Monday, June 23, 2008

To Cancel Or Not To Cancel

I was down at Hart Plaza earlier this evening for the annual Target Fireworks display. I stepped away for a few minutes at about 8 p.m. to run a quick errand. When I tried to rejoin my friends, I was told by police officers that Hart Plaza was closed and no one was allowed back in under any conditions.

As I tried to find a way around the police barricades to rejoin my friends, I began to realize truly just how massive the police presence was. There were several hundred uniformed police officers from the Detroit Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff, Michigan State Police, U.S. Border Patrol as well as motorcycle officers from the Inkster Police Department. All of this is on top of:
  • Police snipers;
  • Helicopters; and
  • Patrol boats from most of the departments listed above as well as the U.S. Coast Guard.
Roads into and around downtown Detroit were closed off with surgical precision. Many of the police officers had white note books with them, containing detailed plans for the evening. Clearly, this is something that the Detroit Police Department and others spent a considerable amount of time and effort planning and preparing for.

But here's the thing: If the Detroit Police Department can put so much effort into making sure that this one evening goes off well downtown, why can't they make sure that a police officer shows up when there's a shooting in the Warrendale neighborhood?

If they can amass such an overwhelming police presence for a fireworks show downtown, why can't they have a police officer show up when a domestic dispute turns violent and someone tries repeatedly to run over a pregnant woman on Ashton? Isn't that woman and her unborn child at least as important as those who go downtown for the fireworks?

If they can deliver such a well coordinated police effort downtown, why can't they have a police officer show up when there are two drug dealers shooting at each other at Whitlock and Westwood? Aren't the people who live in that area - who could easily be killed by a stray bullet - at least as important as those who go downtown for the fireworks?

If the Detroit Police Department has so many officers that they can virtually flood downtown with dark blue uniforms, why is it that I see more Dearborn police cars in the Warrendale neighborhood than I do Detroit ones? Should the more than 9,000 families in Warrendale start sending our taxes to Dearborn instead?

If they can do so much downtown for a fireworks display, why can't they do anything about the dozens of drug deals that I see every single week in my neighborhood?

This city - and it's leadership - has its values all messed up. I actually left downtown before the fireworks even started. I was just too aggravated about all of this to even begin to enjoy it.

I wanted to grab one of those police officers and scream at him or her about this entire situation. The thing is, I know darn well that rank and file police officers don't decide where they are going to be assigned; they don't decide what this city's priorities will be or what they won't be.

As I was driving home this evening, I started thinking that we should simply cancel the Target Fireworks. If the fireworks require such a huge commitment from our police officers and they can't even respond to the ordinary calls then we should get rid of them.

And the Thanksgiving Day Parade, too.

And any other special event that requires special attention from the Detroit Police Department.

I think we shouldn't have any of these things until we get to the point where the Detroit Police Department is able to show up every time a resident calls 9-1-1. The cost for having these events - as wonderful as they are - is simply too high.

We have to live with our children getting shot at so that some folks can watch a fireworks show.

We have to tolerate pregnant women being run down in the streets of our neighborhoods so that some folks can watch a fireworks show.

When an emergency in our neighborhood develops, we have to pray that our neighbors in Dearborn find out about it and are able to respond because our own police officers are deployed elsewhere.

This evening I was seriously tempted to begin a petition drive to ban the Target Fireworks, the Thanksgiving Parade and any other special event that requires special attention from our police department. The only thing that keeps me from doing so is the strong suspicion that - even if those distractions went away - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the Detroit City Council would simply find another excuse to waste our limited resources.

And then we wouldn't have a functioning police department or an annual fireworks display.
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