Please watch the video linked here. I want to say a few things about it and you'll need to have watched it to understand everything I'm trying to say.
Watched it? Good. Here's my response:
First of all, I agree with much of it. Honestly, being a cop is a difficult, challenging, and largely thankless job. Anyone willing to put themselves in harm's way to "protect and serve" on a daily basis is worthy of our support and respect.
There was once a time in my life when I wanted to be a cop. Largely because of what I had been exposed to in TV and Movies, I thought being a police officer would be exciting and fun.
Police work is more difficult and challenging than most of us will ever - ever - know.
Furthermore, would we be ok if those teachers were caught molesting our children on video, and yet a Grand Jury decided not to prosecute them, and then they were put back into the classroom again where they could continue to harm more children? Would that be ok?
With priests, isn't it true that we hold them to a higher standard of accountability simply because of the authority and trust we put in them as people who are sworn to integrity and honor?
And when evidence of widespread abuse of that authority by church leaders comes to light, are we not outraged about that and moved to action? Don't we want those people to be put on trial, and for justice to be done and for the victims to have a voice?
So, why is it that when a police officer - someone who is equally held in high esteem and honor within our society - breaks that trust, commits a crime, or kills an unarmed person, we suddenly look down on anyone who cries out for justice, or stands up for the victims, or speaks out?
What I would like to challenge, however, is the idea that every police officer is automatically "honorable...courageous..." and "...worthy of a nation's support".
Really? What about Christopher Dorner? He was a US Navy officer who served honorably and received several commendations for his service in Bahrain, and then went on to join the LAPD. Soon after, he was fired for attempting to blow the whistle on another officer who was using excessive force. After that termination, he went on a shooting spree and killed several innocent people until he was eventually cornered and shot.
Even the most ardent supporter of police officers would have to admit that there are some police officers who are not worthy of the badge.
And if we really want people to trust the police officers in our community, and to reasonably teach our children to do so, then we need to start seeing abuses of power dealt with and punished - not covered up and shouted down.
Not every police officer is automatically "honorable, courageous and worthy of a nation's support."
The only people worthy of our honor and our respect are those who are actually honorable.
If a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed 12 year old, he is not honorable or courageous or worthy of our support.
If a school teacher sexually assaults a student, he is not worthy of our respect.
If a priest or a pastor takes advantage of a child, he is not someone we should honor.
Back to the video clip above: I won't even try to get into the fact that this video features a cast of 23 white people and only 2 African Americans, or argue with their statistic that "Every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty" - which is totally false and can easily be refuted with a quick Google search. (Actual numbers are about half of that).
At one point the narrator says, "I wish I knew how to fix it." But what she wants to "fix" isn't the seemingly endless barrage of unarmed black people shot by police. Nope. What she wants to know how to "fix" is the way police officers are perceived in the media, and by the American public. Specifically, she wants to stop people from criticizing police officers, regardless of why they criticize them.
One idea: Start eliminating "bad cops" who use excessive force. Stop punishing "good cops" who try to blow the whistle. Start weeding out applicants at the Police Academy level who tend to be bullies who can't wait to get that badge and gun. Start putting police officers who use excessive force on trial for their crimes. Start prosecuting cops who choke people to death on the sidewalk, or who shoot 12 year olds dead in the park, etc.
I'm all in favor of honoring the good cops who genuinely care about the people they protect and serve. Let's do all we can to help them. We need their tribe to increase.
But at the same time, let's please also do all we can to eliminate the bad cops who give those good cops a bad name.
Why would anyone be against the idea of doing both?
African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police.
27 police officers were killed in 2013, according to the FBI.
There were no fatal police shootings in Great Britain last year. Not one.
In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years.
In Canada — a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.