Alarming Trend: Non-Compliance On the Street


Sgt. Barry Donelan is president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association.

By Barry Donelan

When you pull open your car door or the front door to your home, you have a reasonable expectation of what awaits you. Every day is similar.

For cops, we arrive at every door never knowing what will happen next.

Whether responding to a domestic violence call or approaching a traffic stop, the next moment can take a number of turns. Thankfully, the vast majority of situations are resolved without issue. However, the very nature of emergency response seldom allows perfection.

Recent incidents in the Bay Area have put added strain on police departments already struggling to bring together neighbors and officers. Mistakes have been made and law enforcement must adjust. But we must not forget that the cop on the beat is the difference between those in danger getting home safely, or a situation ending in tragedy.

pelican capsule 400I’ve been a police officer for more than 15 years, in a leadership position at the Oakland Police Officers’ Association for a decade, and on the Peace Officers Research Association of California board much of that time.

My fellow board members and I discuss the changing realities of public safety. The 66,000 officers we represent see the shift firsthand; many of us are experiencing a new level of noncompliance. There’s often a disregard for law enforcement bordering on acrimonious.

The era of new rules for engagement is taking hold; we need to see if it works. Crime is up. Low-level offenders skate by with a citation. Drug rehabilitation in return for reduced sentencing is moot, as offenders are well aware they will likely serve no time for their refusing to abide by the rules.

Criminals with serious offenses are being let out early. Those with ill intentions are emboldened when criminality has no consequence.

Add to this the alleged perception of the “Ferguson effect,” which suggests officers are reacting more cautiously, and a situation can escalate from troubled to dangerous.

Everyone who deals with law enforcement deserves respect. It’s time to right the wrongs and move forward.

We must define the root causes of the cycle of violence resulting in communities being plagued with crime. We need to find an answer to drugs, gangs, intolerance and a disregard for our laws.

Attention must be given to those struggling with mental health issues. Our health care system must function properly, so we keep the mentally ill from being treated as a public safety hazard, or not deserving of special care to preserve their dignity.

Let’s stop the finger-pointing and name-calling. No more impulsive policy decisions made without being fully vetted.

Instead, let’s work together and address the frustrations of communities feeling marginalized. Oakland police officers and Peace Officers Research Association of California are committed to creating a positive dialogue focused on facts, instead of unconstrained focus on events that don’t reflect the daily efforts of our men and women behind the badge.

It’s time for real solutions. The safety of our families depends on actions we take today. And if our families aren’t safe, nothing else matters.

Barry Donelan is a sergeant and president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association.


25yrs+ policing in Scotland. Even in our worst areas we don’t face what you guys have to in lifetime never mind on a daily basis. I know policing and cultures are different but cops are fundamentally the same. We are there to HELP people irrespective of the circumstances they present to us. As for the “non-compliance trend” I wonder what would happen if we used the same tactics, but we won’t because we are good honourable people. Stay strong and keep doing the right thing.

I am a retired police detective living in Oregon, following my 30 year career in law enforcement in Southern California and Oregon. I look back on my service with pride and satisfaction. I’ve seen many changes in our society during my time on the job, many of a positive nature. Others, not-so-much. I agree that police officers deserve our support and respect, but never loose sight that respect needs to be earned, and is mutual. Since stepping outside of the police culture, I’ve become aware that many citizens, normally law abiding, tax paying, rule following and honest, have a certain distrust of police. I refer to the minority of officers who use heavy-handed tactics in handling routine enforcement matters, such as minor traffic infractions. I further refer to the officers who turn every citizen contact into a search for drugs, putting citizens on the defensive by coercing “voluntary” searches.

Many otherwise law abiding citizens have developed a distrust, if not of the police, then of the system. In my career and as an outside observer, I am aware that we no longer have a “justice” system, but a “legal” system. We have and in all fairness have had for many years, a revolving door system in low level career criminals who tend to clog the courts. We see violent criminals receive light sentences for crimes of violence in a plea deal and in many cases, celebrities and political figures who receive no accountability for their crimes and misbehavior.

There is a frustration among the public which is slowly reaching a boiling point. I know of and can sympathize with those who refuse to comply with regulations and laws that are in place purely because they were enacted for politically correct purposes. Or, those laws which target inanimate objects which are only harmful when and how they are used by people with evil intent. I refer of course to gun control laws, which have been shown time and again to be ineffective in dealing with crime, but constantly and repeatedly are proposed by politicians pandering for votes and support from some groups. You can count me among those who will not comply.

Unfortunately it is the cop on the streets who must deal with that frustration, and who themselves are targeted. I can only urge officers to treat others as you would like to be treated. Go with God, and be careful out there.

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