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Pro Active Policing

We know what the problem is: there is a rise in criminality. We need to deal with it, so we look around and see what the others are doing. Some have had success with ‘pro active policing’ so we pitch that line to the public to give them the sense that we are doing something. But the reality is, I don’t think most of us really know what the plan is.

There is a rise in criminality usually when the economic condition is poor, there is an increase in population, and there is lack of means to make a living. When these conditions are present, lawlessness goes up. The economic solution angle to criminality belongs to social services and political groups. The criminality problem is the realm of the police.

The street cop should be looking for street criminals. The investigative teams should be going after the bigger ‘fish.’ I believe most petty crimes, such as burglary, snatching, pick-pocketing, shop lifting and ‘hold-ups’ are done by individuals in need of instant cash to support their habit (drugs). They do not have ready cash because they do not work, either because they are drug users and are unable to work or there are not enough jobs to go around due to the economy, or a combination of these social problems.

Now the policing aspect is what we are going to address. ‘Pro active policing’ is what we want to do, right? The term ‘pro active policing’ is something that gets thrown around often these days, along with ‘police visibility’ and ‘community policing’. But what exactly do these terms mean?

Whatever you call it, simply put, POLICING is keeping the community in line with the law, seeing to it that the community lives harmoniously together, respecting each other’s rights and property. What we want to do is get to the criminal element while he is still thinking of doing this ‘bad stuff’. We do not want to just be responding to calls for service like we often say here in the Philippines, “responde sa alarma.” When we respond to the ‘alarma‘ the crime has already occurred. Someone has already been victimized.

In the old days when communities were smaller, we knew almost everyone in the neighborhood. We knew the potential evildoers, the drunks, the wife beaters, the crooks, and the gamblers. Even today, when most of us go down the street and we see a person, we judge the individual by how he looks; “dautan na siya nga tao” even if we don’t know him (This is profiling-but it is not a crime to profile). These are the people the police want to get to know and talk to. See what they are up to. This is pro active policing. Self-initiated work. Get to know your community, make contact with the people, go out and meet your public. Whatever you want to call it – pro active policing or community policing, it is the job. Sitting in your stations won’t get it done. The bad guys are not going to come knocking at your station door!

So what does a typical criminal do? Let’s get to know him. He gets up late in the day, like noontime, because his mother or his live-in lady is yelling at him to get a job. He leaves the house hungry. By around 2 p.m. he’s out looking to ‘boost’ or steal something to eat or get some money. He hangs around the market or shopping areas. By late afternoon, if he still has nothing, he will hold someone up, then he will do some drugs (or get drunk) to forget his problems. He goes home late and sleeps in.

For a lot of those in the PNP who have a military background and are rooted in that doctrine, there is hope for you in policing. Yes, policing is different from military operations, but don’t despair.

For those with a military mind, this is how you should think of it: It is like a ranger unit that goes out on patrol to gather information on the enemy, come up with a plan to destroy the enemy, and then close in and kill it. As a police officer, one must do it everyday. Every time a police officer comes to work he does not wait for an “OPLAN.” Their OPLAN is to go ‘search and destroy’ everyday.

If a military unit does not leave his barracks and patrol his area of responsibility he will never find the enemy. He must search them out and destroy them. He must know his enemy in order to be effective. One must make contact in order to do battle.

So the police officer’s method is patrolling, too. He must develop methods to make contact. Static checkpoints are only good if you know for sure the enemy will ply this route. You cannot announce your ambush, can you? You must go out and find the bad guy (crime interdiction).

Checkpoints as they currently are being operated are useless and worst of all, illegal. They are a liability as they are a road hazard and compound the already horrific traffic problems. One must have a legal cause to infringe on a citizen’s freedom. You cannot stop any individual solely because YOU WANT TO! NO, you must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. I don’t have to explain that part, because if I have to, then we’re in big trouble. Violations of human rights are a big thing. If the ombudsman does not destroy you, the civil suit will. Think consensual stops, probable cause stops, (vehicle code violations, ordinance violations) and reasonable suspicions (Reasonable! Not because he looked hinky, but because one is in a high drug area late at night!).

Mobility is a major key to increasing the efficiency of a patrol. Mobility increases the area of coverage per officer. Speed in conducting interdiction and apprehension.

Communications is another major element in a coordinated enforcement of the law. With good communication and coordination, an area is covered more effectively. When several individual patrol units listen and understand the process, they can maneuver to locations of advantage, quicker. As the saying goes, “Your (bad guy’s) car maybe faster than mine, but my Motorola is quicker.”

Data gathering and ready access to it, is another critical element in an effective scheme. A simple data gathering process and compilation for quick access and instant verification of information is essential in putting a corner on crime. For example, creating a centralized collection of all warrants, placing it in a simple Word or Excel table, and arranging it alphabetically, make a database quickly accessible and easy to search. First, you have to have a well-trained, multitasking police force. One that is able to find the fish, catch the fish, clean it, and cook it – individually. In other words, he must have the ability to find the suspicious persons, find the cause to stop them, stop them, be creative enough to catch them (discarte?) and then write a good affidavit in support of arrest, that stands every legal test. This is where being articulate counts. Do not get hung up in the use of ‘lingo’ and legal terms. Spend your time in being clear and concise, keeping focus on your probable cause. Maintain the integrity of your document by checking that all necessary elements are present for the appropriate charge (corpus delecti).

The officer must be able to enforce traffic laws, which means he must be deputized by the LTO and know the traffic laws by heart, especially the most common violations. He must know the laws of arrest so he can act legally when he sees the opportunity to arrest. He must know how to do Drug Recognition (DRE) so he can appreciate what a drug addict looks like and act upon it. They must learn rules of evidence and search and seizure laws. Be articulate enough to explain what they did (legally). (BTW, I don’t know of anyone having ever been arrested for being under the influence and charged as such in the Philippines).

Traffic laws are important tools in making stops on suspicious persons on vehicles. If the person or vehicle has violated a traffic law, he can be stopped, then contact is made. Once contact is made, proper identification of the individual and the vehicle is necessary. We do not want to wrongly accuse anyone of a crime or violation, we want to make sure the person and vehicle we are giving a citation to is the right individual – this is your reasonable cause.

Impounding slips (inventory slips) are great tools. Think of how you can use them as substitutes for search warrants. Be creative. Think anything in plain view is fair game. Anything in plain smell is fair game.

Drug recognition is a very important tool. You see an individual who is under the influence and are able to do an initial investigation and determination of his being under the influence, one may make an arrest for a person suspect of being under the influence and to be taken to the clinic for a urine test. Once under arrest, a search incident to arrest is conducted. This is your opportunity to also impound his vehicle, and search again.

Search for contraband. Drug users have compromised values and are the most notorious criminals as they have no compunction in using deadly force to escape their captors. They will sacrifice anything to get drugs and stay free.

Every officer should be developing an activity every hour, to be documented by radio reports and also in a patrol log.

I know there are cops out there who will say, ”You can’t do that here!” Those cops don’t have initiative and don’t want to work! Those cops are happy sitting on their hands and afraid to get their hands dirty for the community that pays their paycheck. We don’t need ‘report writers,’ my secretary can do that and she can make me coffee on top of that.

Be aggressive and creative. Adapt and overcome.

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