We started rewarding bad behavior

Commentary from Law Enforcement Today

If you have ever taken a psychology class, you have probably been exposed to the notion of reward versus punishment.  The basis being that you get more of that which you reward and less of that which you punish for.

Generally speaking, it’s an accurate synopsis of how human nature works.  When someone does that which society appreciates, something positive follows. When they perpetrate acts that we wish to discourage, some type of negative reaction transpires.

Yet in cities across the nation leaders are trying to convince the governed that they can rewrite the laws of human nature. These often times elected (but sometimes appointed) decision makers are in a frenzied race to prove that we can fix the ills of society by rewarding them.

While cities like San Antonio, Texas have worked on ways to eliminate the citywide epidemic of homeless panhandling by passing city ordinances to discourage this activity, just up the road in Austin they encourage the homeless to set up camp in any public space.

San Francisco is so consumed by the homeless crisis that they actually have city workers dedicated to picking up human waste from the street every single day.  The tens of thousands of reports of locations where people decided to defecate on the street or sidewalk have been recorded, and when mapped these reports show a solid blanket of brown spots from one side of the city to the other.

In Seattle, transients have set up makeshift camps on nearly every empty piece of space they can find throughout the city. Why?  Because there is no reason not to.  Citizens there recently rose up against local elected officials demanding action as their neighborhoods become 3rdworld-like.

Meanwhile, back here in the Lone Star State, the City of Abilene has made aggressive efforts to end veteran homelessness…and succeeded.  Lowering their veteran homeless rate to 0%.  And they didn’t do it with an “anything goes”, zero enforcement of decency standards approach, they partnered with advocacy groups, law enforcement and others to find real solutions.

If you stopped reading right here you would think that I have some animosity or issue with the homeless, but that is far from true. In fact, I believe that the vast majority of these issues are driven by the two main factors: Drug addiction and mental health.

Address those in a meaningful way via public programs, private non-profits and faith based organizations, and not with insignificant gestures designed to elicit applause at a political speech, and you will absolutely see the homeless crisis improve.

These examples show the stark contrast in methodology and how rewarding bad behavior versus addressing it head on provides polar opposite outcomes.  So why do we continue to see, from coast to coast, politicians whose answer to a problem is to just ignore it?

Too many vagrants camping on your sidewalk? Just legalize public camping.  Too many people illegally crossing our border? Just deny funding to I.C.E.  Too many drug addicts in your state?  Just legalize drugs.  Too much violence at a protest?  Just tell the police to pull back and disregard it.

The attitude that we should cave in to any problem and either ignore or legitimize it is like a caustic acid that slowly erodes widely accepted societal norms.

As a parent is it easier to let your kids run wild and do whatever they want instead of laying down some rules and consequences and adhering to them?  Sure it is. But the product of that approach is an un-teachable, un-coachable, un-disciplined adult that will struggle to succeed.  Society is no different.

The old saying, “You can pay me now or pay me later” has never been more applicable.  Our goal as leaders should be to leave our world better than we found it for the next generation, not leave them with a mess to clean up.

Whether we are talking about the city, state or federal level we should be rewarding leaders who step up and successfully address the issues at hand.  In every other facet of life we hire people based on their ability to complete the task. Your plumber, carpenter, auto mechanic or accountant may not have the most glowing personality but if they are good at their craft we compensate for that skill.

Yet when it comes to those who lead us, we all too often pick the guy with the best hair, smile or slogan even though they have repeatedly shown us that they excel at accomplishing nothing.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

In layman’s terms…leaders are there because we allow them to be.

I have known, and still know, honorable and competent Mayors, State Senators and Congressmen, but at last check there were plenty who fit into neither of those categories.

It’s our job to fix that.

-Chief Eric Kaiser

Eric Kaiser is the Chief of Police for the Jourdanton (TX) Police Department and a Master Texas Peace Officer.  He is also a member of Generation X.