PDK/Gallup Poll Says Americans Value Teachers and Want Teachers Supported, Not Punished

Note:  I blog regularly on national issues in public education at http://janresseger.wordpress.com.  From time to time, I’ll repost to this Heights Observer site when I think the topic may be of real interest locally to residents of Cleveland Heights-University Heights.  You may also find topics that relate to issues in our community on my blog at http://janresseger.wordpress.com.

The post I’m sharing today appeared just last week on September 17, 2014.

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Too often lately when I read about teachers and teaching, I am bothered because I suspect the writer has never taught in any kind of school.  Even though I know that data from tests and classroom work has always informed teachers’ strategies for working with particular students, I am puzzled by people who assume that teachers keep in mind a compartmentalized mental file of each child’s standardized test scores as the key to strengths and weaknesses and a finite list of steps to be taken to erase the weaknesses. And I am troubled by statisticians calculating econometric formulas to measure the amount of knowledge particular teachers add to a child’s education.

To my mind teaching is an art, though teachers certainly need to inform their practice with what science tells us about psychology and sociology and child development. Teaching is relational.  It is not the mere imparting of bits and bites of information.  Teachers must come to know their students deeply and respect what each student brings to the relationship.  Teaching is about awakening interest, inspiring hard work, stimulating curiosity, listening, considering, supporting, encouraging and making students feel safe enough to learn from criticism.  Teachers need to be able to encourage students to analyze, be critical, and challenge authority while at the same time creating a safe and orderly classroom.  So much of today’s talk about teachers fails to consider what teachers really do.  When learning happens, there is a spark of connection.  Gloria Ladson-Billings titled her classic book about teaching, The Dreamkeepers; Sonia Nieto called hers, The Light in Their Eyes.

Even if I try, I find it meaningless to apply the “Value Added Measure” (VAM) concept to my experience with my favorite teachers. A lot of these measures would try to connect “value added” to the salaries I have been able to earn over the years—the economic value of my education.  While I certainly don’t want to scoff at the importance of my capacity to work, I don’t really value my own education at all from an economic point of view.  The teachers who took the trouble to connect with me, help form my habits of thought, encourage me to be and feel competent—these are the teachers I value, but I can’t measure the worth of my connection to my teachers or assign a numerical value to the experience.

Mike Rose, one of my favorite writers about teachers and education, describes what is rarely considered in much of today’s talk about schooling:  “I’m interested here in the experience of education when it’s done well with the student’s well-being in mind.  The unfortunate thing is that there is nothing in the standard talk about schooling—and this has been true for decades—that leads us to consider how school is perceived by those who attend it.  Yet it is our experience of an institution that determines our attitude toward it, affects what we do with it,  the degree to which we integrate it into our lives, into our sense of who we are.  We need to pay attention to the experience of going to school.”  (Why School?, 2014 edition, p. 34) I value my favorite teachers as the people who shaped that experience of going to school.

Today’s school reform—codified in the federal testing law No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and continuing in the Obama Administration’s NCLB waivers that require states to incorporate students’ scores on standardized tests into formal evaluations of teachers—has failed to address the social conditions that affect learning in our poorest school districts and has failed to invest seriously in resource equity across school districts.  It has framed a conversation about closing achievement gaps but ignored a wide set of opportunity gaps that must be closed. The ratings of schools and teachers incorporated into these federal policies are designed to blame school teachers, supposedly to motivate teachers to to work harder and smarter.  A significant number of policy makers these days also seem to believe that we can improve public education through a regime of firing and replacing teachers who are not quickly raising the standardized test sores of their students.

However, there is encouraging new evidence that while Americans’ views of school teachers have been affected by all this negativity, many people have managed to hold on to a more nuanced understanding of education and teaching.  Yesterday Phi Delta Kappan and Gallup released the second part of their annual poll of Americans’ opinions about education.  Much of the material released yesterday explored Americans’ opinions about teaching.  It seems that although public opinion has been influenced to some degree by the widespread trend of blaming school teachers, the majority of Americans have retained healthy skepticism about attacks on teachers.

William J. Bushaw, the chief executive officer of PDK International and author of an analysis of the poll’s findings about attitudes toward teachers and teaching, writes: “Once again, Americans have identified a blueprint to support public education, and it is centered on investments in classroom teachers.  That is not a quick fix, but other countries have had success with this strategy, resulting in unmistakable gains in student achievement.” “Americans said they believe teacher evaluation should be primarily designed to help teachers improve their ability to teach.  If we listen carefully to the opinions of Americans, we need to research better ways to evaluate teachers and principals that are not overly reliant upon how students perform on standardized tests.”

