Most of the Law Enforcement Strategic Support Act went into effect in mid-2022. The remainder, which is mostly a tax credit for private contributions to police retirement and certain other funds, takes effect January 1, 2023.
Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan championed the measure. Police departments may use donated funds for actions like increasing officer salaries, hiring more officers, expanding training programs, purchasing department equipment, and establishing or maintaining a co-responder program for de-escalating behavioral health emergencies.
“Securing Georgia communities is paramount as rising crime has affected communities around the nation,” Duncan said in a statement. “The LESS Crime Act takes a bipartisan approach to enhancing public safety while engaging directly with local community members. I applaud my colleagues in the Senate for prioritizing this innovative policy and look forward to continuing the dialogue as this proposal moves through the legislative process.”
Law enforcement philosophies have always been controversial. The controversy, which is even bigger nowadays, is reflected on those “to protect and serve” mottos on police cars. Protecting people means arresting wrongdoers. Serving people means respecting individual rights. These two goals are usually inconsistent with each other.
In the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and other early 2020s police shootings, many jurisdictions have downsized their police forces and/or liberalized jail release procedures.
Downsized police forces no longer aggressively arrest individuals for DUI, drug possession, and other such offenses. This approach also means that they no longer aggressively arrest individuals for assault, stalking, and other such offenses. Probably as a result of this approach, the crime rate has increased in many places. The exact numbers are unclear, mostly because of that old “figures don’t lie and liars figure” aphorism.
Expanded jail release policies are equally controversial. Some advocates say this approach is a social justice thing. It frees people from pretrial release who are essentially punished because they are poor and cannot afford bail. Other advocates say this approach erodes police officer morale. If Officer Smith arrests Max and Max is free two hours later, that’s tantamount to saying that Officer Smith wrongfully arrested Max.
A few area jurisdictions have embraced this approach. But for the most part, kinder and gentler police forces don’t exist in red states.
Reactive Police Forces
The NYPD is a good example of a reactive police force, which is basically the next step up. Police officers are largely invisible in New York City. But when a disturbance call or other bit of trouble appears, officers quickly descend and contain the situation.
Many jurisdictions have adopted this model as a middle ground between a kinder, gentler police force and a proactive police force.
Proactive Police Forces
Until recently, proactive police forces dominated law enforcement agendas. Recent high-profile shootings have forced some city leaders to rethink this policy. Furthermore, a proactive police force that features a squad car on almost every major street aren’t possible for logistical reasons. Many police departments are simply understaffed.
Proactive police forces are heavy on the “protect” part of the oath. The “serve” element is a different story. Proactive police forces usually aggressively arrest suspects. Furthermore, these police forces often have poor reputations among certain people groups. Quite frankly, people are afraid of the cops.
Remember that Sesame Street bit “one of these things is not like the other?” The broken windows philosophy is unlike the other three.
Instead of targeting criminal activity, authorities target code violations, like broken windows, cars parked on the wrong side of the street, high grass, and unsafe structures. Officers also target minor offenses, such as vandalism, jaywalking, and public intoxication.
The theory is that broken windows and petty violations create environments which are comfortable for criminals. New York City embraced this policy in the late 1990s and early 2000s, culminating in the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which policymakers discontinued in 2013.
Broken windows, a theory that hasn’t caught on in Georgia, has been criticized, even by the people who introduced this idea in the 1980s, as “zero tolerance” or even “zealotry.”
Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs are the police department philosophy wildcard. Generally, supervisors redeploy officers to certain parts of the community and instruct them to issue as many DUI, speeding, or other citations as possible. Effective STEP campaigns change driver behavior and are an effective, yet still somewhat subtle, show of force. Ineffective STEP campaigns have a number of problems.
Officer inexperience is one example. Frequently, STEP campaigns require officers who are not used to field work to go out in the field. These officers are more likely to make mistakes during the arrest process. More on that process below.
Officer shortcuts are another issue. State or federal grant money usually pays officer overtime and other STEP campaign expenses. These investors, like all other investors, expect results. To inflate the number of arrests, many officers do things like skip field sobriety tests in DUI arrests or rush to judgment about what is, or is not, an illegal substance.
Legal Issues in Georgia Arrests
The policing model has a lot to do with how a Marietta criminal defense lawyer approaches wrongful arrest issues in criminal cases.
Officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain suspects. The Supreme Court has watered down this doctrine in recent years. However, the basic rule, probable cause is an evidence-based hunch, remains in place.
Reasonable suspicion is often an issue during STEP campaigns and in most other law enforcement models. Assume Officer Thomas sees Lisa leave a bar late at night. Officer Thomas follows Lisa for a few blocks. Then, because she is nervous that a police officer is following her, she strays out of her lane. Officer Thomas pulls over Lisa and eventually arrests her for DUI.
In this situation, Officer Smith played a hunch and then found evidence to support that hunch. In ye olden days, jurors gave officers the benefit of the doubt in such cases. Those days are over.
Next, officers must have probable cause to arrest suspects. This murky standard is somewhere between reasonable suspicion and beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, the standard is subjective.
Beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard of proof at trial, is quite objective. It’s also a very high standard of proof. Generally, officers must collect enough evidence at the scene to obtain convictions. Usually, there’s no going back to collect additional evidence. So, if officers don’t get everything right the first time, usually because they are over-aggressive or under pressure to make arrests, the case may not hold up in court.
There’s a big difference between an arrest and a conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Our main office is conveniently located near downtown Marietta.