Quick Thoughts on Some Pretty Momentous Local News

83/365 Light in the Darkness

1) I think I can speak for all of Lakeland Local in expressing our deepest sadness at the death of Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin. I didn’t know him, unfortunately. But he seems to have been a most promising officer and young man. A damn shame.

I think quite a bit these days about the relative crime decreases we’ve experienced as a nation and county over the last couple decades — which have continued right through the Great Recession — and the more recent increase in deadly encounters between officers and suspects. (I don’t have the numbers on hand, but I think that accurately characterizes the data.) Regular readers will know that I place the unregulated, underground drug economy created by our national drug policing policies at the heart of these confrontations, even when they don’t directly involve illegal drugs. Much of that feeling is based on my research into Prohibition-era Florida and the lessons that previous failed drug war provides for our own. I’m going to try to flesh out that thinking a bit in the coming days.

Let me be clear. I’m not suggesting Officer Crispin did anything wrong or that the policies he was executing don’t make sense in our current context of policing. I’m a believer in public spaces; it’s at the core of my ideology, to the extent I have one. He seems to have been investigating suspicious behavior in a public space. That’s what police do. At the same time, I think it’s vital for us as citizens to constantly evaluate what we ask police officers to do in our name and why and to what good end.

Like I said, I did not know Officer Crispin, but I was his employer. I put him in that park on that night. None of us should shirk our responsibility for that reality. And it is not enough to just say, “there are bad people in the world and thank you, officers, for being out shields, now let’s go to a Christmas party.”

I don’t ever want us to lose another Arnulfo Crispin. But I know we will. Yet, I think history and cold-eyed thinking show that we can reduce these tragedies, ratchet down tension between police and policed, and still maintain our progress in crime reduction. I think we owe it to Officer Crispin and all police officers to try.

2) On USF Lakeland/Poly: It seems to me the key thing about Judy Genshaft’s rather macho firing of Marshall Goodman is that it severs J.D.’s interests from Goodman’s. This would seem to be very bad news for Goodman. You think it’s a coincidence that they put an accountant in charge? It will be convenient for everyone involved to scapegoat Goodman. Expect a lot of leaks about return on investment for USFP executive spending. It will not be in J.D.’s interest to try to defend the spending or Goodman. And it might conceivably help J.D. to blame it all on him. Polk County shouldn’t suffer because of the sins of one faceless rogue government bureaucrat. Expect to hear language like that in the weeks ahead. And anyone who knows Goodman, or his ideology, will find that deliciously ironic.

I once wrote: When power dies, and someone tosses its corpse into the water, the guppies become pirhanas with startling speed. I think we’re about to see an object lesson.

3) On the sale of the Lakeland Ledger: I guess this provides a pretty good explanation for the great salary dump of 2010.

Creative Commons License image credit: Martina K