Putting the Criminal-Friendly Genie Back in the Bottle

Putting the Criminal-Friendly Genie Back in the Bottle

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

For ease of debate, opinions are cast in two categories whether left or right, progressives or conservatives, donkey or elephant.  Without playing those cards, the real cultural enemy is across these divides: the permissives – the philosophy to just let things go and excuse destructive behavior. Whether it is prosecutors, lawmakers, or parents, the age-old question of freedom versus accountability remains as the pendulum of natural consequences swings.

One consequence of permissiveness is violence. “Boston police officers have experienced an increased level of physical and verbal assaults as they respond to emergency calls and patrol our neighborhoods”, says City Council President Ed Flynn. Murders in the population and assaults on officers have grown alarmingly, but it’s just another day at the office too abstract and removed from ivory towers. But violence, like cancer, has a tendency to spread beyond its origins.  Now that assaults on politicians and other public officials have increased, the cancer of violence is getting closer.

The Director of National Intelligence recently issued a security advisory that states “Over the last five years, there has been an uptick in threats to public officials—to include those at the state and local level to a degree unseen in the past—showcasing the need for first responder awareness, particularly during community-focused special or political events.”

 Recent headlines read: “Violent threats against public officials are rising”, “U.S. grapples with rising threats of political violence as 2024 election looms” and “Harassment, Threats, and Violence Directed at Local Elected Officials Rising at an Alarming Rate”. The National Center for Education Statistics show an increase in assaults and threats to elementary and secondary teachers. Doctors and nurses haven’t escaped the trend either. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the rate of injuries from violent attacks against medical professionals grew by 63%

A National League of Cities report states that ‘87% of local officials surveyed observed an increase in attacks on public officials in recent years, while 81% reported having experienced harassment, threats, and violence”. These realities are associated with an increasing reluctance to engage in public service positions from city council to teaching and policing. The number of people fleeing those jobs is creating an unprecedented degree of anxiety among the citizenry.

If one doesn’t see the connection between the assault on our nation’s peacekeepers and caregivers from the defund rhetoric, don’t waste your time on those connect-the-dot puzzles.

Criminologists can chart, graph, and theorize all day but the average citizen with open eyes  seeing the problem. We’ve concentrated so much on holding teachers and police officers accountable we’ve collectively lost focus on the front end of bad behavior. We went from zero tolerance for disruption in schools to zero limits on tolerance. It seems an offender merely has to cite one category of deprivation by racism, mental illness, trauma, economic deprivation, addiction, or other social plague to escape their own choices.

 Should authority figures be held accountable for inappropriate acts? Certainly. Should we provide compassion and solutions to offenders who hold hope for change? Certainly. Must we give a pass and green light to anyone with such a claim to continue their patterns of destructive behavior? Clearly not.

Permissiveness can only be balanced by fed-upness. When the citizenry is fed up with living in fear, their voices will be heard at the ballot box. Prosecutors whose utopian idealism for a peaceful society means failure to enforce the law because it might be unfair or cause hardship on an arrestee. No need to make narcotics illegal. No need to make shoplifters hauling hundreds of dollars of merchandise out the door into criminals. The poor mother stealing bread is ideologically the same as the theft of big-screen TVs, racks of clothing. The customer must simply suffer the inconvenience of having everyday items under lock and key, and the store employees who try to stop a thief’s escape may be the ones prosecuted. People are being fed up with the envisioned utopia turning bloody and expensive.

Punitive and restrictive laws created by those with no understanding of what it is like to be in today’s classrooms or what it means to patrol today’s streets while decriminalizing almost everything get passed and forgotten. The only time they look back to see what they have accomplished is when the headlines scream that their citizens are fed up.

The permissive days of the hall pass, the golden ticket, and the get-out-of-jail card will come to an end as real people suffer the real consequences. When offenders start seeing their criminal peers being jailed instead of their community’s caretakers being flogged, society’s message will become clear. The law-abiding folks got fed up.