One would be a fool not to admit that there are exceptions to every rule. Not wanting to appear foolish, I unequivocally state that there are some in the upper ranks who did and do show bursts of intelligence, from one occasion to the next. As a former member of the Long Blue Line, I have been both a participant and an avid observer of an evolving police department. I realize that some of the top police administrators will find fault with the word evolving for they sincerely believe in the creation theory of police departments, usually starting with their own appointment. These people usually become commissioners and deputy commissioners skilled in the use of basketballs and blessed with a great deal of political acumen and great connections.

Recently, we have watched as cities around the country, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., militarized their police departments, their officers morphing into caricatures of special ops soldiers. Equipped with black uniforms, bloused jump boots, full body armor, including visored helmets, exotic-looking weapons, and three-foot long batons resembling Han Solo’s light saber, these special ops soldier imitations have been unleashed on citizens exercising the privileges granted under the Bill of Rights. The most recent instance has been in Miami, Florida, where the police under the leadership of John Timoney, a carpetbagger from Philadelphia, denied the right of peaceful assembly to any and all who sought to protest against the policies of the economic forum being held there.

The Miami Gestapo punished any and all caught demonstrating peacefully within a 100-block radius of the economic forum by gassing, assaulting, and illegally detaining them. Cameras and films were confiscated, and the reportage of the various illegal acts by the police suppressed. Timoney and his police force offered no apologies and committed acts that imply that any means necessary should be taken to quell civil dissent up to and including violations of the Constitution, which all law enforcement officers swear an oath to uphold.

The trend to militarize civilian police departments does not bode well for our country, and I for one hope that police departments throughout the country will reassess what the function and role of the police in society is. “To serve and protect” is emblazoned on many of our local police vehicles and, to a large extent, it is firmly embedded in the hearts and minds of most officers who serve in that capacity. Some in the ranks see their jobs differently than the bulk of the men and women in police uniforms who just seek to get the job done in the easiest way possible.

Last fall, we were treated to the spectacle of our nation’s leading law enforcement moron, John Ashcroft, kicking off his support for the Patriot Act in our great City of Buffalo. He appeared at the downtown Hyatt Hotel in a bid to rally support for the continuation and enhancement of the most odious legislation since the 18th century Alien and Sedition Act. He was greeted by two to three hundred protesters. They chanted, banged on five gallon buckets, and otherwise had a good time for a couple of hours while various police department brass from all the varied agencies showed up to listen to the vagaries of Ashcroft’s fundamentalist mind. As a participant and an observer at this scene, I was proud to admit that I had once served in the very same police department that was present to serve and protect all of these protesting citizens. And I think that we, both police and citizen, felt quite secure by not being threatened by an army dressed for combat.

Our Buffalo Police Department may not get it right 100 percent of the time but, over the years, the men and women of the department deserve a grade of “A” for attempting to balance the requirements of good police work with a respect for the constitutional rights of the citizenry. They deserve our support, along with our critical eye, to ensure that they, like other police departments, do not slip into a military role. We cannot balance a police state with a civil society and still expect to exercise our constitutional freedoms. By Bill Logal

The fortunate part of living in Buffalo, aside from great political leadership, is having a police department staffed mostly by people possessing a great deal of common sense. Not included in that assessment are the political appointees who fulfill the Peter Principle, which states that a body will rise in a hierarchy until reaching his or her level of incompetence. Years ago, there was a very wise man, my father, who observed that the higher one rises in a police department, the dumber one became. Following in his footsteps, I also elected to remain at the bottom of the echelon because I couldn’t afford to get really stupid.