I have been serving in law enforcement for more than 36 years and my career is fast coming to an end. I am sad to say that I will likely be leaving this job very angry over the present state of affairs in America regarding an attitude that is developing concerning law enforcement in our country. I am overly troubled by the recent ambush attack and murders of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in New York City, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo in Las Vegas and Pennsylvania state trooper Bryon Dickson.
Since I began my police career I can’t remember the level of anti-police sentiments being this high. Protesters recently were chanting in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York City “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now!” Really? Is that what our society in general wants? The media is hammering us with stories every night about anti-police protests across the country. It is not a good time to be serving in law enforcement.
Who is responsible for this behavior? Politicians, religious leaders and prominent society members have made inflammatory statements regarding race relations and the police. Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel and President Obama all have issued statements that may have been perceived to be responsible for fanning the flames of antagonism toward the law enforcement community. This appears to be some attempt at creating an “us vs. them” mentality of police vs. the citizenry. I don’t know any police officer who took this job with that mentality. Maybe the mentality was good guys vs. bad guys. Most officers came on the job with the idea of serving the public, keeping citizens safe and putting the “bad guy” where he belongs: in jail.
Police officers are used to being in control of dangerous situations. They are usually highly trained to handle any type of situation. However, officers typically encounter suspects or offenders who have no respect for authority, let alone police officers. The suspect is determined to make the police/suspect encounter as caustic as it can possibly be. Most police officers will easily recall a story about some person they encountered for a minor law violation who acted in such an unreasonable manner that the officer was forced to arrest that person. The officer will tell you that when he originally encountered that person his purpose was simply to investigate the situation, warn the person about their activity, document the stop and send the offender on their way with a discretionary warning. Recently the high profile cases in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City are examples of defiance exhibited toward the police officers who encountered these suspects. Maybe if these law breakers, who eventually died at the hands of police officers, simply followed the verbal commands of the involved officers, they would still be alive today. When did it become OK to defy law officers because you simply don’t like to follow the morals, norms and values of a decent society? You have no right to resist a lawful arrest of a police officer. Where did respect for authority go? Where did common sense flee to? Common sense apparently is not so common anymore.
New York-based reverend and activist Al Sharpton stated at the funeral of Michael Brown, “The policies of this country cannot go unchallenged. We cannot have aggressive policing of low-level crimes and can’t deal with the higher level. Something’s strange that you can get all these guns into the hood, but you go around chasing people with loosie (singly purchased) cigarettes and walking in the streets.”(1) I don’t remember when Al Sharpton became an expert on how professional police officers should conduct themselves when policing. Police officers are charged with enforcing all laws. It is true that officers utilize discretion on a daily basis and often overlook minor, nuisance-type crimes. However, if a citizen complains to the police and wants an offender locked up for selling “loosies,” then the officer should take arrest action. That fulfills the whole concept of doing what the community you are serving desires.
New York congressman Charlie Rangel flatly denied that his constituents were engaging in this heinous behavior of chants calling for dead cops during an interview with CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield on Dec 22. It was pointed out to Mr. Rangel that the actions of these protesters were captured in a YouTube video. Rangel quickly did what any “skilled” politician does when proven wrong. He changed the subject.(2)
The president of the United States while speaking at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner during September 2014 in Washington, D.C., stated the death of Michael Bown “awakened our nation” and “stains the heart of black children.” President Obama went on to say, “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement—guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.”(3)
Michael Brown was not targeted because he was black; he was stopped because he was violating a law of walking in the street and later determined to be a suspect in the robbery of a convenience store employee. Officer Wilson did what any good police officer should do in that situation: he attempted to investigate a crime that had been committed. It was Wilson’s duty to inject himself into Michael Brown’s life that fateful day. Police officers are people who don’t back down in the face of danger. You see, they are trained to encounter and face danger every day. Was our president not aware of these circumstances before he so casually spoke about the topic? President Obama seems to have a pattern of questioning the actions of police officers before he has all the facts. You may recall that the President spoke “off the cuff” in July 2009 when he commented that the police officer who arrested professor Henry Gates “acted stupidly,” (4) when the officer had only responded to a citizen’s call of a suspicious man and took quick, decisive—and, if I may add, correct—police action in arresting the confrontational professor. The officer in that incident proudly (and rightfully so) did not apologize for doing his job.
President Obama does not appear to be a friend to the law enforcement community based on these actions. Has anyone heard our nation’s leader make any statement in support of Officer Darren Wilson? I know I haven’t. Can you imagine what Officer Wilson was going through the last several months? The majority of law enforcement officers never have to fire their weapon in the line of duty, let alone take the life of another human being as Officer Wilson was forced to do. His life has certainly changed since that incident. He has faced death threats, the stress of a lengthy grand jury investigation, the likelihood of a civil trial and the eventual resignation from his job. Yet in spite of all the stress placed upon Officer Wilson, we have not heard any words of encouragement from the President in support of Wilson. The very basic premise of our judicial system determined that Officer Wilson acted in a reasonable and, more importantly, a lawful manner during that encounter. The president should praise the system that while it has flaws, is still the best in the world. Instead he chooses to ignore what Officer Wilson has endured. It is not good leadership for an impartial leader to perform in that manner.
What really angers me, however, is the fact that the protesters are using the rally cry, “Black Lives Matter.” While what they are saying is correct, I suggest a better chant: “All Lives Matter!”
Is any person’s life more important than the next, simply based their race or ethnic background? Have we lost track that police officers lives are just as important? Officers continue to serve and protect their communities in spite of the very vocal protesters who are spewing hate and violence toward law enforcement. On a daily basis, officers are protecting the rights of those protesters by keeping them safe and allowing them to pass on their hateful message. Officers across the nation are demonstrating their professionalism by exercising amazing restrain when being confronted by these protesters. Shouldn’t our president and other leaders recognize this effort on the part of law enforcement?
Law enforcement is a necessary element in our society and should be embraced by a civil society instead of being loathed and hated. Maybe those protestors should walk a mile in a police officer’s shoes to see what we endure on a daily basis. I can guarantee, it would be an eye-opening experience.
My only hope is that these protestors, in spite of the vast media attention they are receiving, are in the minority of what our society believes. I would really like to believe that, in spite of the inflammatory rhetoric, the majority of good citizens in this great country still support their local police. Being a cop today is by no means an easy job. We are faced with dangerous, stress-filled, often seemingly hopeless situations that we somehow find a way to mediate.
I really hope that these people understand that without our police officers putting their lives on the line on a daily basis, this country would quickly end up in an unimaginable chaotic situation from which there might not be any return. In the words of 13-year-old Jaden Ramos, the son of murdered NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, “It’s horrible that someone gets shot dead just for being a police officer.
Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help. No truer words have been spoken, Jaden. It’s just really sad that it took a 13-year-old and the tragic deaths of police officers to put it all in perspective!
by: Lt. Raymond Cowin