Friday, December 5, 2014

Thoughts Regarding Racism and the Police
I’d like to share with you the story of my best friend, who is a police officer.  One sunny afternoon several kids reported seeing a strange, creepy van circling the blocks watching them as they walked home from school.  Being both a law enforcement officer and parent, the next day my best friend asked his supervisor if he could either adjust his shift or stay late for just one hour in order to patrol the area as children were dismissed.  His supervisor gave the "ok".
My best friend asked other officers to help patrol the area in search of the creepy guy in the creepy van, and soon there were sightings.  They eventually found the creepy van parked in front of a public building on the school’s campus, and went inside to look for him.  My best friend, knowing that sometimes people who don’t want to be found will go in one direction but then circle back to their cars, thought it would be prudent to wait at the creepy van just in case.
A word about the creepy man… It was later determined he was wanted in connection with several bank robberies.  The man also abducted a woman several months earlier.  Fortunately she was able to jump from his van as he drove away.  She escaped with her life but was severely injured.  Creepy man was getting creepier.
My best friend looked around and saw the man walking near his van, and asked him to stop.  Creepy man didn’t listen at first.  He kept walking, looking to the left and right.  Looking for the best route of escape.  My best friend started catching up with the man, so he finally did stop, hands buried deep in his coat pockets.  “Let me see your hands!” my best friend yelled.  The man did eventually show his hands.  He brought his right hand up lightning fast, gripping a semiautomatic handgun.  BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM!  Creepy man shot four times.  Creepy man shot my best friend.
I hear a lot of statistics thrown around by people wanting to prove a point concerning police shootings and police brutality, but statistics only tell a tiny fraction of the story.  Police officers are a cross section of the American population.  With nearly 600,000 who are members of the law-enforcement community, you’re bound to have a number slip through who shouldn’t work in the profession.  And I’ll even concede there could be local or systemic issues that could at most use reform, at minimum be discussed.  Understanding is needed on both sides.  Yet when you deride the police, you’re denigrating me, my best friend, and people who will run into a collapsing building to save your life.  A person they’ve never met.  Calling police (of which I am one) corrupt, brutish and racist is no different than calling black people (of which I am one) lazy, violent thugs.  I won’t stand for either, and neither should you.
Although usually in jest, my father would constantly repeat two sayings to describe the actions of people: “You mess with the bull, you get the horns” and “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”.  To me, they’re about natural consequences and personal responsibility.  At this exact moment in time, I could point to people on both sides of the debate of Police Brutality and Institutional Racism who could benefit from a little contemplation on those two sayings.
An epilogue concerning my best friend and the creepy man.  My best friend, bleeding and scared, shot a few bullets of his own, and creepy man won’t be stalking our children anymore.  The medical examiner found several lengths of binding rope in the man’s deep pockets, and even more chilling items in creepy van.  Go ahead, lump my best friend in with the statistics on police shootings and excessive use of force, but in my book, he’s a hero.  I’m lucky to be able to tell him that whenever we talk.
“How can your story be about racism when you don’t even mention race?”  That’s a valid question.  I think it’s also the answer.  You see, my best friend, like the vast majority (not all, mind you) of law enforcement officers was contacting this person because a law was broken, or about to be broken.  He didn’t randomly insert himself into a contrived situation.  Cops generally don’t have time for that.  They’re too busy going from one 911 call to the next.
Let’s you and I make a deal.  As you question every action of a police officer asked to diagnose and control volatile situations the instant they arise, ask these questions before judging them so harshly: Did the suspect commit a crime?  Did the suspect comply with the officers’ request, or take off running?  Did the suspect allow him/herself to be arrested, or was the fight on?  
Without even broaching the actions of the officer, is there even the slightest possibility that a person’s actions when approached by the police might affect how their interaction goes?  I don’t know why, but we've started losing the ability to ask or answer these hard questions, instead going the easy route of putting 100% of the onus on the officer 100% of the time.
I know what you’re thinking... “We expect law enforcement to act in a way that leaves citizens with their dignity and respect intact!”  I expect cops to act like decent human beings too, but it goes both ways...