Cops in Schools — What Could Possibly Be Wrong With That?

300px-Wiggum_on_an_OstrichEverybody’s favorite socialist brings home the pork: Bernie Sanders announced today that he’d managed to pull down a $500K grant for Vermont police.

Of that, $100K is to go to a continuation of funding for the School Resource Officer Program, a federal notion from the Clinton era that places a police officer in a public school setting. Sanders claims that “This program […] is an important outreach tool that helps deter crime. These officers bridge the gap between law enforcement and students, promote positive attitudes towards law enforcement; prevent juvenile crime by helping students formulate an awareness of rules, authority, and justice; and instruct students how to avoid becoming a victim through self-awareness and crime prevention. “This is a very successful program that has already placed officers in school systems around the state of Vermont,” Sanders said. “This funding will help to place additional school resource officers in Vermont schools.”

I’d love to see some data to support his claim that “this is a very successful program” — I’m not finding any public reports or evaluations of the project. I’d also be curious what metrics Sanders would use to measure the success of something like this.The few media reports of SRO activity offers no real clue — the only significant story relates the 2007 panic attack in when a School Resource Officer “discovered” that teenagers in Middlebury were using the legally available herb salvie to get a mild high (laugh if you must, it’s here).

The ACLU examined the SRO program in CT in 2008 — findings and recommendations here. The findings were not at all clear.

Just as we’re increasingly moving our cops into a more confrontational role (e.g. by giving them tasers so they can feel more at ease using almost-lethal force with their prey customers), the SRO program seems to be a sign of what the ACLU describes as “a tendency to criminalize and legalize infractions that might otherwise have been dealt with administratively.” I’m sure a compassionate and considerate police officer can do wonderful things with troubled kids on the verge of getting marginalized because of petty crime and social dysfunction, but so could a councelor or extra teacher’s aide. And just as with the widely criticized and largely ineffective D.A.R.E. youth drug prevention program, the notion that cops are suited at all to educate kids is questionable at best.

I appreciate that Sanders has to look for money where it’s available, and at a time where the only federal budgets with any heft seem to involve surveillance and/or brute force, it’s understandable that he’d end up landing a grant for the Vermont police. but I’d like to think that Sanders would prefer teachers and parents teaching our kids how to conduct themselves and stay out of trouble. Of his key selling points, “promote positive attitudes towards law enforcement” and “formulate an awareness of rules, authority, and justice” sound a lot like bulletpoints from the the Orwellian wishlist of the federal government.

When The Sane Go Nuts and The Nutty Look Sane

Do we live in interesting times or what? With everyone and the janitor’s cat suddenly having a heartfelt and profound opinion on the Cordoba House Community Center (aka the Al Queda Rec Center & Ground Zero Mosque) it’s just all over the map.

Howard Dean, once upon a time smart, progressive and considerate guy, has decided to sign up for an empty slot on Team Bigots with his claim that:

This isn’t about the right of Muslims to have a worship center — or Jews or Christians or anybody else — to have a place to worship, or any place around Ground Zero. This is something we ought to be able to work out with people of good faith. And we have to understand that it is a real affront to people who’ve lost their lives, including Muslims. That site doesn’t belong to any particular religion, it belongs to all Americans and all faiths.

“This is something we ought to be able to work out with people of good faith” — who is “we” Howard, why are “we” working this out? There’s a process for this sort of thing, and not surprisingly, perhaps, it involves the zoning board for lower Manhattan, not the former governor of Vermont and his fellow travellers in speculation and random fabulation about affronts and good faith.

“That site” — what exactly are you talking about? How many blocks is your particular “muslim-free safe zone” from ground zero?

And “affront to people who’ve lost their lives, including muslims”? Well, if they’re dead, they probably don’t give a shit, Howard, and as for their next of kin, how can you claim to know what affronts them? Are you channeling or is this just wild conjecture to get some air time? You may be affronted, along with random wingnuts across the entire nation, most of whom didn’t lose anybody on 9/11, but all of whom seem awfully affronted. That doesn’t mean we need to care what some random teabagger from San Diego thinks is or isn’t an affront.

And, no offense, but it doesn’t necessarily matter if the widow of a 9/11 victim is affronted. This is really not something that can or should be put to an emotional vote — either there’s a rational, sane, logically compelling, legally sound reason for denying the Cordoba House their project site, or there’s not, in which case you and thousands of others may well be affronted, but that really shouldn’t impact the project.

All of which brings me to part two of today’s interesting times: Bush lawyer and all-around conservative hard-ass, Ted Olson, who lost his wife in 9/11, comes out in support of the Cordoba House project’s right to build:

I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices or structures, places of religious worship or study where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing. And that we don’t want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don’t think it should be a political issue.

Yes, that’s right: Ted Olson, lawyer to the rich, obnoxious and very powerful, turns out to be more level-headed, compassionate and rational than Howard “screaming progressive” Dean from the great Socialist state of Vermont. Because while they both say essentially the same vague stuff about freedom of religion, Olson rightly leaves it as a straightforward zoning issue, while Dean has to go all finger wagging on us and add the bit about “the evil mooslims should just go away if they know what’s good for them”. That’s his fail.