Last night the Midland Police Department held its 20th annual awards ceremony at the Midland Country Club where some of Midland's finest were celebrated for their accomplishments during the year just past.
Chief attorney in the U.S. Attorney's office in Midland, John Klassen, was the keynote speaker, and he gave a brilliant and very relevant talk.
Mr. Klassen attended school at Columbia University in time to see New York City reap the benefits of James Q. Wilson's Broken Windows theory. And he was convinced.
The broken windows theory is very simple. If there's one broken window in a building, and it doesn't get fixed, they all will eventually be broken. Address problems while they are small, and they don't become big problems. Back when squeegee men made driving a nuisance, and fare beaters jumped the turnstiles, respect for the law declined. The crime rate increased, and honest citizens felt insecure. So Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Commissioner William Bratton put the broken windows theory into practice and significantly improved the lives of New Yorkers. That's a lesson Mr. Klassen took to heart.
There is an emphasis on U.S. Attorneys, Mr. Klassen said, to go for the big stuff. Prosecute the major crimes, and get the headlines. That's important, but that means de-emphasizing the smaller things. There's that broken window theory again -- ignore the small problems, and before long you've got big problems. So Mr. Klassen doesn't ignore the small stuff, and he believes it pays off.
Another theory Mr. Klassen discussed was deterrence. If someone is thinking about breaking a law, there's a rational thought process going on. But the possibility of a long sentence doesn't seem to matter. What does matter is swiftness and certainty of punishment.
As a good attorney, Mr. Klassen has had offers to work elsewhere, but he enjoys working in Midland and wants to continue living here. One has to wonder what the transition must have been like when he moved from New York City to Midland. But here he is. And taking him at his word, he likes it.
Having worked with the police he had complimentary words for the police department. And whether it's the broken windows theory or the swiftness and certainty of arrest and punishment, the Midland Police Department has made the city a nice place to live.
The police officers and civilian who were awarded last night have done a lot to make Midland the city it is. And we the citizens have benefited greatly from the high quality of police officers in the MPD.