“After an officer involved shooting or any tragic event, can the police say sorry?” It was an intriguing question. This question stemmed from a discussion about how police are portrayed by the news media. The person who asked the question is from a country where it is culturally important to say “sorry” if something bad happens. For example, if a major bank went bankrupt, an apology is what you’d likely hear from the CEO. A stark contrast to what you would see here in the United States. Good, bad, or otherwise, this made me think about the culture of apologies – or the seeming lack thereof – here in the United States.
Naturally, I tried to remember an incident where a Chief or someone representing a police department apologized for something that took place. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of an instance that resonated with me. Lo and behold, later that week I was reading an article where the Chicago Police Chief offered his condolences and apologized after an officer involved shooting. To my surprise, a quick internet search of the words, “Police Chief sorry” or “Police shooting apology” actually returned quite a few results. The apologies stemmed from incidents ranging from arrests to officer involved shootings.
Upon finding multiple instances of apologies by police departments, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was unable to respond to the question with a confident, “Yes, police apologize when bad things happen.” If a quick internet search disproves the notion that police never apologize, why does it seem like they never do? Personally, I was surprised by this and thought maybe he was on to something. Maybe if police apologized more, society would see police as more humane? Maybe there would be less animosity in some neighborhoods? Maybe not?
We theorized that the seeming lack of apologies could be related to legal liability. Jumping in front of news cameras and immediately saying “sorry” implies guilt or wrong doing. Nearly all police involved shootings result in a civil wrongful death lawsuit, justified or not. Even if the officer acted in accordance with the law and departmental policies, a payout of hundreds of thousands of dollars is common and likely. Do apologies increase their liability?
Another likely reason people don’t associate the police with apologies is because apologies are not what you see in the headlines. If you search the internet for instances where apologies are issued, they are usually after the initial incident or in the body of the article, not the headline. This is problematic as it seems so many people these days ONLY read headlines, form an opinion, and immediately begin their social media tirade. So if all you ever see are headlines that read, “Officer involved shooting leaves man dead.” It’s understandable you would miss the fact the Chief offered an apology during the press conference.
Further silencing the police, the officer(s) involved in the shooting can’t speak about the shooting while it is under investigation. Most certainly not to the news media. Naturally an apology from the officer who actually did the shooting could really resonate with the public. However, it is inadvisable for legal reasons. Let’s not forget, a police involved shooting is still considered an aggravated assault or murder and they are investigated as such. As much as that officer may want to publicly say sorry, no lawyer in the world would allow it. Police officers have legal rights afforded to them after a shooting just like any citizen who shot someone in self-defense would. Ultimately, it is still up to the grand jury to determine if charges are necessary and subsequently a jury to decide guilt or innocence if such charges are filed.
What is unfortunate from an empathy standpoint, is the fact that police are kept silent for their legal protection. It dehumanizes them and insinuates that police officers lack sympathy or empathy for what happened. If you never hear an apology, over time, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to surmise that police officers aren’t sorry for shooting people. Just because you never hear it, does not mean that is how officers feel.
Personally, I was lucky and never used deadly force despite the multiple times I was justified to use it throughout my career. That being said, I would bet that every single officer who has been involved in a fatal police shooting, wishes it didn’t happen. Nothing good comes of being involved in a shooting. There are nightmares, sleepless nights, constant stress and worry about the grand jury referral, not to mention the financial impact it can have on them. If an officer is on administrative leave, that generally means they cannot work overtime or off-duty jobs to supplement their income. Many officers I worked with had regular “extra jobs” they would work while off-duty to supplement their income. A shooting does nothing to help them financially and could really put them in a bind depending on their family situation.
As I have said many times already in my articles, police officers are human beings. They are not robots. They are not programmed to do a job and end threats with precision and perfection. They are human beings, who make split second decisions based on the situations they are presented with day in and day out. No human being wants to take another life. Period. Officers are forced into these situations. Police officers are 100% reactionary when it comes to their use of force options. If the “suspect” turns around and puts their hands behind their back, you will never hear about that arrest because the “suspect” CHOSE to comply. The arrest is over and nothing bad happens. This is how everyone wants any police incident to end, including the police.
On the contrary, if the suspect resists, fights, or points a weapon at the officer, you will likely read about the aftermath in the news. This isn’t rocket science, it is simple cause and effect where the suspect is ultimately in control of how the incident plays out. Yes, there are shootings that are not justified. The shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina is an example of a horrible police shooting. Consequently, the officer was convicted and is serving a 20 year prison sentence, rightfully so. On August 28, 2018, a policer officer from Balch Springs, Texas was found guilty of murder. It does happen and will likely happen more in the future due to video being readily available during nearly all police and citizen interactions.
Sadly, police officers will make mistakes and police officers will continue to go to prison. This is the new normal police officers have to accept. Years ago, grand juries made deicsions based on witness testimony and the officer’s statements. In the past, accounts of what happened generally led to a no-bill from the grand jury (meaning the officer won’t be charged with a crime) or an innocent verdict if they did go to trial. In today’s world of law enforcement, we can review a shooting like it’s a play in a professional sporting event. What happens in mere seconds can be broken down second by second, frame by frame, and eventually a decision is made as to whether it was justified. Things have changed and any mistakes like the ones in South Carolina and Balch Springs, Texas can and will likely result in a prison sentence. A bad day at the office could cost you 20 years of your life maybe longer. The job of being a police officer was always difficult, you’d be hard pressed to convince me it isn’t harder today than ever before. Perfection or prison.
Back to the original question at hand.
Can police say sorry?
Yes they can. And I bet they would do it more if they could.
Police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, military members, corrections officers, teachers, and nurses. The public servants of society share many things in common. Most people respect them and most of us appreciate their sacrifices, rightfully so. They usually work in harsh environments, work long hours for generally speaking, low pay. As much as the people who choose these career paths deserve admiration and respect, there is an entire group of people that are often overlooked. The spouses and family members of our public servants or the “unsung heroes” of our society.
They are truly the “unsung heroes” of public service. Not only do they shoulder work schedules that include long hours, shift work, or unpredictable “on call” statuses; they are at home trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy in the absence of their spouse. Celebrating Christmas on the 23rd or the 26th because your spouse has to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, is anything but ideal and certainly not the “normal” the rest of society gets to enjoy.
It should go without saying, worry is a constant for the families of public servants. Every time their loved one walks out the front door, they hope they return the way they left. In recent years, it would not be a stretch to say the dangers have increased. Though statistically 2017 was a better year than most – in regards to line of duty deaths – an increase in ambush style attacks and unsolicited shootings of police officers do nothing to quell the fears for law enforcement families.
In a recent email from a reader I was asked, “How are wives supposed to handle the fear associated with their spouses being police officers in a society that so openly disrespects police?” My initial thought was how much I wish I had an amazing answer. One that could help them sleep at night. I wish I could prevent their heart skipping a beat when the phone rings, or there is an unexpected knock at the door during their spouse’s shift. Truthfully, that point of concern is exactly why I started writing these articles and created The Officer Next Door website. The pure hatred and vitriol that motivated the cowardly shooter in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016, lends credibility to the fear law enforcement spouses experience daily.
