On Thursday, I was more than happy to share a story about a Facebook photo posted by the Gainesville Florida Police Department that had gone viral under some rather whimsical circumstances. The photo, showing three GPD officers preparing for Hurricane Irma, became fodder for the social masses after a number of mostly female fans found the officers to be quite a delicious treat of eye candy.
All in all, it seemed to be good clean fun and, the officers pictured: Ofc. Nordman, Ofc. Hamill, and Ofc. Rengering, suddenly found themselves swept up into the limelight of internet fame. The officers quickly became dubbed "the hot cops.” Well… to be fair, Ofc. Hamill and Ofc. Rengering became swept up in the hot cop craze. Poor Ofc. Nordman, who had opted for going with a “Braveheart screaming into battle” face during the ad hoc photo-secession, paid the price by being excommunicated from Hot-Copville.
By the time Hurricane Irma passed, Ofc. Hamill, Ofc. Rengering and the Gainesville PD found themselves in the middle of a media storm as the “hot cops” story spread worldwide.
Make no mistake, Gainesville Police Department is no stranger to handling viral media popularity. In 2016, GPD made headlines after Ofc. Bobby White was dispatched to a complaint about kids playing basketball in the road. Ofc. White slammed dunked his call for service, after he opted to join the youth’s basketball game, instead of shutting it down. The popularity of Ofc. White’s thoughtful response was amplified even further when several days after the story broke, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal made a special appearance, playing a pick-up game with GPD and the now famous street balling kids.
More recently, in July of this year, when President Trump infamously offered some candid remarks to a group of police officers that suggested it was ok to rough up arrestees during a speech in New York, he barely made it off the stage before Gainesville PD posted a status on their Facebook page rebuking the President’s remarks. The GPD’s quick and blunt condemnation of the President’s remarks once again earned them public fame.
On Thursday, I was proud to once again share a positive story coming out of the Gainesville Police Department. Though good looks are not really a component of police work, the story was indeed undeniably something that showed law enforcement with a humanistic and upbeat tone. Now, I’m pleased whenever I see a police agency doing something positive, however, I am always especially eager to share any of Gainesville PD’s good works. See Gainesville, Florida is my hometown. Essentially, It makes me feel good to see my old hometown police department looking good.
However, my blissful pride over my hometown police department was ultimately short-lived.
Rather quickly, after I posted the original “hot cop” story, many followers to my page began to alert me to the fact the Gainesville PD’s hot cops were trending for an entirely different reason. Evidently, Ofc. Hamill, one of the “hot cops learned the hard way about how far people will go to learn all they can about you the moment you experience sudden social media fame.
People had discovered that Ofc. Hamill had made two separate Anti-Semitic Facebook posts, years prior to his joining the GPD.
A post published in 2013 by Hamill stated, “Who knew that reading Jewish jokes before I go to bed would not only make me feel better about myself but also help me to sleep better as well. Here is one for everybody, 'What's the difference between Boy Scouts and Jews?' Anybody know? Well, it is because 'Boy Scouts come back from their camps.” One person replied to his post calling it "messed up” in which, Hamill replied, "u don't like it? don't read it then."
In a subsequent post from 2011, Hamill said, “So I find it funny that people will talk about how our government needs to do something about our economy and in reality, it's YOU who needs to stop taking advantage of our system and get a life and do something with your life. Gotta love reality when it hits you in the face. Stupid people annoy me. Put them in an oven and deal with them the Hitler way. Ha-ha."
Needless to say… I was disappointed.
As the hours passed, my disappointment turned into seething resentment and disdain.
Let me be abundantly clear, my anger over the entire “Hot [now] potentially Anti-Semitic Cop” has very little to do with officer Hamill or what he said. Don’t get me wrong as a Jewish man, I find his ability to so easily jest over the systematic murder of 6 million Jews to be reprehensible and disgusting.
However, I truly believe that no matter what someone’s past is, they are always capable of doing great things in this world. In truth, I am probably more forgiving and believe in second chances for people than most might realize.
Instead, the source of my angst over this entire situation is explicitly directed at the Gainesville Police Department and a segment of the general public.
It is unquestionable that Gainesville PD does an excellent job when it comes to sharing good news about their agency. This in itself is commendable. However, when it comes to handling bad news, in this instance, so far they have utterly failed.
On Friday, GPD released a formal statement saying that several citizens had brought information to their attention regarding complaints against Officer Michael Hamill. They assured the public that they take these allegations extremely seriously and they pride themselves on their “philosophy and mission of compassion, inclusion, and respect.” Additionally, Ofc. Hamill was on paid suspension while the matter was being investigated.
After reading their statement, the first thing I thought was, ummm What?!? Who wrote that statement? I don't want that person. Rather, I want the is the person who released this statement:
“Earlier today, the President made remarks that seemed to endorse and condone police brutality. The President of the United States has no business endorsing or condoning cops being rough with arrestees and suggesting that we should slam their heads onto the car while putting them in. The men and women of GPD absolutely reject those remarks and will continue to serve and protect this great community with respect. The President's remarks today have set modern policing back and erased a lot of the strides we have made to build trust in our community, but we hope that each of you will recognize the work we have done to earn your trust. It's certainly possible to enforce laws and arrest very bad folks and do it with respect. The men and women of GPD prove this on a daily basis. YOUR Gainesville Police Department will continue to treat everyone with respect, no matter the circumstances. It is truly an honor to serve this community.”
