The Two Sides Of The Police Coin – Amanda Green
Over the last few months, I’ve noticed an increase in comments in social media – not to mention the mainstream media itself – condemning the police. They look at events like what happened in Ferguson or New York City and say those incidents prove that the police are no longer looking to serve and protect. Some take the position that the police are out to screw over any minority, especially if that person is a young black male. Others claim that cops are all egotistical, power-hungry pigs who get off on screwing anyone who isn’t in the old boy network. It doesn’t matter to either side what the circumstances surrounding an incident might be. If an officer drew his gun and fired, he was exercising unreasonable force and should be charged.
The suggestions about what to do whenever an officer discharges his weapon in the course of performing his duty have ranged from immediately terminating him and instituting an investigation into what happened to an automatic felony charge without benefit of a grand jury review. What those advocating these sort of responses seem to overlook is that their so-called solutions are as much in violation of the officer’s civil rights as they claim the officer’s actions might have been.
As much as I don’t agree with either position, I can pretty much wave those approaches off. Those clamoring for instant charges against cops are having nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to current events, a reaction fueled by the media that is having a blast doing its best to tear down not only law enforcement but the way the public views those who have chosen to go into it as a profession.
What I can’t wave off are the calls by some to completely do away with all forms of law enforcement. These folks believe that we would be much better off without police of any kind. According to them, we would police ourselves and our homes and neighborhoods would be much safer than they are now. After all, when you call 911 for help, you are running the risk of having a bad cop respond and shoot your, someone in your family or your family pet.
Let’s get something straight right now. I’m the first person to admit there are bad cops out there. But there are also bad doctors and bad teachers and bad any other profession (skilled or not). Bad cops are worse than crooks. Those men and women who have sworn to serve and protect and who then violate their oaths deserve to have the full weight of the law thrown at them. They have not only violated their oaths but they have violated the trust that has been put in them by the public they are supposed to serve.
However, this trend of condemning all cops because of the actions of a few is more than a little troublesome. The generalizations it makes are dangerous ones, not only for law enforcement personnel but for the public as well.
Yes, there are bad cops. But there are a hell of a lot more good ones than bad. The reason we hear about the “abuses” by cops so often these days is because of the media. For those of you not old enough to remember, there was a time when you’d turn on the 10 pm news and see sensational stories about the addicts and pushers offing one another or the innocent kid caught in the cross-fire. Now we hear about the cops and, in all too many cases, the story is framed in such a way as to paint the cop as guilty before the facts have been determined.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are more than 900,000 “sworn law enforcement officers” in the United States. If, as the detractors of law enforcement claim, all these men and women were corrupt, the first thing that would happen is the media would be silenced. Those corrupt cops would strong arm any reporter who dared try to expose their criminal activities and demand justice.
Let’s face it, with 900,000 people doing any job, someone is going to take advantage of their position. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will as well.
As for the suggestion that we move from professional law enforcement personnel to policing ourselves, well, think about it. Without a professional law enforcement arm to protect our communities and enforce our laws, it will be up to each individual to do so. They will have to be vigilant and watch what happens in their neighborhood. They will have to learn how to use firearms – or other forms of weapons – in such a way that they don’t automatically present a danger to themselves and others just by picking up the weapon. They have to be willing to step up and possibly put themselves in danger to protect their own loved ones or someone they might only know to nod hello to.
But most of all, for it to work the way the law enforcement detractors seem to think it would, these men and women in each neighborhood would have to never be tempted by the same things that tempt our professional cops. Anyone want to bet how likely that is to happen?
Sure, there are places where the community can and will police itself. Most of those are small towns or neighborhoods where everyone knows who lives in their area and they keep an eye out for one another. That doesn’t work, on the whole, in larger cities. Too many people never take the time to get to know who lives next door to them, much less down the street or one street over.
Our society has changed in the last fifty years. When I was growing up, we knew everyone up and down our street. Parents knew each kid in the neighborhood and they wouldn’t hesitate to correct a child if they saw the kid doing something she shouldn’t. There was a trust and sense of community that isn’t there in most places any more.
But that sense of community wasn’t limited to the adults either. As kids, we might not have always liked one another but, by ghu, no one had better bully or try to pick a fight with one of our neighbors. If they did, we would descend en masse to make sure they never tried again.
There was also a freedom we had as kids that our own kids don’t get to enjoy. Once we were old enough – and I’m talking grade school age – we’d get on our bikes, tell our folks where we were going and we’d be gone all day. Sometimes we stayed in the immediate neighborhood and other times we might ride to one of the neighboring towns to go to a park or play with friends there. If that were to happen today, some “concerned citizen” would be calling CPS on our folks and reporting them for child endangerment. Heck, they are calling the cops on parents who let their kids play in the park directly across from the house – with the parent watching.
But this is the world the cop haters think can police itself and we’d be a much more peaceful and happy society as a result.
Sorry, but I see only disaster. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t take too kindly to someone trying to take away my son simply because I let him play outside, especially if he was being supervised at the time. How many injuries and deaths from just this sort of thing would happen without there being an unbiased (hopefully) third party to intervene and decide what the facts might be?
Then there is the claim that crime stats have decreased in some cities after police forces have been downsized. Well, do quote Homer Simpson, “Doh!” Of course the stats are down. Crime stats are manipulated by not only the police but by the city/county and by the feds. The police do it to keep the city council and local citizens happy — and to get new recruits. The city/county does it to try to keep federal monies and the feds do it to justify their own programs.
This is something we have seen in Dallas of late. By changing how they defined certain felonies, the major crime stats fell dramatically from one year to the next. It had nothing to do with the number of cops on the street or the number of brutality complaints, etc. It didn’t even have anything to do with the number of actual crimes committed. It had everything to do with how those 911 calls were classified and how the data was compiled.
Like it or not, cops are human and they make mistakes. When those mistakes are the result of negligence of worse, and when they result in someone being hurt or property being damaged, those cops should face the justice system. That does not mean trying them in the press nor does it mean they get special treatment. It also doesn’t mean they are denied certain rights like having their case presented to a grand jury unless they waive it.
I’m not going to apologize for not jumping onto the bandwagon to condemn those good men and women who put their lives on the line every day when they put on their uniform and go out to protect their communities. I’ll even admit that this is something I am passionate about. I have worked with cops, good and bad. I have absolutely no loyalty or sympathy for a bad cop. They need to be sent to the pen just like anyone else who has committed a felony — or, if a misdemeanor, they need to face justice there as well. But we cannot shackle the hands of good cops to such a degree that they can no longer do their duty to serve and protect. Don’t like the way the cops in your jurisdiction act, then apply to join the civilian review board or run for office so you can have oversight over them.
All that said, yes, there need to be limits on what a cop can do and there needs to be a valid and unbiased review process in place. They are supposed to serve and protect, not rule and conquer.