The PDK/Gallup poll this year indicates that 61 percent of Americans oppose using students’ standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. The number of parents who have trust and confidence in public school teachers declined from 72 percent last year to 64 percent this year, but is still a wide majority. Fifty-seven percent of Americans still say they would be pleased if their child becomes a school teacher, down from 62 percent in 2005, but still a sizeable number of parents.

While those polled would like to see teaching improved, their focus—like Mike Rose’s focus—seems to be on improving the experience of schooling for America’s children by more thoroughly preparing their teachers.  Seventy percent of those polled would like to increase the length of the supervised student teaching experience to one year and make entrance requirements for teacher preparation programs more rigorous.  Finally 77 percent of Americans said the most important goal of evaluating teachers is not to punish but instead to “help teachers improve their ability to teach.”

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There’s something happening here

Last spring in a profound commentary the editors of Rethinking Schools magazine argued that school accountability based on high-stakes standardized tests merely disguises class and race privilege as merit.  While individual children of all economic and racial groups are likely to score all over the spectrum on standardized tests, in the aggregate scores are likely to be higher among privileged children.   And if schools in our racially and economically segregated society are judged by the students’ test scores, the schools serving wealthier children will appear to be doing a better job just because the children who attend the schools bring their privilege with them to school.

Ohio, like other states, ignores this reality by attaching its rating system for schools and school districts to the standardized test scores of the students. The state credits standardized test scores to the quality of the school district’s teachers and the curriculum and ignores other variables that might be affecting the test scores.

Ohio is currently in transition between a school district rating system that awarded ratings of  “Excellent, Effective, Continuous Improvement, Academic Watch and Academic Emergency” to our new system which will feature school district grades of “A, B, C, D, and F.” Next year districts will receive overall letter grades; late last week the Ohio Department of Education released complicated report cards for school district performance during the 2013-2014 academic year, report cards that award a miasma of letter grades and raw scores.  Most all the grades, however, are for scores on various standardized tests, with the graduation rate and attendance added in, along with a formula-based grade for “value added.”

In the concluding chapter of Public Education Under Siege, Mike Rose and Michael Katz address the trend across the states (including Ohio) to rate school districts on test scores alone: “Perhaps the greatest strength of the current reform movement is its focus on inequality… (but) Because reformers want to keep focus with ‘no excuses’ on the unacceptable performance of poor children, they insist on addressing outcomes (in the form of test scores) rather than on inequality of resources and social conditions.  This is an understandable strategy, but its narrow focus has a potent liability.  Poverty itself tends to be pushed out of the picture.  Poverty is mentioned, but in a variety of ways it is downplayed.  So all the damage poverty does to communities and to households, to schools and to other local institutions is rarely addressed… Low achievement then, by default, has to be attributed to teachers and administrators.” (Education Under Siege, p. 222)

Just before Ohio released the new school district report cards last week, the Plain Dealerreporter, Patrick O’Donnell (like almost everybody else across the state who just accepts the ratings on their face) neglected to wonder about the legitimacy of Ohio’s system for evaluating and ranking school districts and seemed to understand his task as explaining how the rating system works for the purpose of measuring the quality of the county’s 31 school districts: “If enough students score well enough to be proficient in fourth-grade math, for example, a school or district has met that indicator and receives credit for it.  The report card will show the number of indicators met and will grade each school and district on how well it has met indicators.” A follow-up article in Saturday’s Plain Dealer  when school district ratings were published does mention some concern among the  state school boards’ and superintendents’ organizations in Columbus about the correlation of district rankings with poverty, but even the emphasis of these policy advocates seems to be on more state funding for districts serving children in poverty (a good idea) without any pointed critique of the premise of test-based accountability.

Because I suspect that—in the words of Buffalo Springfield’s 1966 song,”There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear”—I checked the Ohio Department of Education’s Office on Child Nutrition’s data to track the percentage of children who qualify for federally funded free lunch. The number or percentage of children in a school district who qualify for the federal free and reduced price lunch program is widely accepted as a proxy for student poverty.  To qualify for free lunch, a child must live in a family at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty line; hence a family of four whose children qualify for free lunch has an income under $31,005 per year.  Then I compared the percentage of students who qualify for free lunch to the school district’s “Performance Index,” on Ohio’s state school district report card. (“Performance Index” is the factor which the Plain Dealer describes as being the overall reflection of standardized test scores.)

Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located, has 31 school districts.  I looked at poverty data for the eight Cuyahoga County school districts with the lowest Performance Index ratings and the eight districts with the highest Performance Index ratings. My informal analysis is consistent with what academic research has demonstrated again and again: test scores, on average, correlate with family income.  School districts with the highest “Performance Index” scores are wealthy—often outer-ring—suburbs, while the Cleveland City Schools and several suburbs in the inner ring score low in the “Performance Index” ratings.  The difference in the amount of family poverty between the high and low scoring districts is startling.

Here is the free lunch data for the eight bottom scoring school districts. Warrensville Heights with the lowest “Performance Index score” has 73.45 percent of children qualifying for free lunch; East Cleveland–92.19 percent; Cleveland–74.83 percent; Maple Heights–73.45 percent; Euclid–66.7 percent; Garfield Heights–61.60 percent; Richmond Heights–66.40 percent; and Cleveland Heights-University Heights–59.43 percent.

Then I looked at the eight top scoring school districts.  Solon, the district with the highest performance rating, has 8.89 percent of children who qualify for free lunch; Rocky River–13.01 percent; Beachwood–8.75 percent; Chagrin Falls–3.16 percent; Independence–7.33 percent; Bay Village 6.16 percent; Brecksville-Broadview Heights 10.19 percent; and Orange–11.34 percent.

Randy Hoover, professor emeritus at Youngstown State University clearly understands what’s happening here.  Hoover recently described both the irony and tragedy of how standardized testing and the rating of school districts is playing out among his former students who have become public school teachers: “For my students working in high-poverty schools, the isolation and alienation was palpable, with very good, dedicated teachers feeling demoralized and abandoned amid the very public, state-mandated accountability reports showing them to be professionally incompetent.  Equally disturbing were those in the wealthier schools who were starting to become a bit smug because these same accountability reports portrayed them to be professionally excellent.  Neither group understood that teachers in low-performing schools were no more the cause of low performance than those in high-performing schools were of performance success.”

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Citizens Police Academy – Part IV: The Heavy Equipment

Background: The Cleveland Heights Police Department has launched a Citizens Police Academy for members of the community who are interested in learning more about how the police department operates. The first class, of which I’m a member, runs 6-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday evenings, for seven weeks beginning Aug. 11 and ending Sept. 30, 2014. This blog post is one of a series about the experience. The program is intended to run once a year.

“Locking” a Glock – making sure it’s empty and unable to fire.

On paper, Week Four of the Cleveland Heights Citizens Police Academy looked like it should be fun. On Monday night, the agenda included time with the K-9 unit, bomb squad and the SRT Team (it stands for Special Response & Tactics, but most people still call it SWAT).

All three hours of Tuesday – plus an extra 45 minutes of overtime – were spent at the city’s shooting range, located in a nominally marked building on Superior Road just south of Mayfield.

This was the week when the police department got to show off its most impressive hardware to an interested and captive audience.

By the time it was over, I was depressed and angry. It’s taken me several days to think it through.

The Citizens Police Academy experience is not about turning citizens into police officers or auxiliary patrols. (Graduates of the Shaker Heights Citizens Police Academy do actually patrol business districts; if asked to do the same, I would decline.)

The police department wants us to have a better understanding of how it works and what it takes to protect and serve in the 21st Century. Most clearly, the department wants us to experience its deep commitment to providing police officers with high quality training – and lots of it.

Capt. Geoffrey Barnard, commander of the Cleveland Heights Police Academy and our primary instructor, said: “When bad things start happening quickly, you’ll always revert to your training.”

As an example, he has played dash-cam video of the 2013 ambush of Middlefield, OH police officer Erin Thomas – a graduate of the Cleveland Heights Police Academy. She was shot in what began as a routine traffic stop.

With her left hand hit by a bullet and useless, her training kicked in. She emptied her gun, told herself she wasn’t going to die, then she continued to fight, Barnard narrated. With one working hand, she took over the radio to support her partner in any way she could until the shootout was over.

“When bad things start happening quickly,” Barnard repeated, “You’ll always revert to your training.”