Don’t get me wrong, I take no contention with the statement they issued in regards to the President’s remarks. However, as an organization they had no problem publicly and uncompromisingly denouncing the President of the United States, however, now we cannot actually say the words “Anti-Semitism?”
Frankly, I wouldn’t be overly surprised by the vanilla statement that was issued, had it come from any other source but GPD. The agency that I have been proud to say represents my hometown. The department who hasn’t shied away from standing up for the right thing by playing politics. Suddenly, now we’re going to go with “there were good and bad people on both sides.”
Let’s take Lieutenant McMillan out of the equation and let me express how that comes across to me as a Jewish man.
Essentially, the lackluster response by GPD says to Tim the Jew, “We play by a different set of rules when it comes to us.” If it is anyone else, including the president, we have no problem setting the record straight. However, when it comes to one of our officers, well… “it’s under investigation and let’s wait for the facts.”
Just so there isn’t any confusion, I didn’t expect nor do I even desire to hear that Officer Hamill had been fired. Instead, what I would like to hear is the Gainesville Police Department, put forth that same vigor and intensity they have displayed in the past, in condemning Anti-Semitism as a whole! Is that too much to ask for? Is there not some inner sense of obligation to indeed express that given the circumstances?
As it sits presently, I’m unsure what exactly the “mission of compassion, inclusion, and respect” is supposed to mean.
Is that towards Nazis? Jews? Holocaust victims? Who? Who exactly are we including and respecting with such a broad sweeping statement? Are we concerned with upsetting the Neo-Nazi citizens of Gainesville and making them feel excluded? Well hell, if that’s the case, we should have invited them to the basketball game with Shaq then.
Ultimately, the failure of the GPD to specifically address the topic has done nothing more than foster the exact thing that I take contention with many of the public comments I’ve read.
Again, I cannot express it enough that I accept that people say stupid things. I understand that people do stupid things. Additionally, I believe everyone deserves a second chance and to not be judged by their past. I do offer but one small caveat to that.
Can a person a least express remorse for a past indiscretion or ask for forgiveness first?
I cannot tell you how many people I saw making comments like, “It’s in this past!” or “People change.” and of course, “Who hasn’t said something in their past they regret.”
Well… yes. Yes, all of these statements are true. However, can someone please point me in the direction of the evidence that suggests that having Anti-Semitic views is in Ofc. Hamill’s past; that he has changed; or that he regrets what was said? Because from where I’m sitting the only thing I’m seeing is that he took a picture and he happens to be good looking.
What exactly are Anti-Semitic or bigots supposed to look like? Are they all supposed to look like Sloth from the movie the Goonies, and therefore Hamill’s neatly trimmed beard clearly excludes him from any bigoted culpability?
Let’s make no mistake here either. It isn’t like four years ago, Ofc. Hamill was running with the wrong crowd, hanging out with seedy hate-mongers, and told a racist joke in the locker-room. Rather, four years ago he publically posted, for all the world to see, remarks that were aimed at making light of the genocidal murder of millions of human beings. Not only did he do so openly, for God and country to see, he also uncompromising did so without remorse; as can be seen in his response when someone pointed out that the murder of Jews by Nazi Germany wasn’t all that cute or funny.
Ultimately, our willingness to so quickly overlook Hamill’s past public glee over genocide speaks volumes of our ethical character as a society. Why? Well, because the only reason he is so easily being forgiven, without even expressed remorse, has absolutely nothing to do with a single overt action he’s made.
No, instead, everyone so quickly says, “no biggie” as a result of one thing and one thing only. His physical attractiveness. He is good looking.
Look, I don’t begrudge the guy for being good looking. I truly don’t. However, the reason everyone is so quick to say he’s a good guy, and a changed man is based on exactly what fosters prejudice and bigotry, to begin with.
A willingness to judge others solely by their outward appearance.
In this instance, it doesn’t make us feel so icky since we aren’t judging another person poorly because of the color of their skin or how they look. Rather, we are arbitrarily estimating positive qualities based on someone's appearance. Yet, I ask is not the superficial characterization of other people still the same?
Without question, I consider looking for the best and not the worst in people to be a far better mindset in which to go through life. However, in this instance, we actually have episodic evidence to support the potential for some less than desirable characteristics. Shall, we all just overlook those potential traits in order to accept what is more palatable to us personally?
At the end of the day, I have no yearning for a pound of flesh in order to satisfy my angst. Rather, my fundamental desire is that people, including the Gainesville PD, do the right thing. The right thing doesn’t mean failing to forgive or provide one with an opportunity to overcome past mistakes. Frankly, firing Ofc. Hamill does nothing more than ensuring if he didn’t really hate Jews before, he sure will now.
Instead, I would like to see Gainesville PD…my hometown police department… use some of that outside the box thinking that has made me so fond of you, to begin with. Take all of that viral fame and do something meaningful with it now. Do something that could extend beyond simply one police officer or department. Because this doesn’t have to be a story with a bad ending.
Pack that fame, and Ofc. Hamill up and send him to the National Holocaust Museum. Or, they are growing far and few between, however, there still are some Holocaust survivors living. Sit him down with one of them and let them tell him what it was really like in Nazi concentration camp.
Hell, I’m three hours north of Gainesville in Savannah, Georgia. Send, Ofc. Hamill up this way, I would be more than happy to sit down and talk to him. My synagogue would welcome him with open arms and give him an opportunity to actually get to know some people who are Jewish.
Document that! Put that on your social media pages and website. Let the media take that story and run with it back into the viral stardom of good news. You have an opportunity here… just do something meaningful with it… please.