The dangers law enforcement officers face today have changed since 2014. The Ferguson effect is NOT just limited to police officers’ new hesitation to engage in proactive policing. It has also increased the chances of being targeted simply because of the uniform they wear. I think most law enforcement spouses realize the job their loved one signed up for is dangerous. However, I don’t think most law enforcement spouses dreamt it would become common place for officers to be shot while taking no enforcement action at all. This would be like worrying about your firefighter spouse dying doing something other than fighting fires. Sadly today, eating lunch can lead to being injured or killed and that is hard to digest for police spouses.
To the men and women out there married to a first responder, THANK YOU. Parents, siblings, and family members of public servants, THANK YOU. Without you, our public servants would struggle. You are the support system they need to be successful. The fact they became a public servant is a reflection on you as a parent or spouse and you should be proud.
I will offer this idea to help with your fear and worry regarding the daily dangers your spouses or family members face. Be vocal and supportive when talking about their jobs and their personal sacrifices. Share your concerns and worries with your friends. Don’t be shy to share with people what goes on in a family that has a first responder or public servant in it. Don’t “unfriend” people that speak negatively about law enforcement. It’s easy to turn a cheek to the ones who “don’t understand” what it is like to be a police officer or public servant in 2018. I can certainly relate.
When you speak to someone you know personally and share your perspective as a law enforcement spouse, one would hope they will listen with a sympathetic ear. Furthermore, I would hope they would take your input and perspective at face value as friends or acquaintances. When critics read my articles, they automatically think I am biased and ONLY support police regardless of fault, which is simply not true.
I have noticed that most people who are vocal or critical of police officers’ actions often have valid points or concerns. That being said, they can also be slightly misguided or have certain beliefs or opinions that are based on lies or half-truths. In this instance, it would be your job to dispel any mistruths about a particular incident or topic. All too often you see people in social media comments sections saying things like, “That’s entrapment!” or “That’s excessive!” Odds are good, if you review whatever it is they are talking about, they are wrong. Or it could simply be the fact, “it doesn’t look good.” Police work isn’t always pretty. People resist, fight, bite, spit, and shoot at police officers. These are all met with equal or greater force, which is legal by the way. None of which is fun to watch or “looks good.”
On the positive side, as technology, equipment, and training improve, officers are indeed safer. They are more aware of the threats they face today and training continually evolves to address these issues. Officers being issued tourniquets and higher quality bulletproof vests help as well. Can you protect against an all-out ambush? No. Just like we can’t stop rain on wedding days. Some things we can’t control, however, I am confident in the future for police.
With knowledge and understanding comes power. The power to change someone’s mind or make them see something from a different perspective is precisely what needs to happen to make police officer’s jobs safer. Unfortunately, there is little to be done about poorly chosen media headlines that care more to stir up emotion and garner clicks, than tell the story in an unbiased or non-inflammatory manner.
That is one aspect of the, “war on police” we have zero control over. So my suggestion of discussion and explanation when afforded the opportunity bears even more weight. I have had personal success of offering a different point of view when discussing law enforcement with people. As mentioned in previous articles, discussion can actually change someone’s point of view. Trolling, commenting with hate, anger, or a sarcastic “meme”, does little to help people see things from a police officer’s perspective.
I would be remiss to suggest that you can change everyone’s mind. I think it is safe to say there will always be some people who simply “hate” police. Usually, they seem to be the ones who place ill-directed hate toward police because they enforce laws they disagree with. Police officers don’t make the laws, they simply enforce them.
Engage people who hate what your spouse does. Attempt to have meaningful dialogue and address their viewpoints and concerns. If they don’t respond well and still “hate” police at least you tried. All we can do as law enforcement supports is continue to take the ever-difficult high road.
If doing the right thing was easy, everyone would do it.
Stay safe, stay supportive, and THANK YOU for being the spouse or family member of a first responder. You are truly the unsung heroes of our society.
A friend of mine recently asked, “Tell me, what is it really like being a police officer?”
I smiled as this was the hundredth time I’ve been asked that question. I thought to myself, “If you only knew the truth.” Protector to a fault, I couldn’t unload the real truth about what it’s like to be a police officer. Instead, I smiled and said, “It’s good, every day is different and I get to work outside.” If he only knew. Over the next few minutes, I would smile and nod as if I was paying attention to the conversation.
In reality, I was thinking to myself, if you want to know the truth, I’ll tell you the truth. When my wife asks how my day was I respond with a rehearsed, “It was fine.” I say that to protect her and I guess myself too. I’m not trying to be rude or short. I don’t want to keep things from her or hurt her feelings. I guess the truth is, I don’t want to relive the fatality car accident I responded to last night. A mother, father, and their two children didn’t survive, it was horrific.
If you want to know the truth, a few days ago I came home and was distant and distracted. My wife got upset with me because I wasn’t listening when she told me about the parent-teacher conference she attended alone. What she doesn’t know is someone shot at me on my last shift. I debated telling her but don’t want her to worry more than she already does. Honestly, I am just thankful to be alive. The scary truth is, my wife almost became a widow and my kids almost lost their father. That thought is really messing with my head. I guess that’s what I signed up for, so I’ll have a few more beers and then head to bed. I’ve got work in the morning.
If you want to know the truth, even though that guy shot at me, I’m thankful I wasn’t able to shoot back. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t want that on my conscience. I don’t want to be on restricted duty because I need to work overtime to pay the bills. The truth is, I don’t want to hurt anyone and certainly don’t want to kill anyone. I want to help them but I know I’m a consequence for some, a sigh of relief for others, and a hero to a few. The truth is, I don’t go looking for a fight; the fight comes to me, whether I want it to or not. Ultimately, I just want to go home at the end of the night.
You want to know the truth? Today I got word that I’m being investigated, another ridiculous complaint and now my long-awaited promotion is in jeopardy. A drug dealer is claiming his money went missing and he was roughed up while being arrested. Despite the fact the video will prove none of that is true, I have to wait months for the outcome. No matter what, that complaint is on my record forever now. One more thing I have to explain to the promotion board if I even make it that far.
The truth is, my wife is expecting our second child and that promotion would really help with the upcoming expenses. Carrying all this stress the last few days, I’ve been pissed when I hit the streets. But just last night, I was flagged down by a frantic mother and was able to resuscitate her unconscious baby. The truth is, seeing the joy and relief on that mother’s face restored a sense of worth and purpose. In seconds, the anger and stress about the complaint and promotion were gone. I helped someone today and the truth is, that’s why I do this job.
If you want to know the truth, I’m not a hateful person. I don’t care what you look like, where you came from, or what you’ve done in the past, I will give my life for you. I may not know you but that isn’t a reason to hesitate when seconds matter. The truth is, helping people is in my blood. I run toward danger, I shield strangers from harm, and I accept death as a consequence. I guess the truth is, it’s just my way of life. I’m a risk taker but don’t like the idea of dying. I didn’t sign up to die, however, I accept it could happen. The truth is, I would feel bad for my parents; no parent should have to bury a child. At least it would be honorable, that should count for something.
If you want to know the truth, I have a wife, a mother, a father, one brother and two dogs. I have a family just like you. Even if I have to work, they hope to see me at birthday parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like football and baseball. I watch movies and can quote some of them word for word. I guess the truth is, I’m not much different than you are. I have my good days and bad. I hope for the best, expect the worst, and always try to do the right thing. Like you, I want my family to be proud of me. I don’t want to bring disgrace to my name, my family, or my late grandfather whom I know is watching from above.
