Law, not codes

Police department duties should not include ‘cosmetic cop’ work

The Rockdale City Council spent a lot of time recently discussing how to clean up our town. The conversation bordered on the passionate at times. That’s good; it’s wonderful we have leaders who care that much.

That’s certainly an issue on which we can all agree. Rockdale could do with a lot less junked cars, dilapidated structures, overgrown lots and the rest.

As more actions are contemplated, and carried out, it would be helpful to keep something in mind that might not immediately be evident, but needs to be pointed out.

The Rockdale Police Department should not primarily be used as a code enforcement organization, or a cleanup organization. It is a law enforcement organization.

And it’s an excellent one. That probably doesn’t get said enough. When you live here, and have nothing with which to compare it, you just take the excellence for granted.

Rockdale police cleared 44 percent of the offenses reported to them in the latest year for which statistics are available. State average for towns our size is 25 percent. To say it another way, Rockdale police solve twice the crimes most small-town police departments do.

So the concept of nudging police manpower to focus heavily on getting junked cars removed or keeping tabs on how many days someone leaves their empty garbage cans out might not be the best way to use law enforcement.

That’s not to say our police force isn’t trying. At the last city council meeting, Police Chief Thomas Harris read a strongly worded memo to his staff about junked cars.

He also pointed out enforcing the junked vehicle ordinance is extremely time consuming. Officers must identify the vehicle, wait until they can find the (often absentee) owner, cite them, wait 10 days to give them a chance to rectify the situation, then find them again and serve notice the situation will be acted upon.

Police, of course, will do whatever they are directed to do by the city. That’s their job and they’re team players.

If Rockdale were Houston, it would have a full staff of persons who do nothing but enforce city codes.

Of course, if Rockdale were Houston, half the crimes reported to police wouldn’t get cleared either. —M.B.

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2011-02-24 digital edition

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