A note from the author: This article was originally written about three months ago and in the midst of a wave of similarly focused articles, was put in the publication queue for future consideration. By mid-June it looked as though COVID was spiking again and once more, masks were becoming a big issue as well as dealing with people who just refuse to listen to reason.
Combine this with the demonstrations and protests that have also taken place since I first composed my article and I think you can envision what we may be up against moving forward.
I believe this article is now timelier than ever as we move into the heart of what should be a very hot summer.
I chose to write an article that would resonate with everyone regardless of where they’re from. Being a historian, I wanted to give historic perspective. As a police chief I also wanted to include some law enforcement perspective from both the past and the present.
At certain points in history, such as Pearl Harbor, our nation has experienced situations where even in the face of repeated warnings of increasing safety risks from outside forces, we’ve failed to take rational cautions seriously and then find ourselves caught off guard when actual conflict erupts. We then end up wondering why we didn’t take the threats more seriously.
Flash forward to today. Why haven’t we taken the COVID-19 threat more seriously? We may be taking it more seriously now, but not when it first surfaced as an issue. Originally people were heck bent on minimizing this pandemic. We are given warnings and still there was an air of nonchalance to it. When steps were put in place, when “Safer at Home” became the rallying cry, when people took the “six feet distancing” more seriously things started to come into focus. The local leadership has been phenomenal and, quite frankly, so have all the residents who made it easier for that local leadership to lead.
But there still remains those few who are going to be hellbent on taking advantage of this crisis. Why? Because that’s just what they do. There is another group, perhaps not criminal per se, but also hellbent on messing up the works. You know what I’m talking about. They are the ones who refuse to wear masks, or are having a party with a large group of their closest friends, or going flying down the interstate at warp speed because there is no traffic and/or no real traffic enforcement to speak of.
We, the police, will be the focal point once more in keeping things in order; in being that well-worn proverbial saying of the line between law and disorder. Sometimes in policing we need to rise to the challenge of acting outside of our normal roles of duty. In times of war, for example, law enforcement personnel have literally been called to defend the “front line” while citizen groups backfill the responsibility of enforcing societal laws and protecting the infrastructure. It will be no different now. It will be no different this time.
It will be no different this time.
In my opinion, law enforcement, as distasteful as it may have originally felt, will have to enforce the mask wearing laws, the congregating laws, one direction in park trail directives, etc. Why? Because if we don’t, no one will. And if no one does, we are never going to inch back towards normalcy.
It is up to us to get this ball rolling. Sure, we have been patient. People are going through a lot. We don’t want to be seen as the bad guys. There are more important things to be done. But the fact of the matter is, those who piss in the face of the directives laid down to help re-open the economy are the bad guys. Those selfish people who don’t give a damn are the bad guys. Those that put us between a rock and a hard place are the bad guys.
We must enforce the law whether we agree with it or not. Sending mixed signals will only embolden these obstructionists…and the vast majority of the community want us to get people to do what is expected of them. We, law enforcement, are citizens as well. We do not give up our rights to be involved citizens merely because we pin on a badge and carry a gun.
So, I ask you this under the assumption that we are all family people who want nothing but the best for our kids and our neighborhoods. Knowing that the criminals will be criminals and we can deal with them via a robust neighborhood crime watch, how do we deal with the others on the blocks who just refuse to listen to reason?
As cops, we better figure out a way to do that and do it sooner rather than later.