The Greatest Tragedy in Policing is Not the Deeds of Bad Cops, it is the Silence of Good Cops!
The taboo of law enforcement, organizationally, systematically, or individually speaking out against bad behavior, misdeeds or crimes committed by those within their ranks is extraordinary if you think about it. In fact, it’s not just extraordinary, it’s unprecedented. No other profession in America, is it so frowned on to speak out against if you happen to be a member within it.
If a news story comes out about a nurse smothering a patient to death with a pillow because they rang that little call button one too many times, you don’t see nurses across the nation publically saying, “Guys let’s wait until all the facts come in.” Nor, do you see teachers come out and say, “Did you see that girls past dating record? Clearly, she was a whore," if a story is published about some teacher being accused of sleeping with a student.
Nope, only in law enforcement does this terrifying cloud of silence prevail. To some degree, the mistrust of law enforcement from the public can be centered right on the deafening silence or wanton defensiveness by those within the profession. Interestingly, as past events have demonstrated, at times the agencies, themselves who employ an officer accused of misconduct, will come out and condemn their employee’s actions. However, no matter where an event occurs as if by some type of inexplicable ritualistic compulsion, you will suddenly see cops from coast to coast defending the behavior. Basically, you’ll see cops in Michigan defending the actions of a cop in Florida. Whether, they know anyone at the agency, in the area, or have even been to the state of Florida in their natural born life, is irrelevant.
Cops are just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to a willingness to feed their implicit and confirmation biases. They will cry out that the mainstream media unfairly portrays the police, particularly their coverage of a major police related event. Meanwhile, they will get all their information or form their opinions based on law enforcement specific news sites, or fringe police media companies. “The media is biased! They want to fan the flames of a war on the police!”
Ok…. and “Police Lives Union Gazette” that would be… Ummm, a fair and unbiased news source? I guess, “Just the facts” ended when Detective Joe Friday and the show Dragnet went off the air in 1970. (To be fair, Dragnet did try to make a comeback in 2003. However, the fact that you probably didn’t even know that is why it only lasted one season.)
I think one of my absolute favorite things that are cried out should one examine a police related incident is, “Who are you to Monday morning quarterback a police officer?” Ok, first of all, that isn’t even real life. The concept of Monday morning quarterbacking is only a real thing, in the domains of stuff like, baseball, basketball, football…you know, sports. Look, I’m a huge football fan myself, however, in reality, sports are mere distractions from our everyday mundane lives. They are not that vital in the grand scheme of life.
You know what is vital? A person who gets shot seven times and killed by an overzealous police officer, simply because he mentioned he was lawfully carrying a firearm on him during a traffic stop. In fact, that’s really freaking important in the grand scheme of things. Now, I don’t know how many police officers have themselves been pulled over when they were off-duty, but I have. Additionally, the times I was pulled over, indeed I was armed as well. So I don’t know how to break this to you, but indeed, just because you’re a cop doesn’t mean that you cannot get pulled over and the only words you get out is, “Hey! Just want to let you know I’m armed,” before the tranquility of the afternoon is shattered by the thundering explosion of tiny projectiles fired into your body and the air is filled with the smell of gunpowder. You never even got the chance to get out, “I’m a cop.”
Don’t think that could ever happen? Think again! Indeed, out of the police uniform, you could be just as vulnerable as anyone else to an officer who’s quick on the trigger.
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this article already and had yet published it before the exact thing I was saying could happen to an off-duty officer very literally happened when an off-duty St. Louis Cop was shot by another on-duty St. Louis Cop. You can read about it here.
Basically, when it comes to life-altering or deadly, scenarios not only is it acceptable to review these significant incidents, but we SHOULD. How important? Well, considering out entire profession is established on the precedent of safeguarding human life and property, I would say that it’s definitely something we should consider. You know what is even more important to remember? I don’t know, maybe the fact that a huge component of our job is to examine events, try to determine what happened, and then offer our opinion as to what occurred and if someone should be held accountable for their actions. This mystical process is called, investigation, detective work, or sometimes simply summed up as being a police officer.
