10/31/23 Stephen Downing

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Stephen Downing
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Stephen Downing began his 20-year police career in a squad car and finished as a deputy chief of police. As Commander of the Bureau of Special Investigations at one point, the Administrative Narcotics Division was one of the divisions within his scope of authority. His vast experience in law enforcement has led him to the conclusion that the War on Drugs can never be worth the human and fiscal costs.

Audio file

06/01/22 Stephen Downing

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Stephen Downing
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Uvalde Texas heavily armed law enforcement left 19 children and their teachers to be slaughtered by a lone gunman. Stephen Downing Deputy Police Chief of Los Angeles (Ret) joins us to discuss this horrendous failure.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER (00:00):
Hi folks. Welcome to this. I'm not gonna say special, but an extraordinary addition of cultural baggage. I thank you for being with us. Um, our guest today is Mr. Steven Downing. He had a 20 year police career. He started in a squad car, finished his deputy chief of police, uh, in the city of Los Angeles, where there's much more to talk about, but I first, I just wanna welcome my traveling buddy from the leap mobile, Mr. Steven Downing. Hello, Steve.
Thank you, Dean. Good to be with you.
DEAN BECKER (00:35):
Yes, sir. Now, Steve, I don't know if extraordinary is the word we had a situation happen just one week ago in the city of U Valdi Texas. Tell me of your impressions. Just your initial impressions, sir.
Well, uh, first of all, uh, unfortunately it wasn't extraordinary. It was becoming ordinary and um, your first reaction is, is another shot to the gut. It just hurts. And you can only picture the picture, the slaughter of those young children. And again, and again, and again, say why can't we as a country, eliminate this tribalism and solve this problem. You look at other countries, you look at New Zealand and Switzerland and the UK, uh, parts of the UK, Canada, New Zealand is a perfect example. They had that horrible mass shooting in the mosques and they solved the problem. There's not been a shooting since they solved the problem as a country coming together, horrified by what happens and this rhetoric about hardening the target, hardening the target. Listen, uh, we've had arm guards at these schools, uh, in the past and they were ineffective. I guess you could put up a hundred around each school and maybe one wouldn't get through, but it is time to talk about finding a middle ground in my opinion.
And maybe there are some parts of the target that need to be firmed up and hardened a bit, but also gun control needs to be a part of that picture. And the idea that this 19 year old 18 year old on his birthday could go by two war level weapons by magazines and ammunition enough that he can kill 19 young children in a matter of minutes, reload, reload, reload. And right next door, you have the NRA having a convention, talking about that silly juvenile expression. They invented so long ago that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Well, that's a juvenile that's moronic, and it's an analogy that has no place in this discussion. We don't want bad guys with guns and the way to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys is to make sure they can't get 'em.
And there's lots of ways. We have more regulations to get a fishing license than we do an AR 15 and 500 rounds of ammo and five, uh, uh, uh, big mag, uh, magazines. So this country needs a discussion outside of the tribalism. And if we can't get both sides together, when you have the majority of the people in the United States want gun control, we know that when we can't get the people we elect together, then I think we maybe better think about electing people who are willing to get together and who were willing to find that middle ground, uh, and, and solve this problem. Like other countries have solved it.
DEAN BECKER (05:07):
Yes. Thank you, Steve. You know, um, the, um, the mass shooting that, that most people think was the first, it certainly wasn't, but was Colomb and, and one of our fellow leap speakers, he's now ill, but, um, uh, Mr. Ryan, um, was there, he was one of the first to arrive at, at the Colombian shooting and he was told to stand down and I know that plagued him for the rest of his life, Mr. Tony, Ryan. And we had a situation where dozens of cops were, I guess, told to stand down in alti in alti. Let's, let's talk about that situation, sir.
Well, that, um, it should not have happened. Uh, there's some breakdown in the training or breakdown in the ability to assess, uh, the difference between an active shooter and a barricaded suspect. And I have yet to see any reporting that suggests anything other than the fact that this is an active shooter situation inside of school and after Columbine, uh, which, which is what now 20 years ago, 22, I think. Yeah. Um, across the board, American law enforcement adopted, uh, what they call the Mactac. And it's a, it's a philosophy and a strategy and a tactic that is action, rapid deployment, multi assault counter-terrorism action capabilities. MacTech and that means that whoever's there you go, go, go. And your objective is to immediately stop the target. The rest of it is when you slow down, you can put up your perimeters and establish your cramp command posts.
