EConor O’Neil,7, who wants to be a police officer, stands and salutes as the funeral procession carrying slain Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon leaves the church on Wednesday,April 18, 2018. Staff Photo by Nancy Lanenter – Boston Herald

If I made the statement, “The news media mostly publishes negative stories about police.” Would you say I am wrong?

What if I said, “The news media purposely uses controversial or inflammatory headlines when a story involves police officers.” Would you say I’m wrong?

I have been a critic of the media when it comes to how they cover incidents involving police officers in America for years now. Most notably since 2014 when the Ferguson incident became the catalyst for the new wave of police protests and controversy across the country. I whole heartedly feel that the news media has played a huge role in pitting citizens against the police officers across this country, mostly through the use of controversial headlines and inflammatory stories. This kind of news coverage has led to an ideology and belief that it is acceptable to resist and fight with police. This is a dangerous epidemic and mindset in which no one will win or benefit from.

Now I am not suggesting that when a police officer does something horrifically wrong that the news media shouldn’t cover it. There is no doubt, the police are responsible for some of their own plight. However, the constant “stoking of the flames” by the news media creating controversy does nothing positive for anyone, no matter which side of the coin you are on.

So am I arguing that we should do away with the freedom of the press? Absolutely not, that would be rather ironic of me as I sit here freely putting my thoughts and opinions on paper without fear of government persecution. I am suggesting that the fact the media cares more about profits, clicks on news links, and ratings, they will continue to put those priorities before responsible or non-inflammatory coverage of police incidents.

Here’s my bold statement of the week: If the news media made it a point to cover positive interactions, heroic moments, or truly kind hearted deeds carried out by police officers on a daily basis, it would FILL THE ENTIRE NEWS CYCLE. You read that right, the entire 24 hours news cycle would be filled with selfless and heroic actions that police officers and first responders were responsible for each and every day. It would get so repetitive that eventually heroic actions and kind hearted deeds would become boring and no one would want to read about them anymore. That’s just human nature, even too much of a good thing can get old.

Each and every year, police departments across the country give out hundreds of thousands of awards to their employees. These awards are called things like: The Medal of Honor, The Medal of Valor, The Purple Heart, The Live Saving Medal, and The Police Commendation Medal. You get the point. Do these award ceremonies make it in the news? Or more importantly, do all the heroic actions that led to the awarding of these medals end up in the news? Maybe some do, but I would bet not all. A very small percentage if I had to guess.

You see, police officers are human and capable of making mistakes. They certainly deserve to be held to a higher standard and punished for crooked or wrong behavior that denigrates the trust of the public. But they also deserve to be commended for a job well done and taking the risk of not coming home to their families for the good of strangers all across the country. However, it is easy to only see police officers in a NEGATIVE light, when that is all you ever see about them on the news media.

There’s a problem though. Police officers are human as I just mentioned, but more importantly they are mostly humble humans. They view their role in society as the sheepdog who fights for the rest of society. They recognize that by doing so, they are sometimes the ones who get hurt or killed. They recognize sometimes they are cast in a bad light because what they do isn’t always pretty, but needs to be done for the betterment of society.

Due to their humility, police aren’t going to run to the media and say, “Look what I did! I bought a homeless person some food today!” Or, “I gave someone ride because it was raining, I saved this person by stopping them from committing suicide, I replaced this victim’s Christmas presents from my own pocket because they had theirs stolen!” Yes, we hear these stories on occasion, maybe on a slow news day or because SOMEONE notified the media about the incident. I can assure you it wasn’t the officer who did the good deed. It diminishes the act and goes against the grain of what a good police officer is on the inside, humble. A servant to the public. Who does the job not for riches, but for the cause.

In summary, sadly there is plenty of negative to go around in this world. The news media certainly does its part in highlighting the tragedy taking place each and every day in our society. However, we do not have to let that define how we see our world. Secondarily, we do not have to let it define how we see law enforcement and the job they do every day, every weekend, including holidays. Millions upon millions of selfless acts are carried out by our men and women behind the badge, so let’s not forget that. Just because it may not be breaking news, remember what truly goes on behind the scenes. They are fighting for you, maybe do them a favor and fight back for them. Stop being the silent majority and start being the vocal majority. Share good deeds you experience or witness. I think we can all agree they could use it. They’re counting on you.

The Officer Next Door


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