Shouldn’t we use law-enforcement money to fight actual crime?

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By Charles M . . . With the recent increase in violent crime in some areas of Gainesville, FL, and in light of recent law enforcement activity there, a question must be asked: Is the money allotted for law enforcement being used wisely?  Recently friends of mine in Gainesville had nine law enforcement officials, including U.S. Marshalls, probation officers, and other law enforcement officials, enter their home one evening at 9:30 to conduct a house search. This was for a couple where the 80-year-old husband had been slowly developing frontotemporal dementia over a period of years before committing a criminal offense.

According to a study published in JAMA Neurology in January of 2015, more than a third of the people in the study with FTD acted out with criminal behaviors. The National Institute of Health in “Neurodegeneration Behind Bars: From Molecules to Jurisprudence” found that “FTD can early on hinder cognition and predisposes its victims to criminal violations. FTD is challenging because patients often retain the appreciation of right and wrong yet may be “organically incapable to act accordingly.”  Florida statutes do not allow courts to consider dementia, even when, as in   the case of my friend, the diagnosis is supported with a brain MRI showing atrophy of the brain cells in the frontal lobe, along with a three-hour cognitive evaluation performed by a neuropsychologist used by UF Health of Jacksonville showing cognitive decline in many areas, including judgment.

The night of the search, the first individual to enter the home loudly announced, “U.S. Marshalls entering!”  This swat-team-style search was done for an elderly man who was a Naval officer and a pilot for over 24 years, a man who served three tours in the Vietnam War in battle, a man who then spent twelve and a half years working for the U.S. government in computer security and software application, and a man with a master’s degree who is now performing barely on a third-grade level.  Additionally, a civil court with jurisdiction over Alachua County declared him incapacitated.  The nine individuals performing the search are not to be blamed for what I consider a waste of law enforcement money.  These men and women were courteous and professional in their interactions with my friends and were only doing what their superiors told them to do.  My friends tell me that the Gainesville and Alachua County law enforcement officials are excellent examples for other departments in the state to follow.  The problem lies with the high-ranking state officials who make these unwise decisions.

A couple of months ago, another swat-team-style search was held in the office of a Gainesville realtor.  In the meantime, the residents of east Gainesville are in great need of increased law enforcement presence in their once peaceful neighborhoods. The same week that my friends experienced their home invasion in Gainesville, there were at least three people shot in the city.  I have to wonder how many people were shot during the week the Gainesville realtor’s office was invaded?

While these two searches were conducted for different reasons, would it not be more cost effective if the Florida officials who ordered these searches used empirically validated risk assessments to determine which Gainesville residents actually need to be recipients of such aggressive searches, thereby freeing up money to fight actual crime?  In my friends’ case, they were told that their house was randomly determined by a computer program.  Was this an investigation in search of a crime when there is so much real, violent crime occurring right under law enforcement’s nose?

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6 Thoughts to “Shouldn’t we use law-enforcement money to fight actual crime?”

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  1. TS

    CAPT,

    Yes, they should, However, as you know, what is programmed and budgeted for must be followed because reprogramming of funds cannot be done without authorization of higher authority or severe legal consequences could be had. Those who use the computer results to make their list of searches are not used to having them questioned for the applicability on people. They should, though, be questioned internally (and externally too by the public), but that would take greater brainpower by someone internally who is willing to ensure fiscal responsibility and responsible applicability is being followed. That, though, gets them in trouble with the rest of the LE office unfortunately.

    Bravo Zulu on the post

    1. Charles Munsey Jr.

      My commentary was based on LE action that was totally unnecessary. I support law enforcement but it must be focused on real crime and not some ‘made-up’, possible crime. What happened here was nothing short of harassment of an 80 year old Navy veteran dealing with elder age mental problems.

      1. TS

        @CAPT Munsey

        Completely agree with you and your post. Fight the the real deal when danger is assessed as so, not because someone is tracking to financial concerns for the next fiscal year.

  2. Maestro

    “… were only doing what their superiors told them to do.”

    Quitting is also an option. Does becoming an agent of law enforcement suddenly make a person lose sight of being… well… a person? If your boss tells you to do something that you feel is unethical, you can decline and quit.
    Other than getting the proverbial pat-on-th-back from onlookers and simply just showing off, what IS the necessity of storming into someone’s home with a gang of law enforcement officers and guns/bullet proof vests just to do a standard “residence check”? They go there acting like they’re executing a drug bust. This is 100% THEATER!!! And people need to start saying so. People, meaning NARSOL, FAC and any other advocacy groups.

    1. Capt Charles Munsey Jr. USN Ret

      Only following orders was the excuse used at the Nuremberg trials to justify the murder of millions of Jews.

  3. Tim in WI

    How much does the state spend on their electronic infrastructure? Law enforcement has certainly embraced high tech full throat. Are the Byrne Grant folks part of that picture? The people have been sold convenience and not much else in the way of public safety. In fact our leadership has opted for the full on headlong dive into cyberspace resulting in a myriad of cyber threats to the whole of the people for the profit of very few. That f anything it was the database that needed regulating as much as the pseudo violent man.