But the first job of the first person that's there is to stop the shooter. Okay. That didn't happen. And it hasn't happened in a number of other situations. And the reason for that is, is because of the amount of damage that can be done by this active shooter, with a magazine, uh, that can, uh, pump lead a second apart. You know, uh, it's, it's, it's something that bottles the mind when you basically for 20 years trained to accomplish, um, to, to stop a situation like this. And yet you don't, but I've seen that a lot of times, um, often in riots situations in 1965, well, the watch riot, the lesson we learned is, is that you have to stop it and you can't continue to, uh, widen a perimeter, uh, thinking that it's gonna burn out. Uh, the fact is, is that almost Los Angeles almost burned down because, and the Watts riot, they kept widening the perimeter.
And so we built in new procedures and policies and command and control that says, don't do that anymore. We trained for it for years and years, since 1965. And then 92 came along after the Rodney king jury. And it repeated itself. Why did it repeat itself in this case because of politicians got involved and 20 years later, they're, they're coming up with the same weakness. And in situations that break down like that in situations like the school strength has to be the priority and immediate action has to be the priority and stopping the threat has to be the priority that didn't happen here.
DEAN BECKER (09:38):
No, sir, it did not. Now I wanna combine a couple of thoughts here is my understanding, and I'm no attorney, but following the, the situation at Colomb that the us Supreme court ruled that it is not law, enforcement's primary obligation to protect anybody who is not under their control, which to me seems so, uh, unAmerican, uh, to, for lack of a better term. And, and I guess what I'm trying to say here is that those kids in that school were under government control. Um, is there a penalty, is there anything that can be that, those, those law enforcement officers who stood down and let those children die? Is there any law that will prosecute them for their inaction?
Well, I think it's primarily, um, um, a civil case. Uh, I don't know if there's criminal negligence involved in this, uh, because of the, uh, because of the concept that you discussed, it was dis um, decided by the Supreme court. Uh, I forget the term that they used, but it's a, uh, some, uh, presumed immunity,
DEAN BECKER (11:01):
Qualified immunity. Yes, sir. Qualified immunity,
Qualified immunity. That's right. And, uh, but, um, B that it is, as it may, there is a responsibility. The schools had a responsibility, uh, to see that that hired guard was there and not driving around the school, had a responsibility to ensure that those doors were locked and, uh, things of that nature. Uh, but law enforcement also had a responsibility to respond in a different way. So I'm sure you're going to see a lot of losses, and I'm sure that you're gonna see, uh, municipalities and states pay a big price, uh, millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars for the negligence that took place here, but that doesn't solve the problem. We have municipalities paying out all the time for bad behavior for negligence, for incompetence all the time, but that's, that's, that's a burden on the taxpayer that continues, and we haven't solved the problem.
Uh, we haven't worked together to solve the problem. And so that discussion needs to, uh, recognize the costs of where we've been and what we've done, but also to recognize that it, there has been no solution and the hardening of the target, there has been no solution come from that. What we've done, um, over the years, let me give you one example. Um, the original SWAT team was invented in the Los Angeles police department. And the reason it was invented is because first responders went to a call in which they were outgunned and tactically outgunned. And so a bunch of people got together and said, we need to do something about this as a police department, we didn't have anybody else in society worrying about it. We didn't have a, a city council worrying about it. And so the police department solved the problem by coming up with the concept of a SWAT team.
And that has, that has become more and more sophisticated as the years have gone on. And as you know, a few years later, we had a thing called the north Hollywood shootout, where two guys highly trained, uh, ex-military wearing full body armor, having the biggest guns in the world. And the first responders got there. They were again, outgunned. And while they're waiting for squat to return, I mean, these guys have weapon weapons that are cutting their cars in half. So they broke into a nearby gun store and got rifles to at least hold 'em off long enough for SWAT to get there and, and counter them with, with, uh, heavier equipment. So as a result of that, they said, Hey, we need to put a rifle in every police car, a long rifle in every police car. So they went, bought a bunch of long rifles and across, across the country, that becomes, becomes a new thing.
