Friday, February 19, 2016

Law Enforcement, Racism and the Media


You turn on the evening news, and the first thing you see is a “Breaking News” banner emblazoned across the screen, as a young reporter dramatically tells a heart-wrenching story of another white police officer shooting an African American suspect.  The reporter spouts off statistics of law enforcement using lethal force, makes reference to the other non-lethal options officers have at their disposal, and then, gravely looking at you through the television screen, he asks the rhetorical question of how many more of these killings it will take before something is done about this unnecessary violence.

If you take this story at face value, then without waiting on the facts, you immediately start calling this a hate crime and demanding the officer be criminally charged, convicted and locked away, you are part of the problem.

If you are a Police Chief who's officer found it necessary to use deadly force in the line of duty, then because of the public outcry, you fire the officer before the investigation is complete in order to get the heat off of you, then you too are part of the problem.  You can call it damage control, or you can say that this officer did not follow the rules and procedures set in place in your department.  Whatever your excuse, you are choosing not to support an officer who trusted you to have his or her back in difficult and controversial situations like this.  You are placing the importance of your own personal public image above your oath to protect and support the officers who serve under you.  You, are a hypocrite.

Newsflash!

People of every race and color commit crimes!  The majority of those crimes, especially the ones that involve threatening or endangering the life of a police officer, you know before you commit them that the officer is going to have to quickly assess the situation and make a split-second decision as-to whether deadly force is justified.  You know before you make the decision to commit that crime, there is a chance you might end up with a bullet between your eyes.  Just because that officer's quick assessment of the situation determined that deadly force was the best, or only option to protect their life or the life of someone else, does not make this a racially-motivated crime; nor does it suddenly convert the alleged criminal into a martyr for the “cause” of the ongoing media-perpetrated race war.  In fact, if I might be so bold, I would be willing to bet that in the majority of these situations, the officer did not even know or care what the race of this person might be until it was all over.

Now, are there police officers who are racially biased and who have committed crimes against innocent civilians because of the color of their skin?  Absolutely!  There will always be people, of every race and color, who discriminate against others for no reason, beyond some twisted personal bias against people who are in some way physically different from them.  So obviously there are pretty good odds that some of these people will end up in law enforcement.  But before we jump to the conclusion that it was a hate crime based only on the fact that the officer and the alleged criminal were of two different races, perhaps we should be patient, wait for facts and then make a decision as-to whether there was discriminatory motivation for the killing.

I find it sad to see the scrutiny and lack of support given to our law enforcement officers these days.  Those officers know every day when they put on that badge and gun, they might have to make a life-changing decision in order to protect a life.  Seeing the lack of support from the public, the media and even their respective department, it goes without saying that an officer in one of these situations might make the decision not to pull the trigger, in fear of being publicly crucified by the media.  This decision could very well mean that they or another innocent victim would be the one who does not make it home to their family that night.

It is incredibly unfortunate to see how the public perception of law enforcement has changed over the last few years.  I blame this primarily on the media and elected officials, who pass judgment without facts, or simply admonish the officer because they believe that is the stance which will cost them the least number of votes in the next election.

I will be the first to admit that I have not always had a positive opinion of police officers.  I have had my negative experiences.  I once spent hours locked in the back of a police car, in handcuffs, when the only crime I committed was staying sober and then coming to pick up my intoxicated friends from a party.  I have observed officers making decisions that I did not agree with.  But regardless of my opinion of a few random situations, I respect the hell out of all law enforcement officers.  Because while you are sitting in the safety of your home, or at your desk at work, or driving in your car, those officers are putting on their uniform; a uniform that used to bring them respect, but now seems to only attract hatred and criticism.  Those officers are strapping on their gun, putting on their badge and kissing their family goodbye; never knowing if that is the last time they will see them.  Those officers are risking their lives every single day for a mediocre paycheck in order to protect the safety of you and your family.  You do not have to like them.  You do not have to agree with every decision that every single officer makes.  But you damn well better respect them, because that officer chose to put his or her life on the line for you.

So next time you see an officer on the street, or in a restaurant, or even one who just pulled you over for speeding, you look into their eyes.  Think about the gruesome situations they have witnessed, the lack of appreciation and support they receive for protecting you, regardless of the color of their skin or yours.  Take a moment and just say "thank you".  Because you just might be the one positive experience that officer has all week.  Prove to the officer that regardless of the wavering public opinion of law enforcement, there are still good people out there who appreciate and respect them for what they do.  Is that too much to ask?

2 comments:

  1. I 100% agree. Everyday they kiss their family goodbye and it really could be the last time. If we really let that sink in, it is a heavy burden to carry. And the main reason why many choose not to enter the profession. Excellent article.

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  2. It's about time someone stood up for our police. I live in California, and it's getting tougher here because of illegal immigration and deceptive advertising for ballot propositions that deceived people into passing an initiative that supposedly reduces sentences of non-violent criminals. Less publicized was the fact that the law redefined violent crimes so that some rapes and assaults are now deemed non-violent crimes. Our sheriff says that the state now ties his hands if he lets ICE into his jail. Law and order is completely breaking down. I guess many police in sanctuary cities and states wonder why they should put their lives on the line when their own politicians won't enforce federal law.

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