If you want to know the truth, I love my country, my city, and my brothers and sisters in blue. I guess they are why I keep coming to work every day. I don’t want to abandon them or our fight for what is right. We defend the vulnerable and defenseless from crime and evil. It’s what we do. If you want to know the truth, it gets harder every day. I just blocked some friends on social media. They said they wanted “all pigs would die,” I just can’t stomach that. Why should I die? What have I done wrong? I just want to help people.
You want to know the truth? I may not act like it but the job is starting to take a toll on me. Sometimes I lie in bed and start crying out of nowhere. I don’t feel sad, nothing in particular happened that day. In fact, I had a pretty boring shift. But the truth is, sometimes I just lie there and cry and I’m not sure why. I suppose the truth is, I just had to let it out and eventually I feel better. I’m not too sure if that’s a good thing but that’s the truth. I guess that’s just part of the job.
The truth is, some days I wonder if it’s all worth it. It seems like everyone hates us these days and no matter what we do, we are always to blame. The cards seem stacked against us. Surely, we are playing a game we can’t win. I can’t watch the news anymore. All you see is more protests, tragedy, death, and half-truths. Headlines that seem to be aimed at stoking the flames and furthering the narrative that the police are the enemy. I guess the truth is, I just want to do a good job and make a difference but that seems impossible these days. Ultimately it seems like even if I did, no one would notice.
If you want to know the truth, the more I think about it, it’s just not worth it anymore. I drink all the time and my wife said she’s filing for divorce. I guess the truth is becoming clear, I’m not a hero. I can’t help myself, let alone strangers who call 911. I am angry all the time and I’m losing this battle. I don’t see a reason to go on. I’m losing my wife, my kids, my life seems over and this job has made me into someone I don’t want to be.
If you want to know the truth, I planned on killing myself today. I wrote the note and had a plan but couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t do it. Thankfully, I decided I’m going to take control of my life. I am going to seek help. I decided I need to make some changes and give myself a chance to be happy. I will fight for my wife and the life I once had. I guess the truth is, since all I ever do is fix stranger’s problems, I forgot to fix my own.
The truth is, when you asked, “Tell me, what is it really like being a police officer?” These are all the things I wanted to say. Instead, I smiled and replied, “It’s good, every day is different and I get to work outside.”
– The Officer Next Door
What happened to respect? Did it cease to exist and we all missed the announcement about when it went away? Is “respect” something parents still teach their kids or is it just something from the 1990’s like neon clothes and slap bracelets? Have we lost the ability to hold people accountable for their actions, which has led to an empowered and disrespectful society? Over time, it seems as if discipline (in all forms) has become a lost art, as if kids can do whatever they want, suffering little to no consequences. When these kids grow up and become adults, they seem to have a sense of “you can’t tell ME what to do” about them. This is bad. Quite simply, it needs to stop.
I am told there was a time when respect was something that was taught to children at a young age in hopes that as they grew up, they would show respect to their peers and certainly their elders. I have heard stories of a time when people generally respected the police, first responders, nurses, and teachers. You know, the folks in this world who do the “thankless” jobs for much less pay than rightfully deserved. Allegedly, there was a time people recognized these people and professions as valued members of society and all agreed they should ultimately be respected, because if not them, then who?
Put simply, police officers should be obeyed (a form of respect), fire fighters revered for their willingness to run into burning buildings (everyone loves them, I get it), nurses loved for their compassion and willingness to deal with bodily fluids and the side of humans that should remain unseen, and teachers should be honored for their dedication to passing on knowledge to our youth, truly shaping the future of our society.
Gone are the days where these people and professions are held in high regard or given the proper respect and fairness. More often than not, it seems they’re being drug through the mud by the media. Their support today, only comes from the “silent majority”. Gone are the days where the loudest voices are the ones in support of the people that need it the most. Gone are the days, where you can openly support police, firemen, and other public servants without having to fear your property will be vandalized, or you yourself will be harassed for supporting them.
I recognize there is support out there for police officers, fire fighters, nurses, and teachers, however, you’d be hard pressed to convince me things haven’t changed over the past few years. Sadly, they haven’t changed for the better, at least in my opinion. It has become far worse over the years when it comes to respect for these professions. I am not saying the “world is against” all first responders or nobody loves teachers or nurses anymore. That simply isn’t true. What I am saying, is when you turn on the news or scroll through your favorite social media platform, the hate and negativity isn’t hard to find. What is missing? Respect.
So it bears the question, why has the narrative changed? Have these professions changed? Have these professions morphed into something that is not worthy of support or respect over the years? I certainly don’t think so. In fact, I would argue that these jobs have become far more difficult in today’s society and culture and they deserve more respect than ever before. The jobs of police officers, firefighters, nurses and teachers have all changed over time, like all things do. However, with the advent of social media and the complete degradation of the idea of RESPECT, our society has slowly gone down its current deteriorating path.
When did it become okay to shoot at fire fighters and paramedics? Aren’t they the “good guys” that everyone loves? When did it become okay to cuss out a police officer on a traffic stop just because, “you don’t like them”? If you don’t agree with a police officer’s ticket or arrest, you will have your chance to fight it through the proper channels, the time and the place isn’t in the streets using disrespect or violence. Furthermore, police officers enforce laws, they don’t make them, anger directed at them regarding laws on the books is extremely misguided. Contact your local government representatives or state legislators if you want laws changed.
Respect doesn’t have to imply agreement. You can respect someone and not agree with them, heck you can respect someone you don’t like. Try that one on for size. It is possible to respect police officers and not agree with something they did, a traffic ticket they wrote you, or their actions in a video you saw on the internet. It is also possible to take a step back and see the bigger picture of what police officers really are and what they risk on a daily basis, for the better good of everyone.
One of the biggest driving factors of the division in our current society, is the notion that tolerance must stem from agreement. This couldn’t be more wrong. It is still okay to “agree to disagree” folks. I know this has become a lost art, but it is still an option, one that should seemingly be revisited more often. In furtherance of the idea that we should be a more empathetic and loving society, why choose division in lieu of constructive debate or discussion? Why resort to false accusations and protests any time something happens you may not like or agree with? Is it really that difficult to “walk a mile” in someone’s shoes or see things from a different perspective? It just might make things better for everyone. It certainly can’t hurt.
One great thing about respect is it’s free. It’s simple to give and just as easy to get in return when shown. If this concept was applied to all interactions with police, use of force and officer involved shootings would be dramatically reduced. Lest we not forget, police are reactive. They react to the actions of the people they deal with, if you are calm and respectful, the officers will be too. It’s really a simple concept. If you run, fight, or point a weapon at an officer, odds are good the situation won’t end well. That choice is up to the person in question, not the officer.
I have yet to see a video where an officer shoots someone at random without discussion or provocation. It just doesn’t happen. However, I have seen multiple videos made by people of all shapes, sizes, and colors, regarding positive interactions with police. Videos where the message is oddly similar to the one in this article. Show respect, get respect, everyone wins. In such videos, the person usually says, “The officer was nice and professional”. Odds are good, so was the person who made the video. Funny how that works! On multiple occasions throughout my career, I was thanked by a person I was putting jail. It does happen and usually because the person was respectful and I was respectful back, the way it should be. You won’t see that on the news!
When it’s all said and done, the simple rule that you should treat people the way you want to be treated rings true as ever. Are there situations or exceptions where people are mistreated at no fault of their own? Absolutely. Clearly, no one should support that scenario, police officer involved or not. The game of respect is a two-way street. Quite simply, everyone should play it and everyone should win.