And then, uh, uh, president Reagan, I believe it was that, uh, created the, uh, the bill that allowed military equipment, big tanks, and big guns and plane throwers and whatnot to be handed out across the country. And so they would go to major city police departments that had the capability to train their people 50% of their on duty time. But they'd also go to a little 15 man police department like this little town in Texas, this little town in Texas is a 15 man police department. And they have a nine man SWAT squad. I ask you, how do you do the job of policing in a city like that? When you have only 15 police officers and you have a SWAT squad, that's nine of them. The answer is, is that SWAT squad doesn't train. They got all the toys, they got all the big weapons, but they still have the policing job to do.
And so their training is gonna be minimal. I guarantee you, they're not training 50% of the time. So in a situation like this, you don't let little tiny police departments have squat squads. You have them become part of a regional organization. But my, the point of my whole discussion is, is that all of these years, all we've done is, is engage in an arms race. Pretty soon the gun manufacturers are letting other guns get on the street. So we gotta up the ante and harden the target, get more bigger guns and bigger sweat teams and bigger tanks and all of that. And we haven't solved the problem. We haven't solved the problem with school shootings, for sure. So we need to find that middle ground, we gotta stop the arms race with local law enforcement. We gotta do some control and regulation, reasonable controls and regulations to make sure these kinds of weapons don't get into the hands of these kinds of people.
DEAN BECKER (16:50):
Thank you. Uh, again, folks, we're speaking with Mr. Steven Downing, uh, uh, now retired, uh, deputy police chief of the city of Los Angeles. Uh, one of my fellow, uh, leap travelers in the leap mobile. Gosh, that's been too long ago now, Steve, I, um, you know, the, the, the first day the governor had his, his conference, uh, the, the, uh, department of public safety had their conference and the, the facts, the facts changed, the facts changed again, the facts are still changing to this day as to what actually happened. And I understand that police are allowed to lie. I mean, it, it tell me is that true. Police are allowed to lie in order to get a conviction or to cops blame their way out of things. Is that true, sir,
They're allowed to lie.
DEAN BECKER (17:46):
Um, as, as part of the,
I would say that any police officer that lies shouldn't have his job, because if you lie, that means you have no credibility. And the next time you go into court and raise your right hand, somebody's there to call you a liar and prove you're a liar. And so once you're proven to be a liar as a police officer, uh, you have no value, uh, to the organization or to the service of the people. So if you're proven as a liar, as a police officer, you should not have your job anymore, period.
DEAN BECKER (18:23):
Well, don't,
It's of explanation.
DEAN BECKER (18:26):
Don't narcotics officers lie every day, uh, when they're out there trying to recruit folks to sell to them, that sort of thing. Um, okay, Steve, now let's walk away from that. That's not the point for today. Um, you were talking about a good guys, the only solution for the bad guys and how untrue that is. And I think that comes from Ronald Reagan back when he was king of the Cowboys, it comes from John Wayne. It comes from this mindset that the good guy with a gun is going to stop everything. And, and I, I wanted to kind of talk about, I, I have never been in this situation, I can't say, but I know that I, I feel in my heart that if I knew little kids were six inches on the other side of this wall, getting murdered, I'd find a way. And they were 19 cops in that hallway hearing the rounds. No, I, uh, you know where I'm headed with this, please respond Steve.
Oh, uh, finally somebody who arrived, as I understand, it was, uh, a member of the, uh, border patrol SWAT team. They still had the incident commander who was inside, who had made that call, uh, uh, very much earlier and still making that call when he arrived. And my read on it is that he made an assessment. He asked his questions, and this is my supposition, but he asked his questions and he made a decision that this incident commander, uh, uh, couldn't find himself, uh, didn't understand, uh, what he was doing. And so he elected to disobey that order and take the action. He was trained to take, he took it and he killed him and it was over. But also, as I understand, during that same waiting period, there were other people who took things into their own hands. Uh, the guy from the barbershop who borrowed the bar barber's shotgun and went to the school and, uh, rescued quite a number of children, including his own.
So the incident commander failed a lot of people, and it took someone to overrule him, that person that overruled him, that took courage to do as well, because, uh, he could very well be facing some form of disciplinary action. I would think anybody that tried that would be crazy, but he overruled the, uh, an incident commander, uh, in charge. However, you, as a police officer have no obligation to follow an illegal order. And so in the case of this guy, I think that, uh, his decision will, uh, will stand and, uh, he'll be applauded for it. Um, if, if there's room for applause in this situation.
DEAN BECKER (21:48):
Yeah. You're talking about the gentleman who took him out.
