Ruth Handler, Martin Luther King, Led Zeppelin, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs and I have something in common. Our names all appear on the author line of inventions registered at the Copyright Office inside the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C. These inventions or copyrights are protected by the U.S. Constitution and defended by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court and even our Secret Service and every police department throughout the land. They are the bedrock of our country’s freedom. The opportunity for the families of our inventors to financially benefit for 75 years beyond their lifetimes. Originals in all areas come at great cost to those with unique ideas and why should any one of those share them if the inventors themselves get sucked into the world greed machine.
China makes everything. From Toys to Technology the low upfront cost of duplication becomes the Trojan horse of a new generation. It’s cheaper to manufacture so companies wanting to make more profit per item rush their protected ideas into mass production overseas so that low wage workers replace American workers and corporate big shots make more money. But they didn’t stop there. Companies cut corners by making lower quality items. Because hefty salaried executives wanted to suck more money out of the companies that benefited hugely off of the products invented by others. The decision was short sited because they now have to compete with their own original products in the form of cheap knockoffs that look almost identical as well as older and better versions of their own products resold at flea markets, Amazon and Ebay around the world.
I call them the hawkers. They spend all day every weekday at places like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and others looking for the old toys that are donated by well-meaning citizens who think they are doing the right thing. They grab up at weekly auction bins where they can get hundreds of Barbies, action figures, medical supplies, antiques, designer purses, books and any other items donated. They get them in one shot for pennies on the dollar. Then these items and the knockoffs or generics made probably by the same people paid to make the original products are systematically redistributed throughout the world competing with the new products rolling out from the company.
And with the shortage of desire to finance law enforcement officers pay and pensions around the country sales of knockoffs or counterfeit products flourish. They are simply intermixed everywhere with originals and sold with a slim risk of getting caught.
A smiling little girl in a circular picture beneath another circle that says DRIVE SAFELY. I didn’t know her in life but I see her picture alongside a road here in Jacksonville. She is one of the countless victims that have unnecessarily died in car crashes on the roads that our local authorities call safe. Roads that I as a photojournalist have seen fresh dead people on in live time on a much too frequent basis throughout the last 20 years. Bridges that in recent months any person with social media has seen people burning to death in live time on too. So here is my question: ARE ALL THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF ROAD SAFETY ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL?
Specification safe does not mean road user safety. With the number of dead or injured travelers on our roads that I see it is clear to me that these roads are unforgivingly unable to accommodate the majority of drivers. Regular people in cars many of which are impaired in some way every day on every street in Jacksonville. But it is not just what I see daily on the roads-drivers who are texting, speeding, red lite running, drunk, English Illiterate. Drivers with no license , no auto insurance or just plain no clue-that makes these roads unsafe. It is the perfectionistic system that does not compensate for them. The system that leaves every driver and passenger on our roads constantly vulnerable to horrific results. Even our police officers die in traffic crashes.
As I drive around the city I see many roads that don’t have speed limit signs posted on them. If they do have them they are so far apart, random or obscured that drivers don’t even see them. This should be addressed, analyzed and fixed on a street by street basis. But that is not all.
City buses appear to stop randomly in the road. They should have red flashing lights on the back of them to say HEY! STOP SUDDENLY! OR YOUR DEAD! (or just stuck here till you can lane change). I mean really..if you don’t ride a bus how would you even know where the stops are located?
And instead of the city just profiting from those who run red lights how about implementing the technology NOW to change lights to red to save the innocent ones who do stop?
While I don’t have all the solutions here to make our roads safer I do have the pictures to show you which will be in a separate gallery of my website with Viewer Beware. Pictures that I hope will raise awareness and provide more discussion and possibly creative solutions to our traffic safety crisis.
One night early in my career I was driving home after my work shift as a photographer. I had covered my day shift assignments, then camped out for several hours at one of the Elyria, Ohio fire stations where I was working on a six month long documentary project. They were slow that night so I drove home (forty five minutes away in the next county) to sleep a few hours before turning around to work the day shift again at the newspaper. I drove with my radio off and my scanner on as I always did logged in with a variety of cities’ police and fire frequencies. I forget how many frequencies it had on it but at the time it was state of the art. I heard a lot more channels than I think I was supposed to sometimes even hearing tactical calls and SWAT members talking to each other on live callouts. Many times I recognized the voices of people I knew talking. It was probably about 3am and mostly the scanner was just routine crackle of regular calls. Suddenly something came over the scanner that was unlike the others. It was the voice of a male Cleveland Police officer and he was excited, talking fast, out of breath and calling loudly for an ambulance for a gunshot victim. The location was in an area of Cleveland near where we now know three women were held hostage for 10 years but this was long before that. I thought about going there but didn’t because the street was not in the paper’s coverage area and was in one of the worst neighborhoods.
I listened as the dispatcher told him to hang on and wait for the ambulance. The officer explained that he was holding the victim who was lying in the street and questioned how long it would take for the ambulance to arrive. The dispatcher responded but was garbled. The officer raised his voice and said he didn’t think there was time to wait. He pleaded with the dispatcher to hurry. He sounded desperate. Pleading for help. Then he came on and said he was not waiting. He was loading the victim in his police car and taking him himself to the hospital. That was all I heard. The radio went dead. Silent. I sat in total darkness outside my apartment and pictured that man running lights and siren to take the bleeding victim to the hospital. This cop with blood on him trying to save someone’s life. In 25 years I have never heard another conversation on the scanner like that one. I wonder now if it was a cop who was shot that night.
Back in the 1990’s The Jacksonville Sheriffs Office had more indians and less chiefs. That is there was a ranking position of Captain that was eliminated. Or one less leadership rank existed that was protected by the Fraternal Order of Police union. And one more level of people who serve at the pleasure of the Sheriff. The Captains were grandfathered out and their power was curtailed. What this did for the rank and file officers was create a glass ceiling of advancement that depended more on who your friends were (or weren’t) than what you could test up to. I heard lots of grumbling by officers who were now locked into their rank until they retired. I think this is where the term top heavy comes from. I think it is a politically correct term for appointment heavy. The current rank structure is this: Patrol Officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant ranks for which officers have to take a test and pass to earn and then wait on a list for a position to become available. Then comes Assistant Chiefs, Chiefs, Directors, and the second in command: Undersheriff which the sheriff appoints. You can see the entire graph at http://www.coj.net/departments/sheriffs-office/about-the-jso/jso-organizational-chart.aspx
But what some of the rank and file don’t understand is that a good test taker does not always create a situation where the best person gets the job either. No system is perfect and a sheriff (who knows how to spot leadership abilities probably in the same way I spotted them in the personalities of the kids I taught in my Preschool and VPK classes) can have a more cohesive successful team if it is hand picked. However, neither idea is a Utopia. Although I support both ways of promotional thinking, appointed positions, left without checks and balances, can become a place of elitism. A place where power can be used in such a way as to make it possible for any one of the chosen who make mistakes to be whisked off in the darkness without police reports being written or sunshine laws being utilized. No report, no media reading reports, as if some things never happen. Things which the promotional rank and file may see, be negatively influenced by or treated more harshly for committing themselves. And if people who make mistakes at the top are not treated in the same disciplinary way as those who commit the same errors in the promotable ranks below morale can go down. So maybe an olive branch to the rank and file by the new sheriff -whoever wins- would be to bring back a supervisory level of Captain so that the glass ceiling of all members can be raised and all can hope (or test) to achieve. And there can be one more layer of advancement and authority not predicated on one person’s perception of abilities. A voice able to speak a little more freely. A position to lift a little morale and shed a little more sunshine to those who commit their lives every day to keeping us as safe as humanly possible.