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PAUL GLOVER ESSAYS: community control of food, fuel, housing, health care, planning, education, finance.

Praise Police

by Paul Glover

Cops have a tough job.  They're required to be friendly and helpful and ready to shoot. They're sent forth to sniff the rotten things people do. Their jobs would be more fun-- everybody would be happier-- if cops could issue citations for the good stuff people do.  They'd soon notice that most human actions are decent.  Folks say hello, give directions, offer food, visit, forgive, celebrate and mourn together.  These common kindnesses are seldom news, even though they keep society alive.

Right here in Ithaca millions of decent impulses and acts are never officially noticed or approved.  That's because we're a nation of punishment--  imprisoning a greater proportion of people than any country.  Our nation is mostly stick, and no carrot.
When we assume the worst, that's increasingly what we see.  When people are unappreciated and unnoticed, except for bad things, they do more bad things.  Punishment and threats don't stop them.  So cops are given a losing battle, to keep the lid on a public boiling with frustration.

People want approval more than anything, and we're starved for it.  But money is the main standard for approval in our society, and money just lets us buy things.  And there's less pay than ever, for millions of people.  Money is such a severely narrow standard of human value that people will kill for a couple bucks.

Have you noticed how praise causes folks to do more of the same?  Many of those receiving Praise Police citations are so starved for approval that they have framed their citation.  Consider this: if we notice only negative action-- if the biggest headlines are for the worst crimes-- then we fail to reward or encourage good stuff.  Praise Police break the negative spiral and move us upward.  We're theatre and we're serious.  We show how communities can  be patrolled.
praise policeOn October 27, 1994 I first put on a police hat (bought at Army/Navy store), and started giving out Citations to Ithacans for constructive living.  In a couple hours I had cited people for: waiting for a friend, saying hello to a dog, promoting public literacy, conscious cleaning, labor union organizing, exercising, teaching a child, feeling peaceful, making beautiful art, keeping ideals, looking for work, giving directions, being patient, fine dancing, skinnydipping in a State Park.
    These Citations are delivered at the officer's preference. There are no regulations.  The officer must put a foot up on something to write the Citation, like a traffic cop.  It's good to rip the ticket from the book and say, officially, 'Be sure to do that again!'
    Did people like getting cited?  Sure. Would you?  Several folks later said that they framed their citation or put it on the refrigerator.
    A voluntary police force that makes people feel important is going to make the streets safer than police who rule by intimidation.

You're all deputized.  With an official citation booklet you'll see actions you approve.  Introduce yourself to good-doers as an officer of the Praise Police.  Cite them by filling out their name, act, date and your name on both citation and stub.  When tearing off the citation and handing it over I often say, 'Just be sure to let that happen again.'

Officer Glover is an environmentalist who is especially glad to congratulate ecofriendliness.  [email protected]
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