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The basics of home electrical wiring are fairly straightforward— the hot (“live”) wire delivers power (120 volts) to lights, receptacles, etc. and is easily identified by its covering of black sheathing; the white-colored wire is the neutral conductor that carries energy away from the lights and receptacles, and a bare copper ground wire whose purpose is to conduct excess energy that might be a shock and/or fire hazard.

Of course, as in law enforcement, there are exceptions to the rule, such as the wiring for appliances that require 240-volts—water heater, clothes dryer, ranges, or well pump. But even these exceptions are clearly defined in electrical guidelines as set by the National Electrical Code (NEC)—both black and white wires are used as “hot” wires with the bare copper still serving as ground wire.

So, as you can clearly see, there is a defined and organized set of rules when it comes to electrical wiring. But what happens when, say, the conductor inside a black “hot” wire touches that of a white neutral wire, or the bare ground wire? Easy answer … a short circuit which causes a breaker to trip or, in the old days, a fuse would “blow.” And that’s sort of what happens when damage occurs to a section of the human brain called Wernicke’s area.

Wernicke’s area is located in the back part of the temporal lobe which is positioned most frequently in the left hemisphere of the brain, but not always (sounds eerily similar to the “gray area” operations and function of U.S. courts and laws, doesn’t it?).

The aftermath of an injury to the Wernicke’s area of the brain—Wernicke’s aphasia—, be it caused by a stroke or physical injury, is a language disorder resulting in a loss of the ability to produce meaningful, understandable language, both spoken and in written form.

I’ve seen the result of this sort of damage caused by a stroke. The individual simply could not manage to find the proper words for various items. Their sentences were a jumble of words in no particular order that made no sense and often had no relation to what it appeared they were referencing. They often know what they want to say but cannot produce the correct words to say it.

In time, I understood what they were trying to convey, sometimes, but it took a long time to reach that point.

To give an idea of the effects of Wernicke’s aphasia, here’s a video of a stroke victim who suffers from it.

Brain Injury and Criminals

Neuropsychologist Kim Gorgens’s research shows that a whopping 50 to 80 percent of people in the U.S. criminal justice system have suffered some sort of traumatic brain injury (TBI). In the general public, though, that number is less than 5 percent.

Simply put, a TBI is a disruption in brain function caused by an external blow to the head. When speaking of the TBIs of criminal offenders, the 50-80 percent group mentioned above, these injuries are the kinds that required hospitalization, not merely a small knock to the old noggin. Severe injuries. The kind experienced by professional athletes, for example.

Gorgen reports that nearly all women in the criminal justice system have been, at some time, been exposed to interpersonal assault/violence and abuse, with more than half having received repeated brain injuries.

fMRI

We all know about MRI technology (magnetic resonance imaging) and the clunking, bumping, and thumping of those hulking claustrophobic chambers of horror, the devices that use a magnetic field and radio waves to create incredibly detailed images of the organs and tissues in your body. They see our insides and then capture those images for later review by medical professionals.

But there’s another type of MRI—fMRI—that’s capable of measuring tiny changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may be used to detect which parts of the brain are handling critical functions and to assess the effects of stroke or other disease.

Neurolaw

Neurolaw, as an interdisciplinary field which links the brain to law, facilitates the pathway to better understanding of human behavior in order to regulate it accurately through incorporating neuroscience achievements in legal studies. ~ U.S. National Law of Medicine

In capital murder trials (death penalty cases), MRIs have been used to evaluate brain injury. The purpose of this testing is to ensure that there’s not some underlying medical cause for the defendant’s criminal behavior. For example, the case of John W. Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Reagan and three other people back in 1981.

Hinkley’s attorneys argued that he was insane. They also introduced scientific evidence to help explain and support their claim—a computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan that suggested their client had an atrophied brain. They said his brain appeared shrunken, or smaller than it should have been. As a result, this evidence helped convince the jury to find Hinckley not responsible by reason of insanity.

Today, there’s a push to use fMRI to help to identify differences in the brain between a rational and knowing state of mind and one that’s reckless/devil-may-care. The former may help judges impose lighter sentences or treatment options in lieu of the harsher penalties reserved for criminals who absolutely know right from wrong but knowingly opt for wrong.

Who knows, perhaps someday in the near future there’ll be no need for courts and trials and attorneys. Instead, at the point of arrest, officers will use series of wires and cables to connect a suspect’s mind to a handheld device that’s capable of instantly determining guilt or innocence or not guilty by reason of crossed wires … a short circuit. The result of a black wire touching a white one somewhere near the point of the brain where good and evil are the closest.

Crime headlines these days sometimes cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to lock up, like a cheap virus-infected computer. My body treats today’s barrage of click-bait headlines like the often and instantly-denied foreign organs introduced into the bodies of transplant recipients—immediate and total rejection. My brain, the leader of the shut-down attempts, does so because today’s crimes, simply put, just aren’t what they used to be.

Honestly, I sometimes find myself longing for the good old days when most crimes, including the vilest of all—murder—were easy to solve, and catching many of the bad guys was as easy as shooting fish in a well-stocked galvanized metal washtub, the kind we took baths in at grandma’s house.