All too often, it is said that it is the police officer’s fault when someone they were dealing with chooses to run, fight, or point a weapon at them and something bad happens. This is not the fault of police. If we looked at the scenario through the lens of respect, the blame should be placed on the one who chose not to show it. Police can’t make someone run, fight, or shoot at them. Even if someone disagrees with the officer’s tactics or approach to the situation, complying and being respectful would ensure everyone involved goes home that night. I can assure you, that’s what officers want. If you don’t think that is true, you need to talk to a police officer, because you’re wrong.
Hold that door open the next time you see someone walking your way, say thank you or compliment someone today. If you deal with a police officer, be courteous and show some respect and I guarantee the outcome will be a positive for all involved, and most importantly you’ll both go home safely.
It’s not normal, to see the things police officers see, hear, smell, touch and experience.
It’s not normal, to carry the burdens police officers do, emotionally, physically, and mentally.
It’s not normal, to see dead bodies, mangled bodies, decomposed bodies, dead kids, abused kids, homeless people suffering, and people victimized, taken advantage of, raped or killed.
It’s not normal, to respond to scenes of horrific suicides, fatal car accidents, gang violence, domestic violence, random violence, dead animals, and abused animals.
It’s not normal, to tell a family member their loved one has died and won’t be coming home during a death notification call for service.
It’s not normal, to respond to shooting calls where you watch someone take their last breath, or stabbing calls that make you cringe when you see their flesh cut wide open and blood everywhere.
It’s not normal, to stand next to a dead body for hours securing a crime scene, waiting for the coroner to arrive, so you can go eat dinner, as if nothing happened, as if “it’s just another call”.
It’s not normal, that seeing such horrific things becomes your “normal” and you tell yourself it doesn’t bother you. It’s not normal, to be numb to things that would likely devastate the rest of society.
It’s not normal, to experience extreme highs and lows in one day, one minute you’re typing a report and the next you’re responding to the local business being held up at gunpoint with shots fired. It happens that fast, it is fun in some ways, but it’s not normal.
It’s not normal, to work rotating shifts, rotating days off, work on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and maintain a semblance of a “normal” life. It’s not normal, to miss these moments in life and expect it not to take a toll on a marriage or the relationship with your children.
It’s not normal, to slowly lose friends that aren’t police officers too. It’s not normal to say, “they just don’t understand me anymore” or “they don’t know what it is like to be a police officer”. It’s not normal, for lifelong friends to wonder why you’ve changed, become more cynical or even angry and distance themselves from you.
It’s not normal, to go to work and not know what time you will get to go home, or if you’ll even make it home at all.
It’s not normal, to wake up at night in a cold sweat because you dreamed you got shot multiple times by a “bad guy” and you were powerless to stop it. It’s not normal, to lie in bed unable to sleep, because all the things you saw that day play in your head like a bad movie you can’t turn off.
It’s not normal, that nearly every call you answer, someone is counting on YOU to help them. They may be at their lowest point, maybe they are experiencing a crisis, a loss, and you have to be there for them, no matter what is going on in your personal life.
It’s not normal, that you as a human being could be personally dealing with a crisis, a divorce, a dying family member, alcohol addiction, or thoughts of suicide, and you’re expected to show up and solve other people’s problems with no regard for your own.
It’s not normal, to go to work every day in hopes of making a positive change or influence in someone’s life only to be spit at, kicked, punched, stabbed, or shot. It’s not normal, to feel you can’t “win”, no matter what you do, or how many lives you save or stickers you give to kids.
It’s not normal, that simply sitting in your work vehicle being present, can get you shot and killed because the decal on that work vehicle said, “POLICE” on it, like NYPD Officers Liu, Ramos, and Familia. Gone, but not forgotten.
It’s not normal, to be shot while eating dinner, minding your own business, only because the patch on your shoulder said, “POLICE”, like Florida Sheriff’s Deputies Sergeant Noel Ramirez and Deputy Taylor Lindsey. Gone, but not forgotten.
It’s not normal, to never be “off duty”. To always be alert, aware, cautious, even concerned, that you may be a target at any given time due to your chosen profession.
It’s not normal, you do the job and maintain a professional demeanor or smile while holding back tears, because in the end you know, someone has to do it and you’re proud that you aren’t normal.
It’s not normal, to attend a funeral for a coworker who died doing the same job as you, almost annually.
It’s not normal, that no matter how much all these things bother you, you couldn’t see yourself doing any other job, because carrying this burden is what you were meant to do. This is your calling.
You are not normal, you’re a police officer.
Luckily their normal is not your normal. If you’re reading this and you aren’t a police officer, some of the things you just read may have bothered you. Odds are good, the images that popped into your head made you uncomfortable, or were hard to think about or even picture. I hope this was the case, because that is a police officer’s daily reality. At the very least, I hope it changes your perspective of police officers and what it is they actually do and experience every single day.
This topic isn’t widely talked about among police officers, for a multitude of reasons. To start, it isn’t a fun topic to talk about. Yes, there are times that officers gather and share “war stories” about all the crazy things they have seen and dealt with. But don’t think for a minute, that the ugliness of it all isn’t still lurking beneath the surface, waiting to rear its ugly head when they least expect it.
Most officers simply choose not to talk about these things and change the subject when asked about what “crazy things they’ve seen”. Some may even lie and say “nothing crazy has happened lately” just to avoid the topic altogether. Most officers don’t rush home to tell their significant other what they saw or experienced during their shift. For most, it’s easier to say, “Today was fine” or “I don’t want to talk about it” to avoid the conversation and having to relive the bad things they may have seen or experienced that day.
This sort of behavior is common, a defense mechanism if you will. Over time, police become “numb” to seeing the worst side of society. But in the end, it’s still there, lurking and waiting to show up in their subconscious again. It’s like a pressure cooker that constantly gets tested to see how much more can be fit inside. Almost inevitably, it eventually gives way and explodes. Sadly, it can explode in many different forms.
For some, it explodes in the form of an unexplainable outburst, angry rage, or reaction to something that normally wouldn’t bother that person. For others, they may just break down and cry inexplicably until they feel better, not really knowing what triggered it to happen. Some turn to alcohol or other substances to mask the pain or feelings, which lead them down a path of destruction. No two people are the same, therefore, no two police officers are the same. They all experience different things in their careers and each thing affects them differently than the next officer.
Maybe now when you see them, you don’t just see a man or woman in a uniform that took an oath to protect you, but also a person who runs toward the things most run away from each and every day. They see things so you don’t have to see them. They carry a heavy burden and do it because they were chosen to carry it, so you don’t have to.
Being a police officer is much more than writing traffic tickets, breaking up a fun little house party with underage high school kids, or responding to the fender bender to facilitate the exchange of personal information. A police officer is much more than what meets the eye or what you see on television.
People in society simply create their image of what something or someone is, based on their personal experiences and that makes total sense. For example, if your only experience with police officers is being pulled over for speeding, I imagine it is possible you haven’t thought about what a police officer experiences on a daily basis.
I hope this article changes that. The next time you read about a fatality car accident or horrible tragedy, feel sympathy and empathy for the victims, but don’t forget the people responding to the scene, what they experienced and how they are affected too.
I fully recognize that police officers chose their profession and I also recognize that, “if they don’t like it, they can quit.” Some people try being a police officer, only to find out, “it isn’t for them” and kudos to them for having the courage to admit that.
I firmly believe it isn’t a job, it’s a calling. If you become a police officer solely to pay the bills, you are likely not the kind of police officer most people want on their department or patrolling their community.