I'm talking about the gentleman that overruled the incident commander, right? Yes, sir. The border patrol squad guy that got
DEAN BECKER (21:57):
There. Now, I, I, I, you know, it is just hard for me to, to grasp this one we've we've had, what was it? Uh, the Washington post reporting. There's been 12 mass shootings over this holiday weekend here in these United States, four or more people shot or killed in 12 different shootings here in the us. It's like, it's almost like it's contagious, right? Your thoughts, Steve.
Well, I'm sure that there's a building block that takes, uh, that takes place with, uh, copycat and people are, are, uh, stimulated, uh, people that, that have mental health problems are stimulated and, uh, get into the copycat mode. Um, but the bottom line, the common denominator in all of this is every one of these people had access to weapons of war that they shouldn't have had access to. They, they, we should have done something 20 years ago after Columbine to stop this, we should have done what New Zealand did after the Mo shootings. We should have done what was done in Switzerland. And, uh, but we can't do that because the tribalism is so has so divided this country. We can't get together on anything. We can't get together on something that, that is easy to agree on because if the other guy came up with it, I automatically have to oppose it because the other guys are Republican and I'm a Democrat are vice versa.
It's back and forth like that. They, there is no sense to the division except their quest for power. And we need to unload those people and find people that are reasonable that want to come together that want to find a middle ground on this thing. We call the second amendment. Hey, look, if you look back on the Capone days when they were writing through, um, uh, Chicago leaning out of their cars with what they called it, a Tommy gun, well, the Tommy gun was a weapon of war and they did something about it back then, what they did to, uh, uh, get around the second amendment. I believe they put a tax stamp, a federal tax stamp on every Tommy gun in existence. And if you wanted to have one, you had to pay 50 grand for it, or whatever, you know, 10,000, I don't know what the price was, but they made them prohibitive to own.
DEAN BECKER (24:56):
Yeah, well, I, I wanna come back to the, the SWAT team, you know, you were talking about how that town with 15 cops was really too small to, to have their own SWAT team. And, and I, I wanted to kind of think about it like, um, it's, it's just posturing. I, I think at that level, because they, they were unable to coordinate. They, they were unable to group together. They were unable to be at that school and in time to do anything. And, and I guess what I'm, I'm wanting to say is that it, it brings to mind for the most part, SWAT teams think ahead, they, they plan an endeavor, at least the, the, the narcotics, uh, bus, um, because they, they call 'em narcotics, uh, bus, but they're SWAT teams. They're, they're geared up to the max helmets and, um, flash bang, grenades, and, and all of this stuff. They're ready to go to war, but they wait till four in the morning and the people are asleep. And I guess what I'm trying to say, sir, is it takes a different set of courage to make one of those narcotics busts, as it is to go into a room where you might get shot in the face, your, your response to that, Steve.
Well, uh, number one, if you have a responsibly trained SWAT team and a responsible set of standards for the use of that SWAT team, the SWAT team doesn't roll, unless the first responder comes up against a situation that is beyond that first responder's capability in Los Angeles. For example, the SWAT team doesn't serve narcotic search warrants, unless unless there's advanced intelligence that the place they're gonna take down is highly barred and stopped with big guns that require the capabilities of SWAT to take 'em over in Los Angeles. You don't the SWAT team doesn't roll until the SWAT team. Commander is convinced that the situation requires them. Nobody in the field can order the SWAT team. It's a SWAT team commander that makes a decision. Yes, you need us. Yes, we're going. And then when they arrive, he is automatically the incident commander. He automatically makes the decisions. Now I'm talking about a big city SWAT team in Los Angeles. There's I believe 10 SWAT platoons, 50% of them are training while the other 50% work with the usual reserved forces in a non SWAT posture. But every SWAT officer spends 50% of his on duty time training.
DEAN BECKER (28:02):
Well, Steve, um,
DEAN BECKER (28:04):
All departments don't do that, but they have all this equipment and they want to use it. And that's where all these narcotic rage and these accidental killings are coming from. It's irresponsible deployment of SWAT squads, this little town in Texas that was responsible for the Rob elementary school. They have no business having a, uh, a SWAT squad, none.
DEAN BECKER (28:31):
Well, Steve, we, we do have to cut it off there. Uh, once again, we've been speaking with Mr. Steven Downing, um, 20 years, uh, law enforcement does, and, uh, he retired as a deputy police chief of the city of Los Angeles. Uh, Steve, thank you, sir.
You're welcome, Dean. Good seeing you again.
DEAN BECKER (28:48):
Thank you for listening to this edition of cultural baggage, please visit our website, drug And again, I remind you because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.