I provide this background because we didn’t actually diffuse bombs or ride along with the SWAT team. We aren’t being trained; we’re learning how others are trained.

Inv. Jeff Mecklenburg and K-9 unit Argos. The same week, Mecklenburg was injured while tracking with the dog.

We did get to make nice with two of the department’s three police dogs – Argos and Rocky – but we didn’t spend anywhere near enough time at the shooting range that they would actually let us shoot guns.

Which was fine with me. I’d never handled a real gun before. Now I have. I’ve loaded and unloaded both a revolver and semi-automatic pistol. I know now that when you pull a magazine out of a semi-automatic, the odds are good that there’s still a bullet in the chamber – a detail that can kill you or someone else if overlooked. It’s as much direct experience with guns as I ever hope to have.

Among friends and family, I’ve been flippantly referring to the whole experience as Police Camp, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that so far it’s been an extended show-and-tell.

Det. Martin Block, USMC, in full SRT gear.

But if that’s all it was, I wouldn’t be beating around the bush right now about why I suddenly found myself so overwhelmed and uncomfortable when Det. Martin Block entered the police academy classroom fully equipped in SRT gear.

Block could have come out of Central Casting for the appearance. He’s intense and steel-eyed, with a Steve McQueen jawline. He’s a U.S. Marine who, we were told, was serving in Beirut when the U.S. barracks there were bombed in 1983, killing 241 servicemen.

There is a certain amount of theater built into the SRT Team. Every piece of equipment is designed not just to be brutally functional but also to intimidate – from the black van the team rides in (more typically, members respond in squad cars, where they carry their own SWAT gear) to the strobe-equipped shield that’s the first thing through a door on a raid.

Lt. Christopher Britton and the SRT’s device for opening locked doors – brand name: The Key.

“We don’t fight fair,” Barnard said. “We want to make sure that every advantage is on our side, and that every disadvantage is on the bad guy’s side.”

It was all very impressive. And depressing.

The Bomb Squad too. We were shown pipe bombs (sans explosives) with gravity switches and timed activators. We learned the difference between an incendiary and explosive device (incendiaries burn; encase them and they explode) and learned how astoundingly simple it is to make either one using ingredients you probably have in your home right now.

Protective helmet for the bomb squad

I should feel good that our police department is so well equipped – and that its people are demonstrably so well trained.

I recognize the need. And while you can argue (I have) that some of these specialized capabilities ought to be funded regionally rather than locally, the sad reality is that even as threats to public safety grow larger and more exotic, the number of cities willing to fund SWAT teams, bomb squads, K-9 units and even regular shooting practice is shrinking.

According to our instructors, the City of Cleveland doesn’t even have an indoor shooting range, which means Cleveland Police don’t practice shooting in low-level lighting – the most likely condition when shootings occur.

The CHPD shooting range is one of few indoor ranges in the region.

While Cleveland Heights police officers shoot 60 practice rounds a month, Cleveland’s, we were told, shoot only 30. And Ohio now requires only 25 rounds for its annual firearm requalification. That’s right: Just 25 shots, once a year.

Why? Money. As crime rates rise and criminals become more dangerous than ever, many cities can’t afford bullets for target practice. Sure, the federal government will provide them with high-tech military hardware. But what happens when you skimp on training?

Here, in my opinion, are three recent answers to that question:

By all accounts, we are losing the war. There are more bad guys with bigger weapons doing worse things than ever before. And our society has so fetishized guns and gun rights that every last piece of ammunition gets snapped up as soon as it leaves the manufacturer. In the last few years, the price of bullets has tripled – if you can find them at all.

Rubber bullet.

In Cleveland Heights, supplies for the police academy have to be ordered 6 months in advance.

Elsewhere, they just cut back on training.

Ohio Legislators vote to reduce little things like prison staffing (see T.J. Lane) and the competence of law enforcement officers who venture into public every day with loaded weapons and a charter to use them. And in the next breath, they tell us we’re still paying too much in taxes.

My hostile reaction to the past week’s curriculum has everything to do with that.

It’s inevitable that reports will only increase about law enforcement officers shot while simply doing their jobs; and civilians being killed in misunderstandings with police officers. I’m certain of this – more now than two weeks ago.

All that hardware, all that gun talk was about a situation that’s all too real and becoming more dangerous every day (remember Jim Brennan).

And yet, if being safe means being prepared to kill someone and walking around with a loaded gun, then I’m choosing to live in denial. This is why we have police.

