With so much attention over the last several months focused on the tragic shootings at the Beavercreek Walmart and in Ferguson, Missouri, the police are being vilified in the media now more than ever. As these issues play out in the court of public opinion, people must remember the importance of police and that these men and women are, after all, only human.
Regardless of what people think politically or racially about the situation at the Beavercreek Walmart, without hesitation officers went in to protect the public. What happened next is a tragedy for certain, but irrelevant to this particular discussion. The point here is that the police put their lives on the line because that’s their job.
No one is suggesting that police officers are perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. It does, however, take a particular kind of individual to work as a police officer, at any level. There are those who suggest, however, that the majority of cops are just muscle-headed, former military or high-school football jocks looking to legally exercise their aggressions and bullying nature. Those people need to watch less television.
If a police officer seems detached or cold when he or she is speaking to you it’s because they don’t know you or your intentions. They are constantly on guard, and that’s the way they need to be or they could endanger their own lives or the lives of people around them in a given situation. Keep in mind that badge on their chest may be respectable to everyone else, but makes a pretty good target for the bad guys.
Are there racist, misogynistic, and anti-gay police officers? Of course there are, as much as with any other profession. Prejudices, regardless of how liberal one pretends or tries to be, are normal, and not always outwardly racist or violent. But condemning the entire body of those who protect and serve because of the actions of a few does not make one a liberal or progressive thinker – it makes he or she just as prejudiced as they believe the police to be.
The average person avoids interaction with police officers wherever possible. Most Americans only encounter one during routine traffic stops. But they are always there doing their jobs, and for surprisingly little reward, all things considered.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, as of May 2008 (the most recent, confirmable data available), the average annual wage for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in America was just under $53,000. How many people would willingly put their life on the line for fifty grand a year? Many officers work 10 to 12 hour shifts and smaller departments around the country remain understaffed due to budget cuts and a lack of qualified applicants who prefer big-city jobs.
As for overly-violent and aggressive officers, unfortunately, they exist too. Hopefully, as video surveillance and smart phone technology becomes more invasive, any officers who exert excessive force – above and beyond what is necessary to defend themselves or subdue a suspect – will be discovered and properly disciplined.
On the occasions when the cops are the bad guys, that’s a tragedy, and labels the rest with a bad rap. Once again, remember, police officers are people to, with all the same weaknesses and temptations afflicting every other man and woman since the models first came out.
Even so, the police are not the enemy. Most do their jobs with honor and can be depended upon to help in any time of need, by any citizen.
Final thought: Where guns and emotions are involved something bad will always follow. A little girl cries in the dark after learning that her mother won’t be coming home from her police duty tonight after being stabbed trying to save an old lady from a mugger. A sobbing mother grieves the death of her wayward son after learning he was shot by police when he stabbed a police woman during a failed robbery. No one ever wins. On both sides there is always tragedy.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. http://www.gerydeer.com