Are We the Enemy?
4 things you can do now to improve public safety & relations between cops & communityBy Michael A. Orticelle | Jul 12, 2016
In previous Calibre Press articles I asked some questions. First: Where’s the outrage? Second: What happens when the police stop doing their jobs? What happens when the police stop doing their job is rhetorical, but the outrage question is not. I am still awaiting an answer to that one.
Once again we mourn the loss of our brothers in blue.
The Dallas officers killed protecting Black Lives Matters protestors address my question about officers not doing their job. These officers were on duty to ensure the civil rights of a group of people who, generally speaking, don’t like them—and worse. These officers upheld their end of the social contract and stood tall defending the Constitution.
Officers across the globe resist the natural flight reflex that every human has when faced with extreme danger and run toward the danger in order to save others. Let’s see how many of the protestors, so adept in posting videos online, post videos thanking the police for putting their lives on the line to keep them safe.
The lack of outrage by society as a whole is not surprising. The national conversation about police use of force is based on misinformation and in some cases outright lies. Police officers have been vilified by the press, social media, and even top officials in the government. It seems as though politicians are more concerned about removing guns from society—a task that any sane person realizes is nearly impossible—than they are about calming the racial tension that has divided this nation.
We have made progress as a nation, progress I have witnessed first-hand in my lifetime, which was hard fought. My fear is that our leaders squander this progress as they cynically pander to divided and fearful constituents.
Delving into the Stats …
Are the police the enemy? Are they targeting black Americans?
Statistics show a different story. According to ZeroHedge.com, 509 citizens have been killed by the police so far in 2016. Of the 509 killed, 238 were white males and 123 black. Four hundred and twenty-seven (427) were armed with either a gun, knife, toy gun, or used a vehicle to threaten or injure officer(s). One hundred and twenty-three (123) had some form of mental illness.
Meanwhile the Officer Down Memorial Page lists 59 police officers killed in the line of duty so far in 2016. Officers who were killed by gunfire is at 26 which is a 63% increase since this time last year.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics report of “Local Police Departments 2013: Personnel, Policies, and Practices” shows that there were 477,000 sworn officers in the country as of January 1, 2013. In the same year 27% of the sworn officers were a member of a racial or ethnic minority. About 12% of the police force identified as black or African American, which accounts for about 15% of the national population. By comparison, Google, which has one of the most robust programs to promote diversity in the private sector, is just 2% black or African American. As any cop will tell you, we’re a mixed bunch with a common goal.
Jim Glennon wrote recently, “The default that cops are racists just doesn’t bear out in the stats.” But you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise by watching the evening news or perusing the internet.
Bottom line: The savage and cowardly shooting of police officers does nothing to help either side of the conversation come to terms with the problems in our society.
Is there some way we can fix the damage that’s already been done? The lives lost can never be recovered. Those affected by the loss will have to live with the pain forever. We need to do something today so that more civilians and officers do not have to lose their lives.
Teach the children: We teach our children how to survive in the world. Lessons such as looking both ways before crossing the street and don’t play with fire are instilled in us at a young age. Why not teach children to respect the police and how to act when they have to interact with an officer? Fighting, being disrespectful, and not complying with an officer is going to end badly and yet it’s so easy to avoid.
Hold everyone accountable: When a police officer is involved in a shooting, he or she is held accountable. If they violated the law or departmental policy, they will be disciplined. We don’t hold all of society at the same level of accountability. If the law is not equitably enforced, then it loses its deterrent value.
Don’t be so quick to judge: Social media and the continuous news cycle have created an unrealistic perception that every question can be answered immediately. Criminal investigations need time to unfold so that the truth can be found before we wrongly accuse someone. I implore everyone to please wait to pass judgment. Let the facts come to light.
Make up your own mind: Don’t let someone else’s idea of what took place become your truth. Do some of your own investigating. If you are interested in a situation, watch several sources and weigh through the truth and the embellishments that news organizations use to sell media. Also: Be as conscious as possible of your own implicit biases and account for these to the best of your ability. It’s not easy, but it’s more intelligent than simply confirming your biases over and over again.
The police as the enemy is not a healthy or helpful position for a society to take. Police enforce the laws the people, through their representatives in government, create. If we’re the enemy, what’s the alternative? I fear there is no alternative, just more griping.
We need strong leadership at many levels. Community leaders, journalists, celebrities, and politicians, among others, need to stop vilifying the police and work to heal the nation. As the nation mourns the deaths of the officers and the individuals killed in altercations with the police, I pray that we can find a way to get along.
Always honored; never forgotten.