Tuesday, January 29, 2008

You can (or should) trust the Man (or Woman) who wears the star

This is a continuation of the story I outlined in Trust and the Thin Blue Line yesterday. We entrust our lives and safety to those in law enforcement and for the most part the number of officers who respond positively to this trust is overwhelming. The vast majority of law enforcement officers I have been privileged to meet are hard working, well meaning and deserving of our trust.

All the more reason to make sure none but the best and trust worthy are hired into the force.

Blame ineptitude, not affirmative action, for SAPD's bad hire
Jaime Castillo: San Antonio Express-News

The story of former San Antonio Police Officer Joseph Evans is one full of baffling ineptitude.
Evans, whose checkered history was detailed in Sunday's Express-News, never should have been hired in 1994.

Cops in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and even San Antonio took one look at his past and said he didn't deserve the opportunity to carry a gun and a badge.

Yet, a member of the SAPD brass at the time overruled a captain under him and cleared the way for Evans — and his rap sheet with drunken driving and hit-and-run convictions — to become a cadet.

To what should have been no one's surprise, Evans' 12-year run as a cop in-name-only ended when he pleaded guilty last year to looking the other way while his girlfriend dealt methamphetamine from their house.

Worse, nobody wants to own the mistake of his hiring.

According to several former police officials quoted by reporters Todd Bensman and Guillermo Contreras, Evans, who is black, was brought on "amid political pressure from City Hall to hire more black and female officers."


Evans was hired because of one word: stupidity.

Four agencies, including SAPD in 1992, repeatedly rejected Evans' application.
Are we to believe that the supposed political pressure that existed in 1994, when Evans was slipped through the process at SAPD, wasn't there two years earlier?
Sorry, affirmative action might be an easy scapegoat, but simple incompetence is a more apt description.

Even the most passionate fans of affirmative action know that the worst thing that can happen under such a program is to make bad hires.
If rules are relaxed and corners are cut for a woman or a racial or ethnic minority, the failure of that person becomes an inglorious part of that organization's whisper mill.
"See. We took a chance on one of them, and look what happened."

To believe that Evans was hired to fill an unspoken quota is to believe that SAPD couldn't find any black candidates better than him.

Put another way, an organization built to investigate crimes couldn't find a single black man or woman who didn't have two prior convictions, who didn't try to hide a criminal trespass arrest and who wasn't investigated for sexual misconduct at a previous corrections officer job.
That's not believable.

But if it is true that SAPD recruiters in the early 1990s couldn't find better applicants than Evans, then they were downright lazy.

One can only hope that the community can take the comments of current Police Chief William McManus at face value.

McManus, who was not here in the 1990s, acknowledged that his office is under pressure to meet the goals set forth in the city's affirmative action plan.
But, while it should be the goal of every city department to reflect the community it serves, McManus said he won't do it the wrong way.

"We're way low on our numbers in terms of women and black officers, yeah," he was quoted as saying. "But you've got to look at some other method of retention, as opposed to lowering standards."

As the story of Joseph Evans proves, a bad hire is a bad hire. Hiring goals are there to encourage officials to try harder, to resist convention and to look for candidates in nontraditional areas.
Bluntly, they are there to stop bosses from saying, "We couldn't find any."

To lower the bar and then cry affirmative action when things don't go right is reckless and the coward's way out.