02/02/22 Stephen Downing

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Stephen Downing
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Stephen Downing began his 20-year police career in a squad car and finished as a deputy chief of police. His vast experience in law enforcement has led him to the conclusion that the War on Drugs can never be worth the human and fiscal costs.
Discussion revolves around corruption, influence of patrolmen unions and more. Steve was an original board member of LEAP. Downing is an expert on issues related to police militarization, civil asset forfeiture, and corruption and internal affairs. His
interviews and original writings have appeared in numerous local, state, and national outlets.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER: (00:00)
Hi friends. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend most high. Thank you for being with us on this edition of cultural baggage. Today, we have a gentleman I traveled, uh, cross country with on the caravan for peace, justice, and dignity. Uh, he was the, uh, deputy police chief of Los Angeles for many, uh, a great leap speaker, a a good friend. Uh, I wanna welcome Mr. Steven Downing.

I Dean, how you doing sir?

DEAN BECKER: (00:31)
Here? Oh, good to have you,

You know, uh, at, at the leap website, you see, uh, the meme, uh, that we create there, uh, the tree and the roots of the tree, um, are, is the drug war and all of the harms that are indicated in the branches of that tree grew out of the drug war. And so the drug war has contributed to many, many, many injustices in our country. And as you know, leap made a little bit of a change where we added to our objection to the drug war, uh, criminal justice reform, because we saw that, um, we couldn't get all the roots at one time, as we chip away at those roots, we also need to trim back the branches as best we can. So all of the harms that have grown from the, the drug war, uh, need attention at the same time we need to dig at those roots.

Um, my history, uh, is I was a drug warrior. I was there as a command officer when president Nixon declared the war on drugs. And of course we all came to see that it was a declaration of war on people and especially a war on black and brown people. And it took me a while to realize that I was part of something that was harmful rather than positive. Uh, I did my best. I helped organize the, uh, 18 divisional drug units in the Los Angeles police department. I helped organize what we call the major violator squad, which was, uh, a group of investigators that really went worldwide. We helped, uh, create the first task forces that, that, uh, put together local county state, and federal officers in drug task forces across the country. And I helped put together the first drug intelligence network so that we could reach our goal of reducing in a consumption drugs, reducing addiction, reducing the flow of drugs into the country and reducing the violence that was associated with the drugs.

Well, year after year, I saw that we weren't reaching those goals. Uh, the seizures got larger, the money got bigger, the weapons got bigger and I soon came to realize that it wasn't my fault. It wasn't my failure as a police executive, but rather it was the fault of our national policy and everything that grew from that. So all of the things that grew from that though, were enhancements. The crimes were increased prison sentences. And so along with the drug war, we built prison after prison, after prison CA uh, where I live, uh, about 3% of our budget when this started was went to prisons, the whole state budget, and that grew to 16%. So in California, we've kind of started some reform. Uh, we have some formers that have got into office like our local, um, district attorney who's, um, who is considered a progressive.

And he, uh, they just launched the second recall effort because we're pushing the buttons of the status quo. They don't want to see these changes. They want to continue to build prisons and they use fear as the basis, um, to pull that off. So this guy is not going to undergoing his second recall election, but it's interesting that, uh, he was elected. He was elected on a platform that he is putting to work and all the status quo folks are trying to get him out. Uh, and so every crime, every little sensation that comes along, they use that as leverage to stop these people when they're doing that across the country. So I wanna say that, right thinking people should be aware of these movements to stop reform. And like you, that's why we're doing this program. We're, we're trying to get that message out there and, and make people aware.

