With the media running a constant loop of anti-police rhetoric, it would seem that our entire nation has lost respect and trust for its law enforcement officers. Don’t be misled into thinking that the issues only exist in Ferguson, Missouri or New York City. These stories are only getting national media attention because they “sell”. There are stories ran on local media outlets every day in which a law enforcement officer has been involved in a vehicle collision in which they were at fault for, or where an officer was arrested for a crime that they committed, or heaven forbid when an officer is involved in a shooting while on duty.
These stories sell.
No one wants to hear about John Doe wrecking their vehicle, or getting arrested for a low level crime. Shootings have become so common place that most people don’t even stop what they’re doing when they hear about them on the local news. Add a cop into the story, and they could convince the public that the world seems to be coming to an end.
Keep Your Head In The Game
For many years I was a canine handler with my current agency. While attending training with my last canine partner, we were conducting training during nighttime hours. The training was a “graduation ceremony” of sorts, in that the trainer was going to pull out all of his tricks from his hat to try and to defeat the canine teams on a tracking exercise. It just so happened, that my canine and I were the first team to be called. What I didn’t know was that the trainer spent all afternoon setting up the area with “booby traps” to distract myself and my canine, as well as, all of the other officers that were with me serving as back-up. During the exercise, there were several times that my team tripped some of the traps that were set for us. These mistakes were usually met with a loud bang and flash of light that took our attention away for a few moments. The assistant trainer would then notify the team that the officer that set off the trap was now a casualty and virtually dead. When we were almost done with the track, the exercise came to a screeching halt when out of nowhere the night was filled with the sights of colorful lights and canon like booms that would rival any July 4th event. The trainer had activated a series of fireworks in an open area just yards from where we stood. After a few moments of staring at the fireworks, I looked around and noticed that my entire team was standing there in awe with their eyes fixed on the display of lights and sound. Their backs were now turned from the direction that we had been heading originally. I looked down at my canine and noticed that though he had quickly stopped to see what the commotion was about, he was now pulling on the tracking lead attempting to pull me toward the “suspect”. I got my team’s attention and we cautiously continued through the wooded area. When we got to the end of the track, the trainer was hiding in a tree waiting to ambush my team with his weapon of choice…a hat full of raw eggs. He managed to hit nearly every team member with a raw egg in the dark. Why was the “enemy” able to take control of the situation and gain the upper hand? Because we were distracted by the noise. If my team was focused on being aware of their surroundings instead of waiting for the next firework explosion, I believe that the outcome of the exercise would have been different.
Don’t Lose Focus
The story that I told above can be used to illustrate what is going on in society today. The media is our “enemy” that is constantly setting up booby traps for us to set off. They want us to fail because that story will give them their headlines. What concerns me the most with what is being spun on news outlets is the fact that it will cause officers to lose focus of their duties. It will make some of us second guess our gut instincts on the streets, because we don’t want to be the next victim of the media. When officers second guess that gut instinct, officers will get hurt.
Officers will die.
Don’t become engrossed with what is being aired by the news media. Don’t buy in to what they are selling. Don’t become distracted by the “fireworks.”
You have a job to do. Do it well. Perform your duties with courage, honor, and integrity. Do not become frustrated because the public doesn’t understand the job that we do, the risks that we face, or the tactics that we use. It’s not their fault. They are sheep and will never understand. Regardless of the picture that the media paints, the vast majority of our citizens still respect us and do depend on us to keep them safe. Focus on that…the rest is nothing more than noise.
Neal Collie is a Sergeant with the Wake Forest Police Department. He has been in law enforcement since 1996 and has supervised Patrol and Narcotics divisions. He is a certified criminal justice instructor and teaches at the Coastal Plain Law Enforcement Training Center in Wilson, North Carolina.