The Hero Cop America Deserves
After demonstrating some inconsistencies between the official statistics about 911 response times put out by the Dallas Police Department, and actual experience on live video, Nick Novello’s retirement has been delayed because he is now under investigation. A pastor and activist speaking the hard truths, Novello is not afraid to stand and confront the problems he sees.
The police department seems content being understaffed, underpaid, and under the illusion of status-quo. They think cite and release laws for cannabis are “compassionate,” even though they still criminalize non-violent citizens. They are an unquestionable, powerful force capable of consuming all we hold dear. If left unchecked there are few doubts of the treachery that can come.
But there is hope. There are heroes. There does exist people willing to sacrifice their own livelihood and reputation to slow the growing, fearsome beast.
On the surface it might be hard to recognize Nick as a hero because he wears the badge of the very force he’s speaking against. And when he is not in uniform he shares his faith and love of Christ with the incarcerated population. He has been serving as a police officer since May 12, 1982 and was approaching retirement until he came under investigation.
The official reason for the investigation is for being an “embarrassment.” This likely stems from a video he put out on Facebook showing the 911 call center and demonstrating that the wait time statistics we were given were actually longer than we were officially told. It also doesn’t help that Novello has years as a vocal cannabis activist under his belt, including a video he put on YouTube addressing President Donald Trump himself, calling for de-scheduling marijuana.
“I released information based on citizens need to know for their physical well being. A recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case is my favor, officers have the right to post info on Facebook, especially if it pertains to the public’s well being. I’m being investigated in violation of my civil right to free speech. I speak as an individual.” Nick frequently reiterated that he is a police officer, so therefore an authority, but he also qualifies that by saying he only speaks for himself.
Unfortunately there are no easy answers, and the problems Novello is trying to shed light on are a tangled mess, often rooted at the very core of our society. We need to readdress what the role of the police enforcement is for our society. “My sole goal is to provoke a hard look, an introspection. I don’t expect change, but hopefully I’ll instill an understanding, and with that a culpability that now you can’t avoid the blame.”
One of the biggest issues Novello is trying to address is how understaffed the department is. A city the size of Dallas needs to have about 3,900 police officers, according to FBI recommendations, and only has about 3000. This is a large reason for the extremely long wait times. But to make matters worse, according to Novello, we aren’t being told the truth. It’s bad enough that the wait times are significantly longer than last years, but those statistics are manipulated to look better than they are.
“A lot of fabrications coming out of Dallas PD were telling us everything is great. People go home believing we have a handle on crime. We don’t. Statistics are being manipulated to show positive trends.”
Novello lives his life on his Biblical mandate, Ephesians 5:11 which says “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (KJV) To “reprove,” Nick elaborates, comes from the Greek word elegchó which literally means “expose them” and “that’s what I feel in my heart.”
Following what he believes is God’s purpose for him, he is exposing the darkness in places where most other people can never even glimpse.
The other big source of “embarrassment” for the DPD is Novello’s activism in cannabis. He firmly believes that we are criminalizing those they are sworn to protect by enforcing cannabis prohibition laws. Even the most recent change in our laws, the cite and release laws, Novello is staunchly against.
The basic ideas of cite and release is to not arrest those caught with small amounts of marijuana, but instead just confiscate the drugs and ticket them. The actual punishment for possession hasn’t changed, there is still a ticket, court appearance, and potential criminal record. The only difference now is that there is no trip to jail involved.
“The city thinks cite and release is compassionate. No it’s not! You’re still criminalizing those you’ve sworn to protect, creating a lucrative revenue stream…you might have a civil sanction as a deterrent but then use the funds for treatment programs and education, but certainly wouldn’t use those funds to put money in all sorts of projects. You can’t build a city on the back of those you’re criminalizing…it’s archaic, draconian, and we’re shaping young men’s lives based on our need to raise funds…They say I’ve got a conflict of interest, but I really have a conflict of conscious.”
This issue clearly demonstrates the two biggest problems Nick is trying to expose; first is the disconnect between criminalizing the very citizens that the police are sworn to protect, and second is the greed that comes with the financial incentive for keeping unjust laws on the books because it generates a consistent revenue stream. They literally create the criminal element to fund itself.
This also raises another obvious question; if there is a constant revenue stream from criminals, why is the DPD so grossly understaffed? How is it surrounding cities can pay officers 15-35% better, and keep their numbers close to the FBI recommended levels, but Dallas cannot? Where is all the money going?
So let’s do a small recap; we’ve got an understaffed and underpaid police department that still uses their resources to ticket, and therefore and make revenue, on the backs of non-violent drug offenders, manipulate statistics to try and better their own image, all while also wasting resources delaying the retirement of a fellow police officer, who was served honorably for 35 years because he is vocal about the problems that come from deep within.
Deep breath. Seems about right.
“They say I’m not a team player. It’s true. I’m not. The oath I took was before God and Man. I didn’t take an oath to protect this department. I took an oath to speak the truth, and if I have to speak the truth against those I work for, I will.”
Nick was supposed to retire early September until he came under investigation. He was going to spend his new free time in the prison system, sharing Christ’s love and message of redemption. But he is optimistic; while delayed, he knows his voice has more authority as an active police officer and he likes to serve. He feels no discouragement, because he is following God’s plan.
He could walk away and retire, but he would walk away dishonorably and he is not ready to do that. He has done nothing dishonorable. “It’s my job to say the emperor wears no clothes…people would rather be hurt by a compliment then helped by a criticism. And that’s sad.”
Sometimes it’s hard to hear the truth. Hearing the truth from a police officer makes it that much harder to swallow. The “us and them” rift has grown increasingly deep. Groups like Black Lives Matter have grown in public attention because of their demonstrations of police corruption and oversights. Those who oppose those groups are not convinced by the videos that are released, seemingly daily, of deaths and injuries caused by police officers. They choose to believe that “surely those thugs deserved it. Why else would the police be there in the first place?” They willingly and blindly give the police a free pass. They choose to live in a world where the police are the good guys and are not capable of corruption or injustice.
Nick Novello is a hero caught in a vacuum. One group of people prefer to live in an overly optimistic, fantasy world where the police are the good guys, incapable of evil, and anyone saying otherwise is insulting the team/heroes that “protect” us. On the other hand his voice comes from behind the very badge in which a growing group of people are desperately trying to demonstrate is fallible, unjust, and are actively criminalizing the citizens they are sworn to protect.
The system is broken and Nick Novello is both an inner part of it, and holding a mirror to its problematic depths. He is caught in the middle. Amazingly, he feels neither alone nor afraid. He has “been through the depths of Hell” himself and never wants to experience that again. He is fueled by Christ’s mercy and love and he is guided by his oath, “To God and man.”
The truth of this matter is that Dallas citizens should feel blessed that there exists a soul willing to go against the grain, stand up to the injustices he witnesses, and constantly pushes for betterment of our entire society. Unfortunately, his sacrifices will probably continue to go unnoticed and these issues not addressed. Officer Nick Novello will keep up the fight because it is the right thing to do. There is no glory or parades in his future, but that doesn’t matter. Heroes crave no such worldly bestowments. A hero stands their ground, stares into corruption’s beady, contemptuous eyes and says “No. Not today. Not on my watch.” Nick Novello deserves to have his message heard. He deserves to retire with full honors. He deserves to be called a hero even though our corrupt society may not be deserving of him.