But seeing the full range of advanced weaponry; learning about the many specialized forms of police training; seeing the care with which the city’s shooting range is maintained; handling bullets – even dummies with their primers removed; hearing from officers who have had violent confrontations with offenders; internalizing that police work is a career spent with one foot in squalor – all of it crashed my idyllic world.

I should be relieved that our city has dug in its heels against the downward trend. Unlike what appears to be the case in Ferguson, MO, I should be glad that our cops haven’t traded in good training for even more federally funded paramilitary equipment.

I should take solace in the fact that I’ve never actually seen the bad-ass SRT van in action.

I mentioned this to one of my classmates, who lives in the city’s less idyllic north end.

“Really?” he said. “I’ve seen it three times. Twice on my own street.”

 

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Cleveland Heights City Hall is now a bank.

I was very pleased to hear that Milliken School was sold to Mosdos.

But, I am confused as to why the sale is contingent on the city of Cleveland Heights financing the purchase.

What is the justification for Cleveland Heights City Council offering to finance this sale?

(I imagine that the school board members were very happy that Cleveland Heights City Council took them off the hook. Now they can direct any questions about the sale to them.)

I am concerned that by financing this sale, the city of Cleveland Heights will be opening a can of worms. The many places of worship (all non-profits, for that matter) in the city can now look to the city of Cleveland Heights to finance their projects.

How will city council justify ever telling them no?

To be sure that this decision meets the highest ethical standards, shouldn’t council member Jason Stein disclose his past and present relationship to the Mosdos congregation?

I don’t understand why Mosdos is getting financing from the city of Cleveland Heights instead of a bank.

Do you?

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Citizens Police Academy – Part III: Narcotics

Background: The Cleveland Heights Police Department has launched a Citizens Police Academy for members of the community who are interested in learning more about how the police department operates. The first class, of which I’m a member, runs 6-9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday evenings, for seven weeks beginning Aug. 11 and ending Sept. 30, 2014. This blog post is one of a series about the experience. The program is intended to run once a year.

In 1972, my fifth-grade class at Roxboro Elementary School was ushered into the auditorium for a very important assembly.

A Cleveland Heights Police Officer had come to us with a kilo of marijuana. I’m sure there was more to it than that, but this is all I remember about it these 42 years later. Well before the days of “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E., he walked back and forth in front of us, talking in very serious tones.

The marijuana looked like a brick wrapped in foil and plastic wrap, and as the police officer paced, he held it above his shoulder like he was getting ready to wind up and throw it.

I don’t remember what he said the street value was, but I remember marveling at the foreign-ness of the word “kilo” – not knowing how it was spelled and not connecting it with the metric unit of weight (though Miss Manino had taught us the metric system way back in 2nd grade with the promise that the country would be using it for everything in 10 years).

Day 5 of the Cleveland Heights Citizens Police Academy was all about narcotics investigations. The visual aids included not only multiple grades of marijuana in clear plastic, but also cocaine – in kilo form (street value: $35,000) as well as small bags bundled for sale; crack, heroin, some drug paraphernalia, and a Tec 9 automatic handgun. Unfortunately, none of it was unfamiliar, thanks to the images we see every day on TV and the internet. But up close and in person it spoke of dark obsession and horror that was surprising to a bleeding heart lefty from the suburbs. All of it was evidence from cases that had been fully adjudicated – soon to be destroyed, according to the police officers who led the 3-hour session.

I’m going to call them Det. G, Det. Sgt. S and Cmdr. L. All three are members of the CHPD’s narcotics unit.

[I don't mean to be melodramatic; it's probably not necessary to protect their identities. I was able to find them all on Google easily enough, but only at that level where they’ve been thrust into the public eye. They’re not out there with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. And I don’t want to create trouble for them; their job is dangerous enough and, truthfully, they scare me.

I might have inquired, but I’d rather manage these issues myself than invite anyone at the police department to review my work in advance. So yes, I’m filtering information to suit my interests, and as you’ll note in a moment, I’m not alone.]

Det. G, who earned a master’s degree in Administration and Justice while working on the force, also serves as a task force officer on the Drug Task Force, operated across northern Ohio by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Many of his comments are drawn from this federal experience and aren’t specific to Cleveland Heights.

As he described the process of drug investigations, it sounded like a lot of time doing surveillance and paperwork and waiting for the gears of bureaucracy to turn.