Even the standard that we should keep out mouth shut at all cost is in itself incredible. Why so? Well, because I’ve very plainly observed law enforcement officials and individual officers rebuke entire neighborhoods, communities, or races of people for them failing to step forward and provide information about criminal activity in an area, or a willingness to speak out against crime being allowed to flourish within. Yet is that not EXACTLY what we're doing when we remain mute?
Incredibly, many of us in the police profession are the same individuals who say stuff like:
“No way in hell we can take the risk letting refugees in our country! Even if only one extremist could be among them, it’s not worth the risk to our national security!”
-Walter Scott was shot and killed while running away from Officer Michael Slager. Something he actually pled guilty to and admitted to unlawfully taking Mr. Scott’s life in Federal court. Should we abolish the police in America as well? Even if it’s just one, we can’t take the risk, right?
“Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization! Didn’t you see in the media what they did in Dallas and Baton Rouge!?!”
“99% of all cops are good, it’s the few bad apples that give us a bad name and the media only shows them. People get a biased view of the police as a whole, because of the media!”
-Can we please, revisit those two statements, say them a couple of times out loud, write them down if you’d like. See if maybe, just maybe there’s something ironic you see between those two trains of thought.
The reality is, law enforcement by no means resembles blind, mute, or deaf justice. In fact, we talk. We talk A LOT and we talk loudly. We just happen to never talk about ourselves. At least not critically. To the point where we, seemingly are an organization comprised of a pristine and unparalleled form of flawless humanity, that has survived secretly for all of history. Because nowhere else can you find human beings so faultless.
You know that the craziest thing of all is? The truth…
The truth is 95% of us are good, well-intended people, who do strive to want to represent individuals who hold high moral values. Sure, we have at times, been rather flawed by the training the cultural climate they have put us in. However, that isn’t the individual fault of 95% of all cops. Rather, the truth is stranger than fiction, in that we actually are overwhelming representative of good and ethical members of society. In fact, overwhelmingly the majority of agencies verified this by examining our backgrounds and polygraphing us before we ever donned the badge. We actually, in most cases, had to demonstrate we were principled people before a lot of us even knew we wanted to be police officers.
Additionally, 95% of us demonstrate our willingness and appreciation for diversity in the fact that our coworkers often make up every imaginable demographic in life. Sure, we are susceptible to the same biased views that society imparts upon us and all people, in how we view other races and groups of people. However, 95% of us, don’t realize it and don’t stop to question why we riding on the same biased fueled bus as the rest of society, because we are sitting in section unconscious, row implicit.
You know what is equally as crazy when it comes to the public? The truth…
The truth is 95% of the public, actually, don’t want to hate the police. The really don’t. They want to respect, admire, and look up to the police. The ones that stop you and tell you they love you, or have their “I Back the Blue” sign in their yard, or sticker on their car, are great and all. But they haven’t faced the same type of historical experiences as everyone else. If they see something a little questionable involving the police on the news, they just head on over to their favorite pro-police social media page, scroll through the comments, soak up the visceral ignorance, and say, “Whew! Ok, I feel better, for a moment there, I thought that looked kind of bad. But I should have known he was a thug and deserved it all along.” Of course, unbeknownst them, the loudest dog in the room, is the weakest dog in the room. So often those comments they read are coming from either police wannabes, cop flunkies, or that officer that you say, “Sarge, seriously you can’t make me ride a beat with this guy. He’s an f%#@ing idiot.”
So at the end of the day, we aren’t really solving a thing when we keep telling people to, “shut-up” or shaming them into support beyond reproach. That type of unwavering loyalty doesn’t represent anything that the police are supposed to symbolize. Instead, it’s the kind of ride-or-die, devotion found in street gangs or religious extremist. So maybe, it isn’t, shutting-up that we need to be asking or ourselves doing. Maybe it’s the exact opposite. Maybe, we need to be opening up our eyes to see, perking up our ears to listen, and opening up our mouths to speak. Most importantly, and it shouldn’t even be that difficult, just speak the freaking truth. Don’t assume the public is supposed to just accept it. Let’s actually do our part and show it.