Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Police, Stress and Getting Help

                If you don’t have any friends or family in the law enforcement profession you may not be aware of the burden and stress that police work can sometimes bring upon an officer. Every year there is more research done on the effects that police work can bring upon an individual, and thus help in the form of counseling.  Police officers can often find it difficult to come home from a tough day at work and tell friends and family about their day because the officer thinks people will either not understand or out of fear of possibly contaminating the non-police family life. After prolonged exposure to harsh conditions as work (depressing, negative situations) an officer can suffer from what is termed “compassion fatigue”. When an officer is suffering from this they can often seem distant to those closest to them. There is a term call “Kevlar skin” that refers to an officer suppressing his/her emotions and thoughts possibly because of the aforementioned reasons.  Research has also indicated that police officers can also start to suffer over time to adrenaline spikes due to the nature of their duty. Effects can be physical, emotional and psychological which makes counseling services all the more legitimate and important.
Officers are human beings after all, and human beings can falter even if they are professionals in their field. If the right kind of counseling is not available to them, events like the video below can occur. Think of all the times you’ve heard stories of police brutality. Can you think of why that would happen? Inept cops? Racism? Sexism? Stress? How many of those instances could have been avoided with proper treatment of and officer who needed help? When a police officer snaps like this, it is a mar on the image of the entire police department. It is something that needs to be addressed and held at the forefront in every police department.

Some police departments may offer some sort of training on coping with critical events while on duty but I think it’s time as future criminal justice professionals to hold it to a higher standard and realize that this is a serious issue that police officers face and that very few on the outside understand. Many police departments have been forced to reduce the size of the police force because their budget has been cut which might also mean that they cannot afford to provide officers with an organized system of support. One cost effective and simple method of treatment is called internal peer counseling teams. Sometimes all an officer needs is someone to talk to; someone who he/she can relate with in a professional way and who will listen to them and understand their problems. This form of therapy may very well already exist unofficially within many departments but I think that the department should regulate it so that it is more organized, beneficial, and so every officer who wants to take advantage of it has the opportunity to. There are many occupations involving great deals of stress such as the military, nursing, even teaching, but as criminal justice students we must focus our attention on the causes and cures of the stress and burdens related to police work in order to keep the profession moving along an upward and positive track.


Citizens Should Be Able to Record Police Interactions

In most cases, when a citizen is interacting with a police officer, the citizen will usually be on the wrong end of a ticket or arrest.  Many people fear run-ins with the law even if they are only stopped for a minor offense.  Sometimes during police interactions people can be intimidated into complying with police or be viewed as suspicious because of nervous tendencies.  Police may sometimes over step their authority and bend the laws in their favor in order to gain evidence or other desired information.  With today's technology and the abundance of smart phones, perhaps hitting record on the device could give the citizen a little peace of mind.  However, in the great state of Illinois, if you audio record police interactions without their knowledge and consent, you are looking at felony charges of eavesdropping.

In Illinois, it is illegal to make an audio recording of police officers without their consent.  It is perfectly legal to video tape a confrontation, however, the audio must not be recorded.  This law just doesn't make sense.  According to attorney Joshua Kutnick of Chicago "The law is meant to prevent people from secretly recording private conversations, but it is not designed to protect police conduct that is open and in public."  This has been a big issue as of late.  Attorney Joshua Kutnick is representing a sixty-one year old man who was trying to sell his artwork on the street without a permit.  Chris Drew, the artist, was confronted by police in Chicago when he hit record on his phone which was concealed in his pocket.  After the police discovered he was "eavesdropping" on the conversation they charged him for the felony which can carry up to fifteen years in prison. 

Michael Allen, an Illinois citizen, is another man charged with recording a police interaction.  However, in this case, the state wants to lock him up for seventy-five years.  SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS FOR A NON VIOLENT CRIME?  Come on Illinois what are you really trying to prove.  Its funny to me how they can go after a normal, every day citizen for recording a minor traffic offense.  I mean come on. This is the state that churns out corrupt official after corrupt official and takes it easy on them when they mess up, but they will try to completely ruin a mans life who did really nothing wrong.  That deserves a....

Another man named Louis Frobe of Lake County Illinois was arrested and charged with felony eavesdropping and faces fifteen years in prison.  Frobe argues that he was on a public road and recorded a public official therefore there should not be expectation of privacy.  Below is a video of Louis' story.

When in the public, no one has the expectation of privacy.  Therefore, how can this law be constitutional.  That is what many are fighting to change.  It isalso a backwards law because the police video and audio tape interactions.  Every car is equipped with dash cams and they record every time the police make a stop.  If the police can have video and audio as a safety net why cant the general public?  The law should not be used to shield public officials and needs to be changed.


Haggerty, Ryan, and Jason Melsner. "Constitutionality of Illinois Eavesdropping Law Challenged in Court." Chicago Tribune. 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>.

Masnick, Mike. "Guy Arrested, Threatened With 15 Years For Recording Traffic Stop In Illinois." Techdirt. 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <>.

Should Hotels Be Enlisted to Fight Human Trafficking?

            When most people think of human trafficking they usually think of another country, especially third world countries where laws are not well maintained or kept.  This is a myth that needs to be addressed more thoroughly here in the United States.  Every day in the United States, women and children are being sexually abused as slaves.  It is happening closer than you think.
            The city where my article came from that talks of sex trafficking as a problem is only 2 hours from Bloomington/Normal.  The city is St. Louis.  Kimberly Ritter has been battling sex trafficking for the last 8 years.  She is not doing it by busting down doors and making arrests, instead she is armed with her laptop.  She goes to hotel lobbies looks through the advertisements of the local alternative newspaper.  She then goes to the section advertising personal escorts, and massages and picks several to look through.  She then finds their pictures on the internet. 
             She doesn’t look at the picture of the person advertising, but looks in depth at the background of the photo.  She finds similarities in the photos of the exact hotel she is at, and has found evidence that children as young as 12 are being pimped out at the same hotel she is at. In St. Louis alone, Ritter has  found at least 12 hotels where the photos have been taken.  Ritter and the company she works for called Nix Conference & Meeting Management are encouraging hotels they regularly do business with to sign a code of conduct to protect children from trafficking.  They want to teach hotels and their employees about human trafficking, and signs to look for in exploited children.  They hope to start by getting 500 hotels to sign the code and get actively involved.
            When Ritter talks to managers, they are typically in denial, and tell her that those sort of illegal activities are not going on in their hotel.  Some are even offended that she would accuse them.  She just pulls out her laptop and shows them the pictures of the advertisements, which were taken in their hotel. 
            You would think all hotels would be eager to help fight human trafficking, and want to sign the code, but in reality many are reluctant.  By signing the code they are obligated to put literature in each room containing information about trafficking.  They do not want to give their guests the wrong impression, making them think that that particular hotel is having a trafficking problem, when in reality they are not. 
            This article meant a lot to me.  I am happy to hear that more and more people are getting involved in the fight against human trafficking.  I hope that one day all hotels in the United States sign the code, and is involved in this battle.  I understand why hotels are reluctant, but I think if more hotels were involved, customers would be aware that the information in their room is for the good of everyone and not think that hotel has a problem.