The sign on President Harry S Truman’s desk read: “The Buck Stops Here.”
That sentiment was directed at what was a common practice among government bureaucrats back then, and remains a common practice today: buck-passing. Shirking accountability by finding someone else to blame for what was done wrongly, or not done at all.
In the 60 years since Truman left the White House the ranks of the bureaucrat class have swelled substantially, and the bureaucrats themselves have become far more sophisticated at buck-passing. They regularly attend “professional” conferences where they are taught to sing from the same hymnal, so to speak, when it comes to dealing with elected officials and the taxpayers who pay their salaries.
We can’t say for sure, but we suspect they learn one or more variations of the “Everybody, Nobody” story:
There once were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.
When an important job arose, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it should have been Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
That story came to mind when reading Police Chief Frank Kaminski’s reaction to the July 12 Hinkley Park incident as being “a community problem” rather than a policing problem, which we wrote about in our July 25 post. Since then, Deputy Chief Lou Jogman added a couple of additional twists to the it’s-not-our-job theme, as reported in yesterday’s Park Ridge Journal (“Police: Not Much Officers Could Do To Prevent Beating,” July 30):
“We can’t go in and kick kids outs,” said Jogman, referring to the roughly 200 kids who gathered in Hinkley Park on July 12 for no particular or apparent reason.
Jogman went on to give a variety of other reasons why his department couldn’t do much to prevent that incident, including: the additional demand on the City’s limited police force by the Taste of Park Ridge; the Taste’s closing early that night due to an approaching storm; and the Park District’s arguable failure to anticipate Hinkley’s serving as a gathering spot for youths that night. He also noted that the police are not able to babysit parks.
On that last point we agree with him.
But it’s not “babysitting” to pay some extra attention to 200 teens milling around a park for no apparent reason as night is falling. Especially if, as we have heard, Park District employees made two calls to the police about misbehavior by the assembled multitude in the hours leading up to the incident – to which the police responded but left the status quo intact.
And it’s not “babysitting” to provide what’s called “police presence,” such as by spending some time walking around and asking a lot of who, what, when, where and why questions. That’s a big part of the “community policing” currently in vogue, as is assessing the circumstances and anticipating potential problems.
Besides the reactions of Chief K and Deputy Chief J, two members of the community have endorsed the “community problem” explanation, or excuse, in letters to the editor of the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate.
Social worker Laura Smail believes that “[p]arents and other adults, including business owners, should be learning and demonstrating effective ways to engage, interact and encourage teens to make good choices and meet expectations for civil behavior.” Tricia Williams, for her part, sees what occurred at Hinkley as “not a teen or police problem but actually a community problem and we need to work on it together without blaming any one group.”
When what happened at Hinkley Park occurs in a community such as ours, there’s reason to wonder whether parenting might have contributed to the thugery, punkishness, callowness and cowardice on display in the video of the incident. But there’s an equally good reason to wonder about the efficacy of all those social services provided to our youth, both in the schools and outside them, including the anti-bullying forums, seminars and workshops; and programs such as “Caught Being Good.”
What should not be lost in translation or in prevarication, however, is the lesson of the Everybody, Nobody story. Nor should we forget that various people have special tasks that are not, and should not be viewed as, fungible or randomly assignable to others in the community.
The parents of those 200 youths at Hinkley that night, including the three combatants, have not taken oaths to serve and protect the people of this community. The parents are not being paid to do that. And the parents do not expect, nor do they deserve, the particular respect reserved for those who have taken that oath, are paid to do that job, and do it well.
Which is why the public safety buck needs to stop with the police.
Just like the public education buck needs to stop with the teachers and administrators, the sewer and water buck needs to stop with the Public Works Dept., the Library buck needs to stop with the Library Board, etc. It’s not up to parents, non-parents, taxpayers, homeowners, renters, or ordinary folks just passing through, to take up these bucks and make them their own.
So when Tricia Williams makes a recruiting pitch for the Park Ridge Parent Patrol where parents join the police on patrol from 9:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. on weekend nights – on the theory that it “allows teens to see parents and police working together to keep our community safe” – we have one simple question:
Where was the Parent Patrol around 9:45 p.m. on Saturday night, July 12?
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