DEAN BECKER: (06:11)
Thank you for that, Steve. Now again, Steve, I, um, I, I'm not wanting to point fingers. You, you have done a Miya culpa, you have changed your way, so to speak. Peter turned to Paul, whatever you wanna say. Uh, but the, the point I wanna get to is that, um, the hysteria that developed during the late sixties, early seventies, uh, uh, Nixon and Holderman wanted to go after the blacks in the hippies. They wanted to stop the anti-war protests, all of that stuff. And that was part of the lead up. There was a ratcheting up of law enforcement activities, uh, and, and procedures, uh, during that timeframe hell all the way up through the mid eighties, really. But, but the fact I'm trying to get to here is that it was, and tell me if I'm wrong, but I think it was Los Angeles that came up with the first SWAT team. And now we have SWAT teams in every PO city across America doing horrible work, uh, quite often your response to that, Steve,

Uh, that is an interesting thing. Um, the first, the, the first SWAT team really had nothing to do with the war on drugs. Uh, the first SWAT team was, uh, created in the Los Angeles police department during my times. And it was a result of a, a robbery situation where arm robbers basically outgunned the police. And so, uh, one of the police officers with, uh, some military experience went to, uh, his deputy chief and said, uh, we really need, um, a capability that the first responder can't meet, uh, and we need to form that. And so, uh, Darrell gates at the time was a deputy chief and he took it to the chief of police, ed Davis and Davis approved, uh, beginning the training of, of, uh, the first SWAT teams. And they were the best officers for that kind of work were picked from the 18 divisions around the city. And then when, uh, the situation called a situation called for, uh, their need, they were brought, they were brought together, which took the response time was, uh, pretty slow. So eventually they centralized the SWAT in, uh, within what's called metropolitan division in the Los Angeles police department. That outfit is seven platoons within metropolitan division. They train 50% of their on duty time and their historical achievements. I'm talking about Los Angeles. Now I'll get to your point in a minute, their achievement, where they only roll out of the barn.

The first responder is faced with the situation that is beyond their capability, in terms of big guns, uh, uh, very, very dangerous situations, situations that need highly skilled tactics. The decision for SWAT to roll in Los Angeles is not made from the field it's made from the commander of SWAT. He will evaluate, he will decide whether they roll or not. He will decide whether the situation meets the criteria for rolling this kind of equipment and people to a scene. Okay. The result is historically the result is of all the hundreds and hundreds of callouts thatwas responded to in Los Angeles. Well, over 95% of those incidents have ended without a single injury, no injury. So that's the proof of the value of a response unit like that in a society that is swimming in weapons yep. Of streets that are cluttered with weapons. Okay. Now, to get to your point, SWAT is sexy.

They have all the uniforms and they have the equipment. They have the big guns, but in Los Angeles, they train 50% of the time. That's very expensive. Now comes along, Reagan, he hands out all the money for the drug war, more than Nixon ever thought of doing. And then they created that. I forget the name of the legislation where surplus military equipment can go to local police departments. And when they started that program, there were no conditions. You want one, uh, you, you got one. So now you have not a chief of police of a, of a department of 10,000 that can, that can really take and train people and allow them to train 50% of their on duty time. But you have small departments. We want one, we want team. So now they get their tank and they get their big guns and quiet communities, no real need for that stuff.

Really, they should be thinking of a regional application. And so, pretty soon, they're trying to find ways to use this equipment and, and these poorly trained people who train off duty sometimes because the, the department can't afford to take the detective off of the detective desk and, and giving five hours a week of training. It's, it's highly expensive, so they're not trained as well, but they need something to use this equipment on. So pretty soon they're rating, they're using SWAT to serve a marijuana warrant somewhere. And that's where all that's where all of the problems come from. It's untrained officers in smaller departments that are using squats, squat squads for situations that do not require them tactically. And so you put that for we're training with a, with an unjustified objective, and people are dying across this country, uh, because, um, because our application of policy is bad. And so SWAT teams need to be examined across the country. And if you want one, make sure you can afford it, make sure that you have the right criteria for rolling and make sure you're training 50% of the time. And then that'll be a true, true squad squad that is there to protect the community and not to, and not to be a, a killer machine that that just runs wild.

