Most Americans understand that law enforcement is a dangerous and necessary job but do not truly appreciate just how dangerous the public safety profession has become. Attending the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Services on May 15TH served as a stark reminder of the dangers we all face, yet a highly vocal few characterize us as public enemies.
Forty-six officers were killed by gunfire last year and 64 the year before, with many of these being by ambush. As I write this, there have already been 27 gunfire deaths in 2018 – up 42% from the same period last year.
The public cries out for answers and immediately blames guns, followed quickly by a demand for gun control. We in law enforcement are not really surprised at this escalation of violence.
We, as a nation are losing our moral compass, and technology is helping to push us along at lightning speed. We have become a society teeming with hostile, antagonistic right-fighters who arm themselves with half-facts and outright fabrications.
They use social media to build support for their misguided beliefs. Hollywood makes murder seem prestigious, exciting and cool, while law enforcement is demonized by the media and liberal politicians.
There is a growing generation immersed in a dark online fantasy world, using social media to expound hate. Add constant access to video gaming and online violence and all of this makes for a toxic mix of anonymity, isolation and desensitization to humanity.
What are the consequences of this desensitization and reckless, extreme rhetoric? Assaults on police officers are rapidly increasing, making an already dangerous job deadly. What it’s doing is ripping apart the very fabric of America … one peace officer at a time.
COPS ARE PEOPLE, TOO
We are ordinary people who accepted a higher calling of public service. And at times, we are called upon to do extraordinary things. Holding this nation together are some 800,000 peace officers across the country who have a strong commitment and sense of community.
We show up to work each day for far too little pay and subject ourselves and our families to danger and hardship. We finish our shifts, go home and hug our kids just like everyone else.
We try to shield our loved ones from the pain and raging storm of emotions deep inside us. When we close our eyes, we are haunted by sights that cannot be unseen and we try to rationalize the unspeakable evil we witness almost daily.
Even after our worst days we pull ourselves out of bed and suit up, strap on a badge, a gun and a vest, and do it all over again.
We carry a burden so great that every 57 hours in America a police officer takes their own life. For all of this, we are portrayed as public enemies.
So go ahead and blame the police. Go ahead and make it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain guns legally. It will mean nothing because it still does not solve the underlying problems: a culture of contempt, failing schools, fractured family units, poverty and failed social programs. These are the underlying factors no one wants to acknowledge.
FINDING A POSITIVE PATH …
If those who blame law enforcement truly want to make a difference, stop cursing the darkness and light a path for others. Get off the internet; step down from the soapbox; get off your knees; put down the remote and get out of your armchair. Go into your communities and work toward solutions rather than continuing to promote hate.
What can we do as community leaders? Give a voice to all, engage in meaningful conversation and actively listen to those voices in our communities. Invite all groups to have a seat at the table and give them the capacity to have a real impact and to be part of real solutions.
For those who are marginalized, being heard is empowering. We can do our part through positive dialogue, ethical policing and neutralizing the hate that has crept into virtually every aspect of society.
As community leaders, we have never had a greater opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve. Let’s set the example by lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.
Remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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This article was first published in the FOP Journal. It is printed here with permission.
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