Being a police officer is recognizing that you willsee the worst side of humanity that society has to offer and you accept that as your normal. Chances are good that when a police officer starts their career, they have thought about these things but didn’t quite know what it actually meant until they experienced it firsthand.
It takes a special kind of person to do this job, one that isn’t…”normal”.
To the hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in blue around the world, who put their lives and their “normal” on the line every day, thank you.
Don’t be afraid to admit if you’re struggling, need help, or just want to talk to someone. As weird as it may seem to you, asking for help is “normal”.
Invariably, now more than ever, the media controls a lot about what people think of police officers. Not to overlook personal experiences, they are important too. However, when people see things on the news, especially negative stories, human nature leads people to believe this is the “norm” or worse, that those things happen every day in their own backyard. Though they may happen “every day” somewhere in the country, it isn’t always representative of what occurs in your city every day. This is particularly dangerous for police officers. By only reporting on officer involved shootings or other incidents that are negative in nature, the public begins to see that as a common thing, despite the fact that the sheer numbers and facts suggest otherwise.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2011 the numbers showed that 62.9 million U.S. residents age 16 and older, or about 26% of the population, had at least one encounter, face to face or remote with police. Assuming these numbers are fairly consistent, you can compare them to the number of fatal police shootings each year. Naturally, since Ferguson, this number has been more closely followed and documented. On average in the United State of America, 950-1000 people are shot and killed by the police. To be more specific here is the annual break down: 2015: 995, 2016: 963, and 2017: 987. I’m not a math major, so I won’t even attempt to determine the odds of being shot and killed by police, but the numbers appear to be 1000 people vs 62.9 million encounters. I’ll let you calculate the odds if you so choose. I think my calculator is broken.
All joking aside, it’s clear that the number of incidents involving deadly force are actually pretty rare. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s terrible that roughly 1000 incidents happen each year that result in someone’s death. Every shooting is tragic for everyone involved and countless family members on BOTH sides. If you think police officers aren’t affected by these incidents, I can assure you, you’re wrong in so many ways.
When solely looking at it from the odds perspective, it is highly improbable you will be shot by the police. Another way to look at it, is roughly 3 deadly force incidents happen across the country each day. Again, also troubling, however if you consider we have just over 325 million people in the United States, I would again submit that this number is extremely low and not quite the “epidemic” some may suggest.
To be quite honest, the goal for this page is to discuss police related topics and offer perspectives from the police officer point of view. All while also realizing and respecting the non-police perspective, point of view, or experiences that have led to their feelings toward police. All too often in America, it seems everyone just picks a side, slams a proverbial “stake in the ground” and that is now your “team”. Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. Truth be told, there are times when police officers are wrong. Why? You may start to notice a theme here, because they are HUMAN! (Thank you to those who have followed along and answered that in their subconscious as they read it). It is impossible to expect perfection, so naturally if all you ever say is police are right 100% of the time, well guess what, you’re wrong too. It also goes the other way, not all police shootings are “bad” or “unjustified”, even when the person is “unarmed”. Even worse is when I hear the “good officers” term thrown around in relation to officer involved shootings. Comments like this when referring to a recent police officer involved shooting, “Well, not all cops are bad, there are some good officers out there.” So what you’re saying is any officer who is involved in a shooting is now lumped into the “bad officer” group? Okay, that’s logical.
I will quickly say this, statistics regarding police shootings are improving since Ferguson in 2014, which is good, as they will hopefully begin to show the true story of policing in America. One important quote I saw while doing some research myself was this statement from the Denver Post, “These numbers show us that officer-involved shootings are constant over time,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who has studied police use of force. “Some places go up, some go down, but it’s averaging out. This is our society in the 21st century.” I think this shows that policing in America is consistent and any suggestions that there is a “rise” in shootings would be untrue. More sensationalism in the media, does NOT equate to a rise in the actual numbers.
Sadly, what the news doesn’t report on or the general public seems to forget, is that every single day, hundreds of thousands of calls for service, traffic stops, and search warrants take place and almost always, nothing “bad” happens. Do things go awry from time to time? Of course. Officers get hurt, people get hurt, but thankfully by and large, shootings don’t happen and people aren’t killed. If something bad doesn’t happen, it’s probably because the police are doing their job as expected and whomever they are dealing with decided not to fight them, point weapons at them, bite them, spit on them, or try to take their gun from them. I’ve had all of these happen to me in my career, have you? “Part of the job” some will say and they’re right, but don’t let that skew the fact that such actions are dealt with using equal or greater force on behalf of the police, justifiably so.
Police are almost entirely REACTIONARY in nature. You call, they show up. They see something illegal happening, they react. Bad guy does something harmful or threatening, they react. Luckily, with body cameras and cell phone videos the notion that police just arbitrarily start hurting random people without cause will slowly be proven to be horrendously false. Assuming a video isn’t turned on halfway into a fight when the police officer is starting to win and there isn’t any context to the events that led to the fight. One of the most ridiculous trends you see now regarding video footage.
The sheer fact that nearly everything you hear about police is negative has an effect on the perception of police by the public. How you would you associate something positive with policing when all you read about is murders, robberies, fatality car accidents? On top of that lovely news, you also hear about when things go really bad and an officer is shot, an officer shoots someone, or a car chase ends badly. Everyone has heard the saying, “if it bleeds, it leads” and sadly it appears to almost always be true. You don’t turn on the local news at night and the news anchor starts off by saying, “Local police officer stopped to assist a stranded motorist today, it turned out the driver was a lost elderly person who was the subject of a Silver Alert, more on this tonight at 10!” Nope. It’s not news if it’s positive. I would venture to guess that well over 1000 extremely heart-warming, feel good, man we are proud that officer works in our city, incidents happen each year, but you won’t hear about them. It’s not what the news media wants you to hear. It isn’t what garners the most “clicks” or gets people to “tune in”. Controversy, sadness, division, anger, that’s what leads to more interaction with news sites. Sadly.
What baffles me the most is people see shows like COPS and Live PD and still are so fast to criticize, as if having watched these shows gives your opinion any merit as to “what I would have done!” To me, that’s like watching the show “Naked and Afraid” and yelling at the television, “Those bug bites are nothing you wimp!!!! Don’t tap out!” as the person is sitting in an ant pile, naked as the day they were born in a rain forest, in a country you’ve never been to, yet you think “YOU could do it”. Okay couch warrior, get off your duff and you go do it, then report back after you tap out in 24 hours or less. It’s comical. You aren’t in that person’s shoes. You aren’t experiencing the pain and anguish of being eaten by bugs as you lay naked in some strange place. Much like you don’t know what it is like to fight someone on PCP, or pull someone over who is acting suspicious, or dealing with someone who has a felony warrant and a gun under their seat on a traffic stop. How do you a handle those situations? Police do it every day and 99.9% of the time they do it right and by the book. If all goes well, everyone goes home – or to jail – but no one gets seriously hurt. Ideal, but not always the way things go. Sadly.
Also, a disturbing, yet emerging trend lately, has been incidents in which citizens BLATANTLY lie about what happened to them when they encountered police. Lo and behold, we roll the body or dash camera footage only to show the citizens have completely fabricated these accusations and are 100% false.
In March 2006, I graduated from the Dallas Police academy and was sent to the Southeast patrol station. It was known to be one of the most violent parts of the city. To my mother’s dismay, it was my number one choice! I’m crazy, I know.
