This is not an indictment of Officers Simmons or Stimmel, but a question of our methodology today, vs the methodology of days gone by.
I was struck by the honesty of this “exit interview” in the paper today. Two of Dayton’s finest from the “Good old day” generation are retiring. In it- they mention the “old school way”
After 33 years, Dayton cops retire together
The ‘old school’ way
“We were tutored under the ‘old school’ officers,” Simmons said. “That’s where you learned ‘street justice,’ that not everybody had to go to jail. But back in that day people had respect for officers. If they did wrong, you took care of business whatever way you had to.”
Cruiser cameras and microphones, although beneficial in a number of ways, have changed things, the officers said.
“You got to worry about every word you say, everything you do,” Stimmel said. “Back then if somebody swung at you they deserved to be hit. Now (younger officers) don’t know what to do.
“If somebody back then would swear at you, you’d swear back because that’s the only language they knew. Now you got that microphone on, you can’t say things, you gotta watch what you say. People spit at you and do these things and you got to put up with that stuff.
I entered the Army at about the time new rules went into place where drill sergeants could no longer swear at or touch recruits- it was a major change. The Army had gone “professional” and we were seeing the last of the “go in the service or go to jail” type recruits.
About the same time, the Dayton Police academy was still teaching recruits that it was OK to “knock some sense” into scumbags on the street. You didn’t taser someone, you hit them with your flashlight, you had gloves with lead shot in them, a sap, or the perp would “fall down” a lot while in handcuffs.
We didn’t have near as many people in jail or prison, the crooks didn’t have better firepower than the cops, and there were no mandatory sentencing guidelines. Dayton had at least 50,000 more residents, and yet the perception was about the same- it wasn’t a safe place compared to the ‘burbs.
We have no way of knowing if “street justice” was applied equally to blacks or whites, but, I’m pretty sure the perpetual offenders were treated equally bad, black or white. I’m also sure the punks from wealthy families got a break in the beating, but, their parents were made aware that they wouldn’t sweep things under the table more than a few times- get your kids inline- or face public embarrasment.
If there has been one thing that’s changed, it’s that a rap sheet is no longer a scarlet letter on the streets, it’s a prerequisite for power, a requirement on a CV for those who aspire to be “gangstas”- our prisons are a proving ground, not a rehabilitation system. Our system is overflowing with punks who have no problem spitting- slapping- or shooting a cop. Remember Dayton Police Officer and mother, Mary Beall, who thought that by putting down her gun, she could stop a punk with a gun from ending up dead? Mary was new school, and you saw the result.
I’m not condoning handing cops back a can of whup-ass as standard equipment, but I am asking, have we really made progress? Is it better for a young punk to get a beating that his Daddy should have given him from a cop, so that maybe, he doesn’t end up in prison getting hardened for a life on a much tougher street?
Simmons and Stimmel were just pieces of a machine, the question is- did we really make progress when we dismantled that machine and replaced it with what we have now?
I’d love to see Chief Biehl weigh in on this- or Sheriff Vore, who both have experience that spans this transition.