What we see on TV cop shows is realistic to a point; the DEA segments of Breaking Bad are particularly good, he said. But as you might expect, TV dramas focus on the few moments of payoff that punctuate months of toil in a real-life investigation.

The surprise to me: The work seems to rely even more on confidential informants than even TV cop shows would have you believe.

Informants tend to be motivated by just a few factors: They’re criminals themselves and may do it to work off their own charges; many like the excitement; and, of course, they do it for the money. The feds pay informants more than Cleveland Heights and other local police departments; Det. Sgt. S said he thought they get paid too much.

An informant may earn $35-$50 to get wired up and make a controlled buy of pot – twice that for crack or heroin. A day-long intelligence debriefing may be worth a few hundred dollars.

And they say crime doesn’t pay.

Det. G and Det. Sgt. S tried valiantly to bring their job to life. But while police officers have a lot of fascinating stories to tell, it’s too much to expect them to be fascinating story tellers.

The constant filtering of information gets in the way. They filter out the stuff that’s still being investigated or adjudicated, and the stuff that’s too raw and ugly. Then there’s the stuff we don’t want to know, and, I assume, a certain amount of stuff they don’t want us to know. I’m guessing there’s even a layer of stuff that they just can’t talk about – like POWs. I suppose this is the price they pay for the work they do, and they don’t take great pains to hide it.

So the result is a series of story fragments and impressions that fit together poorly, like pieces from different picture puzzles. Executing warrants with children in the house, or a girlfriend hiding in the closet with a gun… Illegals from Jamaica brazenly selling drugs from a rented house on Edgehill Drive… Law enforcement agencies selling hydroponic growing equipment through High Times magazine and tracking the people who buy it… Doing surveillance to determine how much effort will be required to break down the door of a suspected drug house when the warrant finally comes through… Columbian producers who take such pride in the purity of their product that they’ve begun branding it… Local dealers who will maximize profits by cutting the same pure cocaine “with anything that’s white, because there’s no Better Business Bureau you can go to if you happen to buy a bad batch,” Cmdr. L said.

The best I can do to summarize is this: Drugs and desperation go hand in hand, and the narcotics squad is awash in it.

“We go into neighborhoods where nobody knows anyone else who has a job,” Cmdr. L said. “What’s needed is education and the opportunity for people to use it. If we want to solve the drug problem, we need to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. You’re not going to arrest your way out of this.”

The three officers could themselves be the basis of a TV police show. Det. G is the streetwise detective; he wears scruffy clothes to work and has made his own undercover drug buys. He told us at the outset that he’s put off advancement opportunities because he wants to stay close to the action.

Det. Sgt. S is a man of few words and great experience, providing invaluable backup and – according to Det. G – a genius for writing search warrants that will hold up all the way through the justice system.

Cmdr. L is the elder statesman, having served a full career at the DEA and then joining the CHPD upon retirement. He speaks gently, and careful words come easily to him. At 60, according to Det. Sgt. S, he is still the first man through the door on a drug bust. He even has a superficial resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones.

“A lot of what you see in the drug world is counter-intuitive,” Cmdr. L said. “If you’re an addict and you have a friend who just died of an overdose, you want to know who the dealer is – not so you can avoid him, but because it means he has good stuff.”

The big drug threat right now is heroin; it’s proliferating and highly profitable – so the large dealers who previously specialized in marijuana or cocaine are branching out.

While Cleveland Heights is seeing its share of this activity, it is still known in law enforcement circles as an area where the dominant trade is in cocaine and marijuana.

When asked how they feel about legalization of pot, none of the three chose to offer a direct opinion. Like all the police officers I’ve met so far, they don’t seem to bother much with policy issues that are – as the cliché goes – above their pay grade. No matter what happens with marijuana, there will always be plenty of work for them to do.

Instead – also typically – they answered the question with factual statements:

Det. G: “What I’ll say is that every big drug dealer … tells us that’s where they started; they were smoking marijuana at 12 and selling it at 13, or something like that.”

I asked how much of the crime in Cleveland Heights could be tied in some way to drug activity. “That would be an interesting topic for discussion. I’d say a lot of it,” Det. G answered. “Drugs are bad for the community. Where there’s drugs, there’s criminals and criminal activity. People with weapons. Large amounts of cash. Break-ins. Property theft. Bad stuff that tears a good community apart.”

 

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