DEAN BECKER: (13:40)
Very good. Steve, thank you for that. That, that was, uh, very, uh, clarifying. I, I do appreciate it. Now. I wanna say something. You, you mentioned the smaller towns that they don't have 10,000, um, officers. They've got 10 and, and, but they want that SWAT team. And so many of them, maybe they don't even call it a SWAT team, but they have this more militaristic mentality these days where they kick in doors, where they, uh, like Brianna Taylor for a prime example, they're looking for her ex-boyfriend and they kick in the door. And then the confusion leads to the police, killing the woman in her bed. All right, folks, I me to break in to remind you, you are listening to cultural baggage on Pacifica and the drug truth network. Our guest is Stephen Downing, former deputy police, chief of Los Angeles, and one of the founding members of leap. It is the quite often the propaganda of, of the drug war that leads people to assume this necessity, that they're druggie and what do we gotta do? Whatever it takes your response, Steve Downing, well,

You, you said we used the word drug war. Let's look at the political level. Anytime you have a social problem, it seems that the politicians, their answer is always enforcement. Their answer is always to go to their law enforcement. Their answer is always to begin a war on this problem, and this is a civil society. We shouldn't be starting wars on our own people, regardless of who they are or what they're doing. We need to look at law enforcement as a professional organization that has professionals, public servants, doing the job of law enforcement and making sure that there's a division of function where don't do not ask a law enforcement officer to do a job that they're not trained to do. If you, you, if, if you have a social problem like mental illness, it shouldn't be the officers, police officers handling that. Now they might be along to help protect the social worker and dealing with it and bringing the situation down and deescalating, or, uh, spend some money and training officers, uh, get a little better educated officer on the job that, that knows about those kinds of things, but let's not always, uh, blame the police.

Let's blame the politicians for saying, for declaring the war and giving the job of fighting the war to the police when they should be giving the job to other people. In other words, homeless, the homeless problem. Why should the police be dealing with a homeless problem, whether it's involving, uh, drug addiction or mental illness or economic, uh, failure, why should the police be involved in that on any level, unless there's a disturbance that they need to, uh, use to keep the peace. So we need to start with our politicians rather than tearing about part our police organizations all the time. And if we did that, we might not, we might be able to change the culture of many of these police organizations that think of themselves as warriors, rather than thinking of themselves as public servants.

DEAN BECKER: (17:32)
Good points there, Steve, I, I, uh, agree with you a hundred percent. I, I gotta say this, that, um, you know, this thought of the militaristic, I mean, we have ongoing wars. I Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria on down the line, we have many soldiers back been trained in the military, uh, and a large number of them go into the police forces. And, and, and don't, don't take this wrong. See, I'm not picking on the police, but I'm just saying many of them, uh, some of them carry the, uh, PTSD from these other wars into our, our communities. You wanna talk about that a little bit?

Well, I think I, I think that that goes to your recruitment policy, your recruitment process, and it goes to your screening process, your site, psychological screening, um, and those kinds of things. But, but it also goes to, uh, the culture of the police organization. And what is not said often enough is, is that the police officer is not a warrior. A soldier has an enemy and he's taught the kill. The enemy. A police officer has no enemies. Even the worst bank. Robber is not an enemy. That bank robber is someone in the United States of America who is entitled to due process and the protections of the United States constitution. And who's entitled to, um, uh, to be treated as our laws intend them to be treated. So we should not mix up the military mission with the civil police mission. And if you have that as a policy in your organization, then you're gonna weed out the guy who wants to be the soldier. And you're going to allow the guy who wants to be a public servant, the guy or gal who wants to be a proper servant, you're gonna allow them to flourish in the organization, but you have to have the culture to allow that kind of growth. If you don't have that culture, then the soldier who is taught to kill, he's gonna be dominant.

DEAN BECKER: (20:18)
Now, Steve, I, I wanna, uh, shift just a little bit to, uh, um, Hmm. The clout of policemen. If you will, what you, the clout, the influence police have on politicians and others, you were talk touching on that a bit. That is the politicians who created the laws that the police have to follow. And I, I was, I was wanting to, uh, there is another influence that comes back towards those politicians and I'm all for unions, but patrolman's unions have a lot of, and I'm gonna say undue influence, and I don't know, uh, capability within many communities. You wanna talk about patrolman's unions.

