unfuck the police

This is just a short post to encourage everyone to subscribe to “Chronicle Police Reports” on Facebook.

Run by the Bozeman Chronicle, the feed details all the many mundane, non-terrible, cheerful, or amusing things the Bozeman, Montana Police Department encounters as it answers calls and patrols the community. Here are some recent examples:

Two men were seen shooting gophers at the East Gallatin Recreation Area. The men were gone when officers arrived.

Kids seen on the roof of the high school at 11:30 p.m. turned out to be seniors who were hanging a banner near one of the school entrances. They wanted to recap a great year they had in sports by letting everyone know they were No. 1.

A woman reported that her landlord’s son, who lives next door, continues to allow his dog to poop in her yard. However, the woman said she did not see what animal left the poop. She was advised that officers needed a witness in order to cite someone.

Ten small ducklings that were caught in a storm drain on Third Avenue were rescued by an officer and a helpful citizen who lived nearby.

Three goats were running loose near the Cherry River fishing access.

A man who owns a condo in Big Sky received a summons to appear in court because he was being sued. The man wanted to file a complaint against the person suing him saying he was being extorted. He was informed that being summonsed to court was not extortion and he was encouraged to consult with his attorney.

They’re not all heartwarming/hilarious outtakes from Northern Exposure, of course. Some of them point to sadder or darker issues:

Two people who officers saw yelling at each other while walking in the middle of Black Avenue at 12:30 a.m. were found to be having relationship problems. They were told to stay separated for the night.

And some of the reports underscore the way the police are often called on to enforce a system that is fundamentally harsh to the weakest among us:

A man was warned for sleeping in the stairwell at the parking garage.

But, on balance, CPR paints a picture of a police department doing all the things police are supposed to do: all the little services that aren’t exactly crimefighting but that make the community a safer, warmer place to live.

Many papers run a police blotter feature for community interest. But CPR is unusual, because it eschews the two most common approaches: a solemn list of crimes, or a wacky, “dumbest criminal” type of feature. Most of the CPR items, by contrast, don’t involve crimes at all. And this gives us an opportunity to think about what must surely be the actual bulk of police work: keeping a watchful eye, informing people of the law, and ameliorating minor difficulties.

Reputationally, of course, it really benefits the police to be seen as benign and humane problem-solvers; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Bozeman PD works hand-in-glove with the Chronicle to make sure the most cheerful and funniest stories float to the top. But one wonders, reading the blotter, how to encourage our more troubled police departments to see themselves that way, rather than thinking of themselves as “warriors” or an overwhelming force on behalf of the state or, God forbid, toll collectors. Especially as the madness of the drug war appears to be winding down, I wonder if now might not be the ideal moment to reconceive our police departments—to demilitarize them and emphasize their most excellent function as community-builders and caretakers.

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