This has been a heck of a year when it comes to law enforcement. Iâ??d never heard of Ferguson, Missouri but overnight the media had painted the image of a racist officer gunning down an innocent child. While disturbing, Iâ??ve learned not to trust the media. Sure enough what we learned was that while the Ferguson police department had a number of racial issues, the â??innocent childâ? was actually a large young man that had recently committed a robbery and tried to wrestle the gun from the officer that eventually killed him. It didnâ??t matter. The media and those that flock to such events to stir up trouble rioted anyway. The sad truth in the matter was lost amidst the looting.
In Baltimore we had another sad incident which looks, on the surface, like we had rogue officers that inflicted injury to a man that resulted in his death. The media tried and convicted the officers on the nightly news, igniting riots in the streets. Maybe the officers did do something illegal or against procedure. Me, Iâ??ll wait until we have all of the facts.
The popular media is motivated by ratings. Whipping peopleâ??s emotions up, they hope there will be riots in the streets so they can get the footage. We have a media culture that creates the stories if the stories donâ??t exist. Donâ??t kid yourself, the only reason that the press is pushing for officers to wear body cameras is not to protect the citizens â?? they merely want the police out there providing them with footage for the evening news. TMZ will be all over footage of celebrities being pulled over â?? mark my words.
The investigation into Fergusonâ??s police department found they had a strong racial bias and a disproportionate number of non-white officers for the community. It is a bad situation, and every police department in the country would do well to crunch their own data to determine if they have a similar problem, and move to correct it if they do. It wonâ??t stop racism. It will go a long way to repairing the confidence of the public.
At the same time, just because Ferguson has a problem, that doesnâ??t mean that all police departments are corrupt or tainted with racism. The television news is going out of its way to try and get us to all think that every department is corrupt. That alone should make you suspicious.
The real issue we have to contend with is the role of law enforcement officers in our society. I write true crime books so I have met a larger-than-normal number of officers. I have never met a dishonest officer. Iâ??ve met misguided officers, some policemen I donâ??t necessarily like, but none that seemed outright unethical or racists. That doesnâ??t mean they donâ??t exist; they do. I personally think these are in the minority though. Then again, Iâ??m not a person of color. My frame of reference isnâ??t the same as those sensitive to racism.
People have been appalled at how police seem to respond with force. Brutally excessive force is bad; on that we can all agree. So is not doing what a law enforcement officer orders you to do. When you decide to get into a yelling match with an officer or not obey his/her orders, you are putting them in a situation where they have to take some action. Watch Cops sometime. If you want to get into a shouting match with an officer of the law, chances are you are inviting a physical confrontation.
In reality, every time a police officer makes even a simple traffic stop they are putting their lives at risk. It is not just a job, it is a calling. While most of us put in our 12 hours at work and go home, able to shake off the dayâ??s burdens, most officers canâ??t. Law enforcement is a 24/7 responsibility and obligation.
The reality is we all want police to be kind and gentle, kind-hearted, soft-worded, and race-neutralâ?¦until thereâ??s someone breaking into our house. Then we want Dirty Harry. When you turn on your law enforcement community, when you want them to coddle rather than â??cuff, when you neuter their ability to enforce the law, you will get more lawlessness.
Since I was as kid I have always held police officers in high esteem. Despite the efforts of the media to change that perspective, I feel the same as an adult. The real threat to race relations is the press and how they go above-and-beyond to make stories more than they really are. That is a far greater threat to our freedoms than us supporting law enforcement officers.
Blaine Pardoe is a New York Times best selling author who lives in Amissville. He has authored numerous books, many of them focused on crime. You may reach him at BPardoe870@aol.com