Twenty-four long months later, I got off of field training and was out on my own. Even back in 2005, we were short on manpower – some things never change – so most weeks I would sign up for “call answering overtime”. At the time, I had Wednesday and Thursday off, so this meant I would come in on either of those days, sometimes both, and work an 8 hour shift doing nothing but going from 911 call to 911 call. I loved it. I couldn’t believe they paid me to do this job! Spoken like a true rookie.
All new things are fun at first, right? Most new jobs and experiences are fun and have that element of excitement and new challenges you are met with each day. But over time, the excitement fades, the newness wears off, and you start to ask yourself, “Do I really love this job?” Like many young police officers, I was consumed with the job, but in a good way. Ultimately, I had a purpose. I was doing something honorable, something bigger than me and it felt good. It got me up in the morning! Policing really is a calling, especially for the “good” police officers. It’s not just a job, it’s a career, that offers a sense of duty and honor.
At first, you don’t mind working weekends, holidays, birthdays, snow days, hot days, rainy days, any day, because that is what you signed up for as a police officer. You knew that going in, so don’t whine about it and be a cry baby. Ah, how soon that changes. However, as the saying goes, “All that glitters is not gold!” right? I suppose so. You see, policing is an interesting profession because it’s ever changing and ever evolving. Who knew that we would get to a point where foot chases would become restricted by policy? Yes, you read that right, foot chases where the “bad guy” runs and the officer chases them on FOOT are now restricted by policy in Dallas and I imagine in many other cities around the country. Baffling. What I mean by “restricted” is there are now more rules or “red tape” for officers detailing if and when officers can chase someone on foot. Almost hard to believe considering the dangers are really only limited to those involved. I don’t think a suspect or police officer is going to run so fast that they run into someone else and kill them, the common concern regarding car chases. This is where the “history” part of this article comes into play. If you were reading this hoping to learn about Robert Peel and the true history and creation of policing, I’m sorry, that’s not my style.
So back to my little story here, the truth is, “things change” or “evolve” which means police officers and policies have to change too. Anyone familiar with police officers, knows police officers hate change. They are set in their ways of “how we do things”. It makes sense, considering they are trained a certain way, they feel that it works, keeps them safe, therefore they don’t want to change. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Policy change can be especially tough on police officers that tend to be more “proactive”. When new policies come out restricting foot chases, car chases, whether you can knock on a door looking for a wanted person, police officers tend to feel like they are being “handcuffed” by policy. “Prevented” from doing their jobs if you will. When I say “proactive” I am talking about officers who enjoy going out into the community and actively seeking out the criminal element. Proactive officers go out wanting to find people with guns and take them off the street, or arrest the person wanted in the latest string of armed robberies. Proactive policing in my opinion is the truest form of crime fighting. I’m sorry to say folks but answering a residential burglary call is NOT crime fighting. That falls under the “serve” part of “protect and serve”. Service is a very important aspect of policing, there is no debate on that.
As soon as I say this, I know I have to elaborate as to not ostracize any police officers. So here it goes, just because you enjoy working car accidents, writing tickets, or answering certain calls for service that interest you, does not mean that you are a lazy police officer. To the non-police officers reading this, there are many “kinds” of police officers and all of them are important to the success of every police department and the overall safety of the communities they serve. Because police officers are human, naturally different aspects of policing appeal to different officers. Some officers dread car accident calls due to the amount of paperwork associated with such a call. After the chaotic scene and helping anyone injured, the officer will spend hours drawing diagrams, dealing with insurance companies, MATH, accident scene reconstruction, taking photographs, just to name a few things that come with working a large accident scene. Did you see the word math? Yeah, no thanks. Thankfully, some police officers love doing math and reconstructing accidents scenes and they are the ones who typically end up working in those capacities for their respective police departments. Everyone has a role, they all have a purpose, and all are unique and important in their own way.
Whew, now that I have that out of the way, onward we go. Ultimately, the needs, demands, and desires, of society change over time. With that, police departments and their policies will too. We will use car chases for an example. I’m sure most of you remember a time when turning on the television and seeing a live police chase being covered was a fairly common occurrence. When is the last time you saw that? Depending on where you live, I would venture to guess it isn’t all that common anymore. Why? Because society and policies have changed. “Back in the day”, police chases were common, the dangers associated with them and their consequences were viewed as “part of the police doing their job”. Over time, I assume as more innocent civilians and officers were killed in police chases, things began to evolve and police departments started to restrict such policies, looking for safer ways of getting the job done. These unfortunate facts, coupled with calls from communities to do things a different way, were a huge catalyst that caused more restrictive car chase policies and policies in general.
So the first question that bears asking is, where do Police Chiefs draw the proverbial line in regards to what they allow their officers to do, how, and when? Policies vary widely from agency to agency. In Texas, where I am most familiar with law enforcement, I know that DPS Troopers are allowed to shoot out the tires of a car to immobilize it during a car chase. Yeah, that’s not a typo, give it a Google, you’ll see. I found a story about that happening as recently as July 2017. Odds are there have been more since, but it just didn’t make the news. If you did that while working for the Dallas Police Department for example, you may as well head straight to the quartermaster and turn your stuff in because your days as a Dallas Police Officer are probably over.
Societal pressure causes policy makers (usually Police Chiefs) to make policy changes under the guise that they are for the “betterment and safety of everyone”. Before I became a Dallas Police Officer, legend has it, that it was not uncommon to have more than one car chase happening at the same time on a busy night. Soon after becoming a police officer, policy changes were implanted basically making car chases obsolete. Unless they committed a violent felony in your presence or they were fleeing the scene of a violent felony, you let them go if they ran. Some will say this is a good thing, it is safer for everyone involved and they would be right. I have family members and friends too. I certainly don’t want to see some ding dong crash into them and hurt them while running from the police, I don’t care what that person did. That should go without saying, no one wants that to happen. The question still remains, at what point do we let the criminals “win”? Where is the tipping point of saying, “we will get them another day” versus “we must not let the criminal element think they run the show”?
Ultimately, everyone wants two things to happen when it comes to making our communities safe. They want police to get the “bad guy” and no one get hurt in the process. Sounds amazing in theory, but it’s impossible to expect that to be the norm. Adding fuel to the fire, is the quickness of society to assign blame on the police. Anytime something “goes wrong” even if it was due to the poor decisions of the suspect. I can’t stress enough how much I understand the tragedy of ANYONE getting hurt when the police are out there trying to do their job. Let’s not forget, the human being wearing that badge has to deal with the results of the incident too. They have to sleep at night knowing a car chase he or she initiated, ended in the death of another human being, innocent bystander or not.
Another tragedy is it is becoming apparent that police aren’t in the business of catching bad guys anymore. They are now armed risk mitigation experts with the HOPE of catching a “bad guy”. I understand that the inherent idea of “protecting and serving” also means not putting the members of society in any unnecessary risk. I really do understand that, like I said, I have family and friends too. But to suggest that police officers, police chiefs, or even policies on paper, can mitigate and prevent any and ALL tragic incidents from happening, while still trying to maintain a lawful and safe society is simply impossible. Policing a lot of times isn’t pretty. The foot chases, fights with people high on drugs, and shootings that you see on the news, are certainly not an ideal outcome. Nor are they easy to watch or even easy to accept as the outcome. However, that is the true harsh reality of what happens when police officers confront the most violent 1-2% of society on a daily basis. When will we place the blame on the person who chose to fight the police? Or failed to comply with lawful orders to “get on the ground” or “show me your hands”? These questions and issues are legitimate and I feel are leading to a very timid and reactive police force across the country.
