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Courtesy lessons for police: %$#! no

| Friday, July 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Courtesy never has proven to be an effective crime deterrent.

Perhaps that's because most crimes, by their very nature, are discourteous acts, illegal breaches of etiquette, proof of profound disrespect for one's fellow man. Rare is the instance when a thug confronting someone in a dark alley says, “My sincere apologies, sir, but my current unfavorable socioeconomic status leaves me little choice but to rob you at gunpoint.”

That's what makes Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess' proposal to spend as much as $150,000 on what amounts to a sensitivity training program for police so ridiculous.

Burgess wants to hire an emasculating outfit called the Unleashing Respect Project Inc. to forge “a comprehensive police-community partnership program.” According to legislation Burgess has introduced, the partnership pushers would do this by instructing officers “to treat everyone they encounter, including lawbreakers, with unconditional respect.”

You read that correctly. Burgess wants officers to have feelings of deep admiration and empathy for the segment of society that deserves it the least — even while trading gunfire with that frequently violent demographic.

In that regard, the councilman undoubtedly dwells in a minute minority. It's a safe assertion to make that most city residents probably don't care if police respect criminals. They would much prefer that they arrest them.

People are funny that way.

If forced to respect everyone with whom they come in contact, the interactions would be very different between officers and certain segments of the criminal element. Profound conversational shifts inevitably would occur with:

• Purse snatchers

“Let me ... catch my breath for a moment ... before I cuff you. I can't believe I was able to catch someone as quick as you, you speedy little ruffian!

“Tell me, did you run track at all in high school before deciding to put your obvious talents to criminal use?”

• Bank robbers

“I feel just awful that the red dye that teller put in with the money you requested exploded and got all over your clothes. That was incredibly impolite of her, especially after you presented her with such an eloquently crafted holdup note. I really think you should consider filing a formal complaint with the bank.”

• Spousal abusers

“Before I read you your Miranda rights, sir, let me say how admirable your restraint was in responding to the bland and unsatisfying dinner that was prepared for you tonight. Many men would have done much more than just blacken their wife's eyes.”

• Narcotics traffickers

“Z-Dog, I think too much of you to go on living this lie. I'm an undercover police officer. I've been buying cocaine from you not to snort it, but to compile enough evidence to arrest you and shut down your highly profitable drug operation. Our relationship was founded on dishonesty. I hope you can forgive me.”

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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