In fact, it wasn’t all that odd for the old-time murderer himself to phone the police, confessing his dastardly deeds to the gum-smacking dispatcher on our end of the line. A guy robbed a liquor store … we all knew who did it because he’d done so over and over again. So we simply hopped into our patrol cars and drove at a leisurely pace to his house to wait for the thug to come home. Sometimes the crook’s wife or mother offered us a glass of iced tea to sip on during the vigil, which usually wasn’t too long.

But enough time passed during our wait to allow us to play with freeze tag or Simon Says with a couple of the crooks’ snotty-nosed kids, or to toss a saliva-soaked rubber ball a couple dozen times to the family’s three-legged, one-eyed dog. You know, I often wonder about the correlation between bad guys and dogs with three legs and one good eye. They do seem to go hand in hand. It’s a mystery that’s never been solved.

Back to the bad burglars back in the day, though. There were a dozen or so of them in each small town, and each had his own style (M.O. for you writers who insist upon using TV terminology). Again, cops most often knew the names of most suspects, sometimes even before the sleuths broke out their handy-dandy Sirchie fingerprint kits (notice how I subtly worked in the name of a Writers’ Police Academy sponsor).

Anyway, a quick glance at crime headlines today never fails to start the all-too-familiar eye-spinning.

Murder, Kidnapping, Shooting Spree Leaves Four Dead, Teen Strangles Neighborhood Girl, Python Kills Small Boys, Cop Beats Man, Man Beats Cop, Parents Charged With Killing Their Kids, and on and on it goes.

Did you know that in 2011 (another headline), There Were Four Arrests Per 100 U.S. Citizens

Four Arrests for Every 100 Citizens

That one definitely stopped my eyes in mid whirl. Could the stat be true? Because, if so, then out of everyone at the WPA—instructors, volunteers, and recruits (attendees), well, we should automatically handcuff a dozen of them right there at the registration table and immediately deliver them to the nearest jail.

Two full Greyhound buses pass by on the highway—4.5 of the passengers inside are destined for incarceration.

The FBI says (in the year 2011) that 1 in 207 of us were arrested for drug crimes. 531 out of 100,000 went to lockup for property crimes. 172 for violent crimes (rape, murder, assault).

Has it always been this way? If not, what are the differences in how crime is handled today as opposed to “back when?”

Let’s take another look at the headlines for a moment and choose just two, and then reminisce to days gone by to learn why there weren’t as many people arrested in those days.

1. Erbie Bowser, Former Dallas Maverick’s ManiAAC’s Dancer Arrested For Killing Four, Wounding Four Others

Okay, for starters, I don’t normally associate murder with men who belong to a troupe whose hobby is to dance at pro basketball games while wearing oversize Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader uniforms. But, it seems that Bowser was searching for his girlfriend at two separate houses where, for some reason, he killed four people (two of the wounded were innocent young boys—11 and 13).

In the old days, had Mr. Bowser entered my childhood home, ranting and raving about his girlfriend, the entire family would have shown him and his barely-there sparkly costume to the door. Had he resisted, then Pops and Uncle Percy Jenkins, who by the way, always stopped by on Sunday for a fried chicken leg and a heapin’ helpin’ of good old tater salad, would have enhanced their message of “Go away,” with a couple of Louisville Sluggers.

Our three-legged, one-eyed dog might have joined in as well, taking a chomp on the intruder’s rear end.

You see, back in the day, guns weren’t used all that often as a “first-resort” like they are today. Not at all. A fellow would first have to endure, at minimum, a black eye and a roll across a gravel driveway before going back to his pickup to retrieve the Saturday Night Special he kept beneath the tattered cloth seat. And back then everyone knew to get the heck out of Dodge when a man reached under his seat. It was indeed time to scatter.

So “back in the day” wins this round. No one dies. Just black eyes and a whole lot of a**-whuppin’.

2. Man Won’t Face Animal Cruelty Charges For Blowing Up Family Dog

Christopher W. Dillingham of Stevenson, Washington was the proud owner of a fireworks stand. He also used to own a golden retriever. Ah … you already see where this is going. You should be detectives.

But, authorities say they couldn’t charge the man with animal cruelty because the dog died instantaneously (duh …). Instead, the  suspect was charged with reckless endangerment and possession of an explosive device.

Dillingham told police that his girlfriend had given him the dog and that she’d “put the devil” in it. Prosecutors considered other charges. I don’t know the outcome, “doggone” it.

But way back when, if a man killed his dog at 4 a.m. it was sort of his business. Neighbors most likely would have assumed the animal was rabid, or something of that nature because people simply didn’t harm Rover or Spot or Rufus. No way. Well, not unless there good reason, and foaming at the mouth was certainly a solid reason to break out the pump shotgun. Even then, the animal was usually afforded a fair chance to run away. After all, it was a part of the family.

But to set off an explosion that early in the morning, when Pops and Uncle Percy had to be at the foundry at 6 for another 12-hour shift in the grueling heat. Well, Mr. Dillingham had better hope there was enough black powder left to immediately send himself to the moon, because two angry foundry workers would be on their way over in their boxers, each carrying a ball bat and a whole lot of mad.