Um, in my opinion, the police officers associations, the strength that they have and the influence they have over politicians is probably the major contributor to our inability, to reform policing in this country. Uh, because in the late seventies, they began to discover the power of their treasury in my town, long beach, California, the police, uh, department is about 900 strong. And the police department in this town, the police officer organization in my town are directly involved in the election of our mayor and 90% of the members of the council. And the result is the misbehavior and the corruption and the incompetence within the long beach police department is never spoken, allowed to the public. The mayor, we have scandal after scandal and the mayor never says a word and no member of our council ever says a word. Why not? Because their money is more important to their campaigns.

In the last few years, uh, in the last five years, the POA in long beach has poured, uh, 1.2 million into local campaigns. And this is a town of, uh, may, uh, 500001.1 million have gone into local campaigns. They've raised taxes on us twice. The mayor, uh, passed a major to raise taxes, which made, uh, our town, the highest retail, uh, uh, tax in the state and the POA, uh, put up $300,000 for his slick mailer campaign to get that done. And when it was done, the first cut went to a raise for police officers. They are not hiring, uh, uh, years ago, about six years ago because of the economic situation in our town. They reduced the size of the police department by 200 officers. But after we passed these tax majors and part of the campaign was to put that 200 back since that time, four years ago, uh, they have put 14 back and none on the street, only 14, but they have created new programs that pay overtime.

So we have police officers at the police officer level in this town with their overtime and their benefits and their very rich pension benefits, uh, making $300,000 a year, a police officer, a, a police officer with a high school education. And three months of academy training, six months of academy training is making $300,000 a year. All of that. Now you say, okay, they're working overtime. It's irresponsible to pay overtime for every program that you have, because what you do is you move things around and you never get any permanence to anything. Number one, number two, wear people out. If they can make the money, they're gonna stay there and make it regardless of the level of fatigue that they're experiencing. So what do you get from that? You get fatigue, you get inattention to duty, you get car accidents, you get breakdown of the family of, or the police officers.

You get suicides and you a lot of sick time that we pay for as well. So the money of the POA is a cancer on good professional law enforcement. I have nothing against unions either. I think in the private sector, let 'em have it because in the private sector, you move, negotiate with a guy who's dealing with a bottom line with the people they get elected and they don't have a bottom line. The politician has this unending treasury of public tax money. And that's why I believe that unions should not be allowed to make donations to anybody that will have a vote as to what their benefits will be in the future.

DEAN BECKER: (26:25)
Well, Steve, we're gonna have to wrap it up here and I just wanna let throw this out here. I don't know how much discussion can form around it, but at, uh, here in, uh, Houston, I don't know, it's been two and a half years ago. I think there was what they call the Harding street bust, where, uh, the cops, uh, showed up with, well, a warrant that they faked or they convinced the judge they needed. I don't know, but whole series of wrong, um, procedures were done. The cops shot each other through the walls of the building. They killed the occupants of the building. Uh, they said there was heroin. There was no heroin. There was a little bit of weed, whatever. It was a whole series of cluster things. If you follow me. And, and, and the point I wanna get to is that that night, the head of the patrolman's union came on all the networks and says, you better believe what we did here was worthy and considered and, and treat us right. And it turns out that they were corrupt. They were murderers. They've been convicted and on down the line. But my point I'm getting to here, Steve is that since that point in time, up to that point in time, I've been interviewing the district attorney, the police chief, the sheriff, everybody was willing to talk. But since that point in time, I think the leverage that the patrolman's union over the police chief, the sheriff and the da is preventing them from talking about this fiasco. Uh, your closing thoughts, Mr. Steve Downing,

Uh, all of that will stop. The minute you pass a law that says the police officers associations cannot support the campaigns of politicians who can benefit them directly. They're there they're employees let 'em work, let, let them bargain at the bargaining table for their wages and working conditions. And that's where it stops.

DEAN BECKER: (28:25)
Good advice. There is, uh, one again, friends we've been speaking with Mr. Steven Downing. He was, uh, uh, once the, uh, deputy police chief of Los Angeles man, uh, great experience and, and, uh, chief, thank you for being with us.

You're welcome. Nice talking to you.

DEAN BECKER: (28:41)
All right. As we're wrapping up here, I recommend you go to the website of law enforcement action leap out there on the, lot of, uh, knowledgeable folks there. And again, I remind you because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag, please be careful.