Not being able to chase someone who refused to stop in a car, or now, on foot, is demoralizing. It’s almost counter-intuitive for police officers. You are a police officer, they are running from you – presumably for good reason – you should go catch them! Policy says you can’t, so you turn off your lights, slam your hand on the steering wheel, throw the microphone down and feel completely defeated and yell, “Handcuffed again!!! Have a good one sir” as you watch the car drive away.
“Swallow your pride, be the bigger person, it is safer to let them go” non-police will likely say. What if that person just killed their entire family, is wanted for multiple horrific crimes in another state, or any other number of reasons someone would run from the police? It’s a huge “what if” – trust me I’m not oblivious to the risks associated with high-speed chases – but where is the line between “law and order” and “risk management”? How about the situation where you come around the corner at an apartment complex and a person sees you, drops a gun and drugs and runs and you can’t chase after them thanks to a new “foot chase policy”. How demoralizing.
I also don’t want to hear the suggestion that a policy is for “my safety” as a police officer. I knew the risks when I chose this profession and I appreciate the sentiment, but quite honestly, if I want to chase after someone on foot who may be dangerous, that’s my choice. I’ll accept the consequences. Can you imagine if you were a victim of a crime and you point out the suspect to the responding officer and the officer says, “I’m sorry sir, I can’t chase after him, my policy doesn’t allow me to pursue someone on foot when I’m alone, it’s too dangerous.” I’m sure that would go over great.
Times have changed. Ultimately, we all know why – liability, money, societal pressure – I think it’s important to realize that police officers jobs are continually getting more difficult. With advances in technology and the advent of social media, their jobs actually are getting harder each and every day. They are expected to be perfect, yet productive, while the tools on their tool belt are slowly being removed or restricted with each passing year. Can you imagine someone coming into your job and saying, “Alright, new rule, you must continue to do your job, maintain your current level of productivity, but you will tie one arm behind your back when you come into the office, good luck!” You’d go nuts! How is that fair? Well, police officers are facing this more and more every day.
Adding to the pressure for perfection, body cameras and cellphone videos now allow for instant scrutiny and the criticism from the public and news media seems to grow increasingly louder, as the “silent majority” sits idly by. This article isn’t being written to suggest police officers should be allowed to “do as they please” or “get the job done, without regard to safety or accountability.” I am simply focusing on how things are changing through the eyes of a modern day police officer. I will discuss balancing proactive policing and accountability as these articles progress, I promise.
If you want evidence showing the effects of societal pressure for police to be reactive and not proactive, do some research regarding the Baltimore Police Department since the Freddie Gray incident. In today’s USA Today newspaper, there is an article where their Interim Police Chief flat out says his police force has become much more reactive in nature, which has resulted in a tremendous spike in violent crime.
So the billion dollar questions are: “Where is the line for police officers in regards to what we allow them to do in order to keep our communities safe?” “How proactive do we want our police officers to be, knowing that with proactive policing comes risk, but also highly increases the chance our community is safer?” “Will we objectively place the blame where it belongs when things go bad?” “Are we as a society okay with a completely REACTIVE police force that just shows up when called and handles the crimes AFTER they’ve been committed?”
Interesting questions to ponder. And that is what I’ll let you do. Until next time.
Thank you for reading and walking in their shoes for a little while.
Being a police officer is a tough job, few people will disagree. Even those who outwardly say they “hate” police, protest police, or honestly think police have evil intentions, have to see that the job is difficult. That’s if they’re being honest with themselves of course. Just minutes before writing this article, I saw a story about people protesting at a scene in Chicago, where an ATF agent was shot in the face conducting an undercover operation. There were people standing outside the barricades and crime scene tape shouting various chants and holding a sign that read, “Stop the harassment.” Many issues and perspectives are in play regarding this incident.
First, we have a Federal ATF Agent shot in the face by a person later confirmed to be a gang member that has had a strong hold on that neighborhood for over 50 years. This was the fourth law enforcement officer shot in that neighborhood in a year. Second, we have a community who feels wronged by the strong police presence that resulted in the aftermath of the shooting. Residents told local news reporters that they don’t think it’s fair that when an officer is shot, there is an overwhelming response, but when a citizen is shot, the response is much different.
I think most can agree that both incidents are tragic and deserve thorough and efficient responses. I also don’t believe that the Chicago Police Department “doesn’t care” when a citizen is shot or killed. This wasn’t said outright, but was implied in the statements some citizens gave to the news. When an officer goes down, you can be assured that every officer available will respond to help in dealing with the aftermath of that incident. Much like when a citizen is shot, every available officer will respond. The major differences are driven by protocol and policies that dictate how incidents involving police officers acting in the course of their duties are investigated. One important factor was overlooked and probably unknown to the citizens, a Chicago PD officer returned fire at the suspect in response to the ATF agent being shot. Once this happens, it elicits a full on response not just for the injured officer, but entire teams of investigators tasked with solely investigating the use of force by the Chicago PD officer. This is part of the push for transparency that communities nationwide called for and is part of why there is such a large police response to these incidents.
What is unfortunate is the sentiment of the community where they feel it is truly an issue of “who is more important”. I wonder what their response would be when it was explained to them that a large response was necessary to investigate all aspects of the incident. I won’t sit here and deny that there is a massive response when an officer is shot or killed. However, juxtaposing that to the response when a citizen is shot and killed doesn’t seem fair. Laws in most states have made the shooting or killing of a police officer or first responder an aggravated offense, in some states punishable by the death penalty. In Texas for example, it is a Capital offense which immediately brings the death penalty into play. With this being the case, the way these incidents are handled are much more manpower and labor intensive, there is just no way around it.
The fact that the citizens of this neighborhood were also holding signs saying “Stop the harassment” shows the deep divide between perception and reality when it comes to the police and that neighborhood. The anti-police narrative is largely fueled by perception. The perception that police swarming a neighborhood looking for someone who shot a federal agent in the head was viewed as “harassment” goes to show that the message from the community members is conflicting. In one instance, they are saying, “You don’t do enough when a citizen is shot and killed!” And then turn around in the same breath and say, “Stop the harassment!” So which is it? They want police to come in fast and heavy every time there is a shooting in their neighborhood? If they do that, will you accuse them of harassment? I guess it is safe to say the message from some in the community can be contradicting and confusing. It’s also important to note that one of the news articles stated that 82 people were shot in Chicago that week. I guess the members of that community want peace and safety, but only if it means that they are not “harassed” in the process. This seems like an impossible demand to meet, like I said, being a police officer in 2018 is difficult. The demands and expectations of police to solve violent crimes and police violent neighborhoods, without disrupting the normal everyday life of the citizens is impossible. There will be barricades, crime scene tape, and people questioned. It’s the unfortunate part of violence in the streets of America. In doing so, the police are subjected to taunting, protests, and insults, all while merely trying to rid the streets of violent gun toting gang members.
