the times when police use of force is determined to be unjustified, the fact is that these times are extraordinarily rare.  In fact police use of force itself is rare. In 2008, for example, an estimated 16.9 percent of all US citizens 16 years of age or older had some form of police contact.  Of those, only 1.4 percent of them had police use or threaten force against them.  In other words, just over two-tenths of  1 percent of all Americans age 16 or older reported either use of force or threatened use of force in 2008, and those numbers compare equally low to those in 2002 and 2005.[i]

These numbers fly in the face of those who suppose there is an uptick in police use of force.  And they make clear that the attempt of some to paint the law enforcement profession with a broad brush  is unfounded.  Moreover, the reviews of police use of force often tell the sad story of an officer or officers who had no other choice but to use deadly physical force in order to stop a clear threat to their lives or the lives of others.

I don't know how these most recent police use of force cases will turn out.  But I do know that several cases that have been used to stoke public furor over the lawful use of force in recent years have usually cleared the officers involved of any nefarious intent.

Use of force is never clean.  Being in the midst of the turmoil that leads an officer to conclude that the use of force is necessary, is always difficult to reconstruct.  But many more times than not, these uses of police force are reviewed and found to be justified--even if the details involved are disturbing or troubling.

Are they always justified? No.  But neither is there an increase in rogue police officers.  And even if mistakes are made in the use of force from time to time, there is a big difference between someone who 's intent was to save lives and someone whose intent was to take lives.

It is not the intent of law enforcement to go out and kill someone today.  Law enforcement personnel are employed for the purpose of saving lives and standing against lawless behavior that threatens others. 

But the intent of the shooter in Dallas yesterday was to kill.  There is no justification for murdering and seriously wounding police officers who are merely doing their jobs to protect and serve--no matter what someone thinks some other police officer has done.

The Sheriff's Office honors the devotion to duty exemplified by so many Dallas police officers during and following yesterday's shooting.  We honor the dead.  May the inquiry into what led to these officers' deaths not stop at the place of the tragic police shootings in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, Minn., but may it continue on to the false narrative that law enforcement is using force at greater rates and regularly depriving people of their constitutional rights.

That is not the way we do business here in Columbia County, and , I'm confident that it is not generally the way it is done anywhere within the criminal justice system in this Country.  If actions to the contrary come to the surface, we all have a vested interest in seeing that improper conduct is dealt with decisively.

[i] See   "Contacts between Police and the Public," October 2011, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics;







Last Updated on Friday, 08 July 2016 15:16