When I started my career as a Police Officer or Law Enforcement Officer in the Eighties there seemed to be far more respect for Police Officers and law enforcement in general than today. Why do I say this? Hang on and I’ll argue my case. First let me offer that most of this article will be just “off the cuff’”. I won’t be citing statistics to support my assertions just the feelings of a thirty-plus year veteran of law enforcement and his perceptions on his experiences and observations and my take on some recent events.
Just in the past five to six days (August 21-26) there have been two killings of Police Officers that I heard about in the news. One officer in Texas was killed answering a domestic violence call where people had been stabbed and another in Louisiana was killed by a suspected DUI driver who coldly executed the officer with a point-blank shotgun blast. Both of these Officers were doing their job and lost their lives in doing so. That’s just in recent days. Chattanooga Police and other area law enforcement Officers literally ran towards “the sound of the guns” recently and engaged and killed a murdering terrorist. One officer received a severe wound in that incident and will be attempting to recover for months. Chattanooga suffered the loss of Sergeant Tim Chapin during a violent robbery attempt and shootout as well as the loss of Julie Jacks in a confrontation with a violent offender. Hamilton County lost Officer Donald Bonds to a violent criminal who held a grudge against law enforcement. These are just a few incidents tragically illustrating the danger of Police work and the bravery of Police officers some of whom paid the ultimate price while just “doing their job”.
Police officers daily perform seemingly mundane duties required by their jobs. (Law enforcement, firefighting and the military being the only three “jobs” I am aware of in which you are expected to go into harm’s way risking life and limb). These duties may not cause local or national media attention yet these actions can and often do have a tremendous impact on people’s lives. Police officers find lost children, lost pets, return lost items, find shelter for homeless people, help the elderly out of bathtubs, rescue the elderly who have fallen in their homes and who couldn’t summon help and many others. I could go on and on. Imagine the relief and joy of a parent whose lost child the police have found. I’ve experienced it personally. Did it make the news? No. Police officers perform this type of service every day. People call the Police when they don’t know who else to call. However, what do we hear about for days on the news? A story about some local officer who is involved in a sex scandal or where an officer has allegedly used “excessive force”.
Why is it so popular to bash the “Cops”? Let’s start with that term. When I was growing up the police were called Police Officers. The term officer denoting respect as in the military where ‘officers are to be respected, wear badges of rank are saluted and whose orders are to be followed. Police Officers orders were to be respected and their orders followed. Usually back then if someone used the term “Cops “or “Coppers” it was generally meant in a derogatory way. I know the TV show “Cops” popularized the term and it became acceptable to call Police Officers this.
Less personal interaction with Police Officers seems to me to be another reason people no longer respect or identify with police officers. Years ago I worked an off duty job at a restaurant where crowds of young people ‘hung out” until 2:00am or so. I would talk to these people and made a point to always address the young people as “guys “men” “gentlemen” “or ladies”. I knew most of their cars, who they were seeing, where they went to school etc. Late one night a fight broke out. There was a large crowd around the participants. This was in Cleveland, TN back in the day and none of this crowd carried a gun. I waded into the fray got the pugilists apart and as nobody was seriously injured restored order and went back to my duties. Shortly after the Police Chief came to the restaurant asking if I was all right. I assured him I was. He told me that someone had called in reporting that they had observed the fight and that the caller had seen someone coming at me from behind with a knife during the fight. but the potential attacker had been swallowed up by the crowd. I told the Chief I of course had not seen that or been aware of it. Later I was informed by some of my frequent patron “men” that during the melee they had grabbed and disarmed a party then administered some justice to my potential attacker. They advised some acquaintances of the knife wielder had spirited the potential attacker away. When I look back and remember my young back-ups I am glad I had been respectful to them. This type of interaction is rare now due to the area officers cover, lack of manpower and others.
There are other reasons I think people don’t respect the Police and thus find it easy to “bash” them. Some are lack of teaching respect in the home, the “me not we society “ attitude seemingly prevalent in today’s society, broken homes and many others.
Almost daily I see and hear people bashing the police. If it’s not some “talking head reporter” reading off the teleprompter it’s some person who has been arrested or their attorney (usually not very unbiased), or some amateur or professional agitator or race-baiter. Other than the reporters they are all competing for space on the news or social media to broadcast their cause or their plight of being “preyed upon” by the police. The reporters in most cases are just regurgitating what’s on the teleprompter or computer screen. But who’s writing and maybe more importantly who’s fact-checking these “stories?” I have personally called one local station to correct a crucial fact in a story. There is a huge difference in whether an officer was disciplined for shooting a suspect or shooting at a moving vehicle.
Why shouldn’t the Police get “bashed”? Hey if they have intentionally committed a crime then I’m sorry they are no better than anyone else and really should be held to a higher standard than the average citizen. However, if it’s a minor slip of policy or something then “let he who has committed no sin cast the first stone.” As I’ve already related above day in and day out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week the Police are out there doing their “jobs”. If the media and special interest groups continue to bash them it can and already has lead to a “chilling effect” where officers are less proactive/productive or even non-proactive Look at what’s happened in Baltimore for a current example. This can cause fewer qualified candidates to want to be Police Officers thus lesser qualified candidates get the jobs. This obviously can have a trickle down effect on our entire Policing structure and environment.
I don’t know how many people I’ve had tell me, “I wouldn’t do your job for a million dollars”. If we keep bashing and discouraging present and potential Police Officers who are we going to get to do this job which people can’t be paid enough to do? Realize this bashing has a detrimental effect on current officer’s morale. Perhaps people should listen to Teddy Roosevelt who said, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
I believe that pretty well sums it up.
– Mark Haskins
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