This sadly reminds me of comments I’ve heard about what some officers experienced in Dallas, Texas on July 7th, 2016. On that day, five officers – four from Dallas PD and one from DART PD – were gunned down during a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas. One officer said that while running for cover and diving behind cars as bullets flew indiscriminately, he was yelling at people to “get down” so they didn’t get shot. He said their response was “They’re shooting at you pig, not me!” Wow. That’s a soul crushing thing to hear. Police officer or not, that hurts the soul to hear those words spoken. It makes you sad to think that someone has that much hate in their heart toward someone solely because of their profession or the uniform they wear. One would think that doing the right thing and trying to help each other would be the foremost priority with bullets flying down the street. It’s important to note, civilians were shot in this incident too, not just police officers. Proving the often stated saying I heard in my years of working in dangerous Dallas neighborhoods to be true, “Bullets know no name.”
When the unthinkable happened and the bullets began to fly, the police officers didn’t pick and choose who they tried to save. They didn’t pick or choose who they laid on top of to shield from possible death or injury. Countless police officers dove behind cover and helped anyone they possibly could in hopes that they would all make it out alive. Officers closest to the gunfire ran toward it and confronted the evil face to face. For one officer, this cost him his life. Officer Brent Thompson of the DART Police Department, died as he confronted the shooter face to face. He didn’t care about who was protesting, or the fact the protest was essentially against police, he ran toward the danger in hopes of ending the threat and saving lives. Period. Without hesitation, he rounded a corner of a building and tragically ran right into the shooter. It cost him everything. A true hero if you ask me. His actions highlight what police officers are really all about, but many fail to see this aspect of police officers. Most of society knows police officers die and the job is dangerous, but many citizens don’t instinctively run toward gunfire, police officers do.
Truth be told, there were many heroes that night, police and civilian, of all colors, shapes, and sizes. I knew some of them personally and had the pleasure to work alongside many of those who engaged the shooter and brought the worst night in law enforcement since 9/11 to a conclusion. But in the middle of it all, there was still hatred to a level that is disturbing and unimaginable to most. “They’re shooting at YOU PIG, not me.” Can you imagine? Put yourself in that officer’s boots for a minute, what do you do then? All they wanted to do was help anyone, help everyone.
So how do we change the mind or the perception of the person who uttered those hateful words in the middle of a horrific attack? Why do some people feel this way? Why do some citizens have so much anger toward the very people – who without hesitation or bias – sprang into action in attempt to save the very people who were marching in protest of them, the police?
The answer isn’t a simple one. I’m not even certain there is a “solution”, definitely not just one solution. This issue, like many things I will discuss on this page are multi-layered. To start, we need to remember that humans are flawed, in many ways and yes, this includes police officers. When you deal with groups of people or society in general, you will have extremists or outliers. For example, ignorant people who belong to hate groups, terrorist groups, or any form of extremism. They exist, sadly. Thankfully they are a very small minority of the population, but they exist nonetheless. I’d like to think the person who said that chilling phrase is part of a very small minority in society. Some people will hate police no matter what, so accepting that notion, what about those who are on the fence? Or maybe those going along with the narrative that police are evil or racist because they haven’t stopped to look at things from another perspective?
Hopefully, with the advent and implementation of body cameras will slowly help the citizens see the truth. The truth, that no matter who you are, what you look like, or whether you like police or not, when the gunfire starts, the police will act, without hesitation and without regard for their own safety. I can’t think of another incident or set of circumstances that could illustrate the true colors and mindsets of the police officer than what took place that night in Dallas, Texas. True acts of heroism, love, compassion, and honor were shown that night, highlighting what is really inside the heart of our good and noble police officers.
Having said that, I would be remiss to ignore the fact there have been instances and circumstances involving police that show the complete opposite of what we saw on July 7th, 2016 in Dallas. What do I mean? The name Rodney King says it all. The fact that horrific and horrible things have taken place involving police cannot be denied or overlooked. It lends truth and validity to the feelings of mistrust and even hate toward police officers. The one saving grace is the fact that these incidents are extremely rare and not the example of what police officers are all about. I am not suggesting that the police have suddenly raised the bar to a level of perfection and nothing bad happens anymore. That would be a lie. Bad things still happen today, on and off camera. Why do these bad things still happen on camera (body worn) or not? Honestly, I think because police are human. Police aren’t without imperfections, bias, or flaws. They’re a human being doing a job with the expectation of society to be perfect. It’s impossible. Good officers will make poor decisions and completely embarrass themselves, their department, and their profession. This makes it all that much harder on the “good police officers” and has a lasting ripple effect on the perceptions of law enforcement as a whole.
I know as soon as some people read this they will be saying to themselves, “Police are still held to a higher standard!!!!” Absolutely they are, that should not and will not change. I’m simply pointing out the fact that bad things can and will continue to happen when you have humans trying to police a violent and unpredictable society. I do believe and hope that body cameras will continue to show that as a whole, police officers are out there doing the right thing, working hard, to keep America safe. There have already been countless instances where police were accused of horrible misconduct and the body camera completely vindicated the officer, once the footage was released. More on that another day.
I think it is safe to say, there is a lot of discussion to be had about the varying facets of society and policing in America today. No one incident is ever identical, no incident “routine” when it comes to police work. The perceptions of the citizens in our communities are affected each and every time an incident takes place involving police, good and bad. Police officers know that and are working hard to improve perceptions, I can assure you. They want to be respected, trusted, and valued, like every human being.
On the two year anniversary of July 7, 2016, I hope that people can read this article and examine how we perceive things that happen in society today. I hope we can honor those who gave their lives, doing nothing more than blocking a street, allowing people to exercise their right to march for a cause they deemed worthy. I hope we can remember the “Dallas 5” and recognize that evil is out there and when it rears its ugly face, police officers will run toward it and attempt to shield the innocent from it. Without hesitation or bias, they will give their life to save yours.
So what now? That seems to be the age old question. I will continue to write about this topic and many others in hopes of opening up dialogue and discussion that can be productive in helping people of all backgrounds gain understanding. I hope to say things that police officers want to say, but can’t out of fear of punishment from their employers. I also hope to be fair and not only discuss or see things from one side. I have a true passion and respect for policing and know the sacrifices the men and women in uniform make to keep our country safe day in and day out. Stay tuned, there’s more to come. I hope you enjoyed reading this, thank a first responder today.
Hello and welcome to The Officer Next Door website and blog! Thank you for coming, we hope you enjoy your visit!
The website is being created and content is being written so stay tuned.
Though this website / blog is in its infant stages of development I’d like to share with you my vision of what this site will become.
The major hope is that this will become a site people can come to and read about events involving police officers in the United States and around the world. Discuss incidents that happen, gain perspective, have meaningful dialogue, or simply get an opinion from someone who has likely “been in those shoes”. This site will share all sorts of stories, even positive ones, to keep people talking and understanding what it is like to be a police officer in 2018.
As the name suggests, police officers are human, one may even live next door to you. They might have a squad car parked in their driveway, maybe you have seen them going to and from work wearing a uniform, or you may have no idea because they work in an undercover capacity. Either way, they are a part of the community whether they are on duty, or off. My goal and vision for this site is to “humanize the badge” and offer perspective through the lens of a police officer, while juxtaposing the civilian point of view. Furthermore, I hope to help those who have never been a police officer, see things through their eyes and mindset. I will never be able to tell you exactly what an officer was thinking during a certain incident or event, however, I can likely share my opinion based on my experience and attempt to shed light on what they may have been experiencing. Interesting? I hope so.
Ultimately, I want to communicate, discuss, debate, share, and laugh. Learning comes from understanding. So why not try “putting yourself in their shoes”?
Thanks for stopping by, be safe, and thank an officer today!