Pubdate: Wed, 28 July 1999
Source: The Salisbury News & Advertiser (MD)
Author: Rob Ryan


Last week there were two letters in the Salisbury' News and Advertiser
from two individuals with extremely different perspectives.  One
spreads fear of police and all the awful things he perceives they do.
The other, a new voice from Ocean City, spreads the fear of Salisbury
and drugs in order to gain support for his fellow police officers.  I
am tired of both views.

Fear mongering is an old tool to sway public opinion.  The
revolutionaries need people to be afraid of the "King's" troops in
order to take action against the "King".  Conversely the "King" needs
an enemy the population fears.  This way, they will support the "King"
and provide tax money which will be used to suppress any particular
group currently out of favor.  It is a constant struggle between the
two groups, which often gets out of balance. The swing of the power
pendulum is as old as mankind.

You might ask where are we today and where are we going tomorrow? That
can be hard to tell sometimes; different attitudes will cloud
opinions.  As an engineer, I try to discount personal biases and
evaluate facts from a long-term perspective.

The facts about crime is that we currently live in a time when our
prison population is at an all-time high.  We have the highest
incarceration rate in the world; Wall Street investments in prison
industries are a good investment; we lock up blacks at incredible
rates; Wicomico county is funding a variety of new or expanding
detention centers; and Salisbury's police force has nearly reached 40
percent of the general tax fund compared to 18 percent historically.

One might counter and say the crime rates has taken some small dips
lately, but they are still huge, from a historical perspective.

One month ago there was gunfire at a fast-food restaurant in Salisbury
that resulted in considerable media coverage.  I have no insider
information on the events; I was not a witness; I will not condemn our
police force; nor defend the individuals in the vehicle, but there is
one thing I know about this incident that I am certain is true.

The two police officers were deadly afraid of the men in the car, as
was true of the two men in custody.  It is a powerful statement of
where we are today that our police are as afraid of our minority
citizens as they are of the police.

I am tired of fear and listening to those who promote it.  Perhaps,
just maybe our current model of crime and crime control is not
working.  It is time to re-evaluate what we are doing; why we are
doing it; and where we are going.