I believe “back when” is again the winner since justice would’ve come immediately in the form of several lumps on the head and a few kicks to the hind parts, courtesy of Pops and Uncle Percy who, by the way, had consumed too much corn liquor after the Sunday lunch, so our mother had him sleep it off in my room, which then forced me to sleep on an ironing board stretched across two rickety chrome-legged kitchen chairs. The grown-ups called it camping. I called it, “Uncle Percy’s too snookered to drive home so I gotta suffer.”

Here’s a third headline, as a bonus.

3. Man Accused Of Attacking Pig To Appear In Court

Benjamin Fullwood of Effingham County Georgia was arrested for attacking and stabbing a pig multiple times. Then, as if the edged weapon attack didn’t do enough damage, he had his two pit bulls repeatedly bite the unarmed porker.

Fullwood told officers that he was afraid Oliver (the pig) might hurt nearby children. Neighbors told the cops they’d witnessed Fullwood chasing after the fleeing and frightened and oinking porker as it ran between rows of rusty mobile homes and jacked-up picked trucks and plastic, pink flamingos.

They told of him “a screamn’ and a hollerin'” and of the pig screeching loud oinkity-oinks and growling grunts.

“Darn-near skeert Bobby Sam’s pet possum plum to death,” said one of the bystanders, a man wearing bibbed overalls and fuzzy lime green bedroom slippers.

Then, they all said in unison, that Fullwood gained on the pig as it rounded the far corner of Jimmy Buck’s pop-up camper, the one with the rebel flag sticker on the trailer-hitch receiver. They went on to say that just when it looked as if Porky (they named it somewhere around three minutes into the action) was going to escape for good, Fullwood launched his wiry, shirtless body high into the air, landing smack dab on the swine’s back where he commenced to trying to slay the animal with his whetstone-honed deer-skinning knife.

Okay, I confess, I embellished a little bit and definitely overwrote it, but the story is true. And it’s timeless and typical. Today or way back when—you attack a pig in the south and you go to jail. And the reason why is obvious. There’s no loyalty among swine.

They’ll squeal on you in a heartbeat.

Everyone likes to think their hometowns are the quintessential storybook villages from days long ago, back when we left our front doors unlocked and the car keys in the ignitions of the cars parked in our driveways. The times when kids walked to school, unafraid of perverts perusing the neighborhood. The time when the TV repairman came to your house to fix your set while you were away at work. He let himself in and locked up when he left.

Those were the days before school shootings and prior to the epidemic of human trafficking we see today. They were also the days way back when police recruits thought their towns and counties and states belonged to the Sweet-As-Apple-Pie Club, an organization consisting of towns and cities whose residents are clueless about the goings-on in their beloved “AnyTowns, USA.”

Drug dealers? In our town? No way! Murderers, rapists, robbers, and terrorists? Abso-freakin’-lutely no way! Not in our town.

Sure, we read the paper, but the bad guys who broke into old man Johnson’s house and killed him and stole all his prized collectible Elvis plates, well, they must’ve come here from another town.

However, it doesn’t take the police recruits—rookies—very long at all to learn that their sweet little towns are often hotbeds of rampant crime. Why, they’re even drug dealers who live down the street from dear innocent Aunt Ida. The hoodlums sell their wares—crack cocaine, meth, and weed—smack dab in the middle of the street. They shoot guns and they stab people and they rob and rape and steal.

There’s even a couple of gangs who rule most of the west side of town, and another on the east. The emergency room is busy with overdoses, wounded druggies, and cab drivers who were robbed at knifepoint. Gunshot victims and victims of sexual assaults. Shooting victims. Battered children and spouses. All of this from the onset of darkness until the sun returns to push away the night.

A rookie’s first few shifts are eye-openers. Who knew Mr. Perkins, the bank president, drank moonshine and beat on Erline, his loving wife of 30 years. And Mrs. Listickenpick, a chronic shoplifter? Why? She and her husband have more money than all the gold in Fort Knox. Then there are the drug addicts. Went to school with half of them. Embezzlers, nurses addicted to pills, doctors who prescribe drugs for their friends. Fights and arson and drunk drivers. Cop haters and school shooters. Pedophiles and stalkers. Killers who have no respect for human life. Baby beaters. Animal abusers.

Yes, these folks live in our towns … our sleepy little villages where, in our naïve minds, crime doesn’t exist. But it does. They, the bad guys, simply walk the streets at times other than when you’re out. They’re the second shift. They punch the clock, signing on to work as we go to bed.

They come out in the darkness and, like roaches, scatter when an officer’s flashlight beam strikes their flesh. They crawl through windows to feast upon the property of others. They hunt and stalk prey, hoping to catch unsuspecting victims off-guard. They attack without warning. The beat and they steal and they bruise and they kill.

You may think your town is a card-carrying member of the Sweet-As-Apple-Pie Club, but the officers in your towns know differently. And even they, at times, are surprised by things they see out there in the darkness. Things that are sometimes the makings of a good nightmare.

It is the patrol officer who stands between us and them. That’s the line, our only line of defense against those things we don’t and/or choose not to see.