The Political Riffraff

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Not this Riff Raff

Normally when the term riffraff is used in the English vernacular we are referring to the lowest common denominator in society.  To quote Merriam Webster riffraff are disreputable persons, rabble,one of the riffraff, or refuse or rubbish depending on how exactly you use it.  In any case, it is not exactly the most endearing of terms to associate someone with.  Now in the vein of American politics when I usually use the word riffraff I am referring to that rather large uniformed section of society that always seems to be the most vocal, yet with the least to say.  If you are unsure of who I am exactly speaking about then chances are you are probably part of it, but this post is not the all too normal rant against ‘Muricans who don’t bother to understand their candidate’s policies, treat their political party like a sports team, or want to hide their prejudices behind religion and freedom.  No today’s rant is about a slightly different breed of annoying.

Within the last 2 weeks there has been quite a buzz over the upcoming political race for Monroe county sheriff.  I suppose this could be an excellent place to ask why a position that seemingly requires years of experience and education in Law Enforcement can just be handed to whoever has the largest soapbox and loudest bullhorn, but I’ll save that question for another time.  Instead let’s meet the candidates so far.

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Oh hello there

The girl on the left is Emily Good and she is running on the kind-of-known Green party; the man on the right is current Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn who has held the badge for 12 years now and likes to ride that big ‘ol elephant into political battle.

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Hey beautiful

Now on paper this really doesn’t seem like much of a contest.  O’Flynn has 35 years of police experience, a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, a Master’s degree in Security Studies, is the president of the NYS Sheriff’s association, and has about a dozen other affiliations that I will leave out for brevity.  Good, by contrast has a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Peace and Justice studies, lived in Venezuela doing humanitarian work, and no law enforcement experience whatsoever.  But of course there is more going on here than just what’s on paper.  According to Good there are too many people in Monroe County jail right now, and a disproportionate number of them are black.  Now I am not going to dispute her claims here, though my lengthy internet detectiving (i.e.Google) found that there are only currently 1,269 prisoners out of an estimated 747,813 people in Monroe County jails as of 5/24/2013  (though I am not sure what the black to white to Hispanic to Asian to etc. ratios are).

Okay, for arguments sake I’m going to agree with Good and inquire “If you are elected as sheriff, how will you fix this problem?”  According to her platform framework she wants to employ Restorative Justice to reduce recidivism rates in county jail.  She defines Restorative Justice as:

Restorative Justice is about transformation of perspectives, structures and persons; it involves victims, the community, and offenders in the process of repairing damage. It teaches offenders empathy and justice so they may become more aware of emotions related to suffering, and ultimately accept responsibility for their actions. Restorative Justice programs allow offenders to recognize the impact their actions have on victims and the community.  The skills acquired through the process help prepare offenders to re-enter society.

I agree that by humanizing the victims and involving the offender in the community will do more to reduce recidivism than some of the traditional forms of retributive justice that we currently employ.  Of course there are always those individuals who just won’t change their behavior for whatever reasons, but they can be dealt with on that basis rather than lumping everyone together.  O’Flynn’s current administration does offer some community programs that work toward crime prevention as well, but at the end of the day it is not the differences in policy or procedure that vexes me, it is the morons who think they are helping on their behalf.

Not everyone who has something to say on this issue infuriates me and I am a huge proponent of political debate, but there are the vocal few on either side who make me wish I could close off my senses at will.  Unlike the riffraff I mentioned at the beginning of this treatise, these people actually do have points to make and that is why it is so annoying to me.  Case in point, I happened by a protest against Monsanto yesterday which also seemed to be serving as some sort of quasi Emily Good support rally.  She was there and going on about how prisoners in Monroe County jail should have the option of not having GMOs in their food, and while the crowd was going wild over this all I could think was these people have no fucking clue what the word “prisoner” means.  My second thought was is this really how you plan on reducing crime rates in Rochester, by giving people organic food?  And one final thought before I turned around and walked away:  Why the fuck are these people clapping and cheering at something that not only does zero to help our law enforcement situation, but literally sounds absurd in this context?  The problem here isn’t that people don’t want GMOs in their food or even if prisoners should be allowed to choose that option; the problem here is that Good made an absurd comment that has nothing to do with either the protest or her platform and it received the cheers of literally…like 60 or so people.  These people are not stupid or uninformed (I take it), but they sure do come off that way when they are cheering nonsense that has nothing to do with why they’re there.

On the other side of the issue are those people who can’t seem to stymy their contempt for someone running for Sheriff who was arrested (and found not guilty) for harassing police.  Just look at the comments section of this article to get an idea of what I mean.  Now these people do make legitimate points such as Good’s lack of experience and the fact that O’Flynn’s tenure has been relatively uneventful and corruption free, but those sound points are quickly overshadowed by an overwhelming barrage of vitriol calling her everything from a rabble rousing protester to an idiot.  Of course, then the people supporting Good fire back with how third party candidates are not covered by mainstream media and how it’s all a conspiracy, then O’Flynn supporters come back with something about black culture, and so on and so forth.

At the end of the day Emily Good will not get elected.  Not only will she fail to capture the vote in the city, but the much more conservative suburban and rural areas will never vote for her.  She does have some good ideas about justice, but they are not applicable to our current situation.  Law enforcement has to respond to the community not shape it.  It is an unfortunate truth that there are segments of our city that are unruly and out of control and will not work to simply have police come up on a corner full of gang bangers and tell them about all the other opportunities out there.  That sort of change has to happen at home and in the community with actual economic and social opportunities that are more enticing than the quick money offered by drugs and crime.  Instead of trying to run a campaign that is doomed from the start to spread her message of peace and equality Good should go work closely with the communities most in need some positive change and help bolster them up.  If she could accomplish that feat, then all the other chips would fall into place.  And as for all the activists, conservatives, difference makers, peace keepers, et al. Shut the fuck up already, you help nothing and annoy everyone.

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