Robert Lee “Bobby” Harris has been a close friend since 1984. We worked together at several assignments on the sheriff’s department, including Firestone patrol and Homicide Bureau. We’ve been roommates, radio car partners, riding (motorcycles) partners, and drinking buddies.
Bobby spent 33 years in law enforcement, working as a police officer for the cities of Sierra Madre and Culver City before he was hired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. His career was a colorful one, to say the very least, and he is regarded by most who have had the pleasure of knowing him as a fearless man, one who has survived many deadly encounters with uncanny coolness. When the Gulf War started, Bobby took a leave of absence from the sheriff’s department. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and served as a Forward Observer in ANGLICO, and a sergeant in a scout sniper platoon.
In response to my blog about the tragic murder of Los Angeles Police Officer Juan Jose Diaz: Off-duty LAPD Officer Killed by Gunfire, Bobby shared his candid thoughts of the article and the comments it received. When I read his words, I asked his permission to post his commentary as a standalone blog in order to garner the attention it deserves.
These are his words, unedited:
These are outstanding comments posted by a superb collection of true thinkers. Some of you may be civilians, but your clarity and support is obvious and humbling. Thank you for YOUR support. I have never in my life contributed to a blog, but here goes…
It seems so long ago that there were guarantees which came with certain behavior.
If you ran from the police, you were likely to get spanked like a disobedient child.
If you fought with the police, you were booked via an ER visit.
If you killed a policeman, hmmm.
These guarantees had no effect on the behavior of decent people, but they struck fear in the hearts of predators. These guarantees, though they seem unnecessary, provided order instead of chaos. They kept the wolves in far fewer numbers and at far greater distances from the flock.
Those guarantees and those days are gone. The men who imposed those guarantees are quiet and vanishing. Those same predators are no longer fearful. They are bold. Hell, even the insipid, sarcastic, smartphone-wielding, cop-hating twerps aren’t scared anymore.
I believe the deterioration started when we traded courage, cunning, and toughness in law enforcement for “professionalism.” I actually hate that word now. I despise it. The whole ideal of professionalism suggests that rules for “branding,” “customer satisfaction,” and “business models” will work in law enforcement and the military. They don’t and won’t. They can’t. Law Enforcement is not, and has never been here to give people a “better customer experience.” It’s here to protect the decent and to disrupt and do harm to evil.
LE executives, politicians, and influential idiots who embrace this “client” approach, castrate and cast doom over the current generation of people who have sworn an oath to protect something bigger than themselves. I would love to see the politicians and executives who scream for video cameras, to wear them themselves. They wouldn’t survive their own creation. If every chief or sheriff wore a camera during voting season or a back-room discipline review, they would be done. If every senator had to wear one in some public bathrooms, they’d be in prison.
We now have a new LE environment where an employee’s capacity for violence is threatening to executives and horrifying to most onlookers. Horrifying because even the appropriate execution of violence is hard for most decent people to accept. It looks harsh and it’s understandable that they may judge it harshly. Decent people typically don’t live violently, so context and expertise become unimportant. It just looks unnecessary and excessive to anyone who has never punched, clawed, screamed and rolled like a freshly beached fish just to keep your holstered gun away from the person who’s trying to take it so they can shoot you in the face with it. Any policeman using this extreme defensive violence seems overreactive. He should have “used other available options.”
This is a grim slide. Our younger officers only know this world of critics, so they are slower to react in volitile situations. They are justifiably hesitant and that can spell disaster. They don’t hear about the guys on PM shift who got attacked in an ambush and overcame with extreme violence of action. They more often hear of their friends being attacked, spat on, suspended or fired for taking positive action. That is their reality.
The world is full of people who are wonderful, productive beings who make this a beautiful place. The world is also unfortunately populated by small amounts of thieves, rapists, molesters, and killers. These evil people destroy lives, dreams, hope, and innocence. The evil deserve harshness just to keep them moving with less confidence. They deserve a permanent limp to more easily recognize them at a distance. Some of them just need to be dead.
Our most outspoken critics are preventing the punishment of evil and emboldening those who would cause evil to flourish. Most of them have never been in a fight themselves, but they are like jackals. They are loud and they are winning. They use our own unrealistic restrictions to hamstring law enforcement’s efforts to maintain order. They know what they are doing. Never underestimate how much they hate you. Never underestimate how much they hate this country.
Young policeman and soldiers will fall. It’s unfortunate and unavoidable. It’s a life we and our families accept and sometimes pay dearly for. The threat is always there. I hate to ponder the likelihood that Officer Diaz’ decency and reverence for human life were precisely the attributes which cost him his. I am angry that this young, strong, two-year veteran likely retreated from contact because he knew his actions would be judged unrealistically by the public and his own department. I worked in difficult circumstances, but it was a pretty fair fight. These officers must feel hobbled by the restrictions and loud lack of respect they hear on a daily basis. It’s corrosive. It’s demoralizing. It imposes decision paralysis which can be deadly.
As I am writing this, three young officers were shot near here yesterday. An officer with two years on the job was killed. Two others were hospitalized, one with grave wounds. I can’t help but think a degree of hesitation or lack of aggressive initial control played a roll in this assassin’s success.
This storm is gaining intensity. Face it with a firm resolve. Make the attackers, the haters, Antifa, and gangsters realize their actions come with a price. Place them in an obvious minority. It’s what you have to lose that makes you hesitate. Look around. We’re losing. Be aggressive and be loud in your support of these young officers. Show your clarity and your numbers. They need you now, more than ever. Loud continued support is needed. Tell a like-minded friend.
Wow. How is it my shoulders grew so tight when I’m only typing this with my thumbs?
* * *
Thank you, Bobby. I am proud to call you my friend.
Don’t forget to share this blog with your family and friends!
A GOOD BUNCH OF MEN
DOOR TO A DARK ROOM
THE COLOR DEAD
Death after dishonor
(Coming September 2019)