Editor’s note: Rick Miller is a former Killeen police chief and former county attorney for Bell County.
The Herald’s editorial (Sunday, Oct. 8) urging something be done about crime in Killeen, bolstered by a poll indicating that 76 percent of the respondents (although the actual number is not stated) are seriously concerned, does not adequately address the problem. Frankly, it was anemic in its assumptions about what needs to be done.
First, and probably most important, it assumes that merely filling a vacant police position is sufficient to begin curbing crime. That’s erroneous. It takes a period of seasoning, perhaps a year or more, before a new officer has the necessary experience to perform at an appropriate level.
Hiring a new officer merely because he can shoot a pistol is definitely not the answer, although that is an important skill when a situation calls for it.
Today’s police officer must bring to the job a great deal more than that in terms of understanding the dynamics of the community and adopting those practices that support a viable relationship with citizens, as guided by the policies of a competent police administration and in-depth analysis of crime problems.
Second, there is a need to have a sufficient number of police officers, whatever that number is. However, unless salaries are competitive, the police department will continue to experience pronounced turnover.
If the city is doing nothing more than training officers who, upon becoming certified and gaining a little experience, then leave for other agencies who pay a competitive salary, the taxpayer is being cheated out of the protection championed as important to reduce crime, and the money is wasted. And the vacancies will continue.
Obviously this presents a significant budget issue, and the Herald’s editorial and councilpersons posturing about “doing something” about crime fail to address the significant budget question as to funding those expenditures necessary to implement a bona fide plan.
Crime is a political challenge as well as a safety matter. Are the city fathers and mothers prepared to step up to the plate and take those measures necessary to begin curbing crime? As the trite saying goes, “talk’s cheap.”
Third, there must be more emphasis on citizen involvement, rather than the “oh, by the way” mention at the end of the editorial. Crime is a community problem, not solely a police problem. A major portion of crime control falls back on the individual citizen, taking those steps necessary to protect himself or herself: locking the house and car; permanently marking valuables so as to thwart theft; cooperating with the police as a victim or witness; willingly serving jury duty; becoming involved in community programs to reduce crime; watching out for your neighbors.
The police department should also make itself more visible in promoting anti-crime programs such as Crimestoppers and other such efforts.
Real commitment to curbing the crime problem calls for action steps, not more rhetoric. Is the city prepared for the challenge?