Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dear Officer: We See You.

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.

But then I read a book that was a collection of interviews with actual, real-world police officers and that changed my mind in a hurry. These guys talked about walking into houses where people had been dead for weeks and how the smell nearly suffocated them. They talked about getting calls to dangerous neighborhoods in the middle of the night and discovering that it was a trap and there were guys with shotguns waiting to kill them when they entered the dark warehouse. They talked about cleaning the brains of their partner off their uniforms after a deadly shoot-out.

That's when I decided that I should stick to writing.

Police work is more difficult and challenging than most of us will ever - ever - know.

Having said that, there is much in this video that I disagree with. Actually, a whole lot.

Those who created this video have done so largely as a response to "those who crucify (cop's) character while minimizing (their) cause", and by that they mean people who make up the "very vocal and sparse opposition (who) flood social media with their misplaced passions and their idea of justice." [To quote the video above]

The incidents they are referring to, no doubt, include the recent shootings of unarmed black men (and women) by police officers over the last year or so. For more specifics on who those people were and how many, you can see a short summary here.

What I object to is the suggestion that those who are critical of the specific police officers who shot and killed these unarmed black people are guilty of "crucifying" the character of every other police officer.

Question: Would it be "crucifying the character" of every school teacher to criticize the few school teachers who (about every other month it seems) get caught having sex with their under age students?

Would you accuse someone who spoke out about priests who sexually molest children in their congregations of having "misplaced passions" or "wrong ideas of justice?"

Yet, whenever someone (like me) shares a link on Twitter or Facebook about yet another police officer shooting involving an unarmed black man or woman, the response is often a very vocal "Shame on you!" for daring to even mention such behavior in a negative light - much less write an actual blog article (like this one).

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?

The video clip does make a few good points about policemen: Most are good, hard working, conscientious people. They love their children. They love their wives and husbands. They love their dog and they laugh and cry and bleed just like every other person on the planet.

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."
Neither is every school teacher automatically a great person, or a wonderful member of society.
Nor is every member of the clergy someone that every one should respect and honor.

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.

Any of those ideas would be a great start. But it's much easier to just make a video.

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?

Out of roughly 400 reported police killings annually, an average of 96 involved a white police officer killing a black person.

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.

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.


Unknown said...


I wish I could be a gracious as you. I find the video disgusting on every level. I have a hard time dealing with the worship of state, government, authority, police, and the military in this country, especially among Christians.

A regular citizen is far more likely to be killed by a police office than vice versa. In fact, we are far more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.

There's a statistic going around that the police in America killed more people in March than the police in England have in over the last 100 years.

However, this is to be expected when you take ex-military, indoctrinated to murder on call, particularly brown people, and make them police officers. The police have been throughly militarized.

Jesus had a great deal of contempt and unpleasant things to say to those who were in positions of power and abused their authority through injustice, theft, and lack of concern for the least in society (orphans, widows, etc.). The only time he commended those in some position of power is when the died to the world system and became a follower of him (e.g. Zaccheus).

The way the gospels are written Jesus lumped the Pharisees, Scribes, etc. together. Not because they were all evil, but because the system and religion they practiced was thoroughly corrupt. And, so is our government, police, and military. Those entities and systems are thoroughly corrupt.

Yet American Christianity remains ignorant because it is largely white and those institutions are largely beneficial to whites. There is a paucity of any attempt from those of us in the majority to understand the hurst, pains, struggles, and injustices of those who are deemed to be "less than" in America.

Sorry for the rant.

Praise God for your ability to write/talk about this subject in a way that glorifies Christ.

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a study done in Washington State at WSU Spokane. If this study were true throughout the country, the problems you are addressing could be worse than what we are seeing in the media. Maybe not reported because it does not make a good story.

Steve Kline, I have no malice intended and I do not want to offend you. I just want to point out something that I think you may have been misled on. I am not sure if you are a combat veteran, but many veterans have never seen combat and the majority of combat veterans have never seen combat (other than living in a combat zone and being subject to indirect fire ie. rockets / mortars). The majority of soldiers in combat zones are filling support roles and have no training or indoctrination "to murder on call." The one's that do have training "to murder on call," have very strict rules of engagement prohibiting them from murdering without being punished. Example: the movie "Lone Survivor:" The soldiers did not kill the men they came across and actually let them go even though they new they would be reported and chased down and possibly killed. They were so scared of being put in jail for killing the men and protecting themselves that they chose to die instead. That is a real fear when you are in combat. That everyone is just waiting to catch you doing something wrong so they can put it on the news and punish you for the rest of your life.

We can argue that the soldiers never should have been in the country in the first place, but that is not the point I am making. I am saying that those in the military that are trained to "murder on call" are probably not the kind of people you think they are.

The cop who recently shot the guy in the back was former coast guard. He can be considered ex-military, but I doubt he saw true combat in the coast guard, nor was he trained in the military “to murder on call.” And just because the police are using military tactics and equipment and have become militarized does not mean their ranks are full of ex-military murderers. They might have a lot of ex-military working for them, but those ex-military are most likely not trained murderers. They were just support personnel. They are just members of society that happened to have been in the military before they became police.

Additionally, a good amount of those who have seen war want nothing to do with it. I think an example of this is how great of a majority of military members supported Ron Paul for president verses Obama or Romney. Paul wanted to stop the war and bring people home and stop the war on drugs which disproportionally affects minorities. Why would combat veterans want to end the war if they were so intent on murdering people? Was it so they could return home and become police so they could murder people closer to home? I doubt it.


the alternative1 said...

yes this is a very touchy subject and will never subside and what you said at the end is really all we can do--honor the good and weed out the bad

Keith Giles said...

Thanks for the great comments.