I can vividly recall April 27, 2015. I was sitting at my dinner table, and a plate of pork-chops and mashed potatoes lay across from me, getting cold as I watched the city of Baltimore burn. Dismayed and disgusted, I watched as protestors hurled rocks and bricks at police officers. News reporter after news reporter reported the ongoing threat to police officers, as police cars burned in the distance. I could feel the anger raging inside of me as I watched the lives of my heroes jeopardized over teenagers' need for social justice. The Baltimore Unrest was sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, who consequently died of a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Gray's death prompted the notion of police violence, a concept that had heavily permeated the air since the Ferguson Riots just one year prior.
Similarly, Ferguson dealt with the unfortunate fatality of an 18-year-old boy named Michael Brown. Brown was fatally wounded after attempting to grab officer Wilson's weapon, factually proven after Brown's DNA was found on Officer Wilson's gun. In November of that year, a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson in regards to his possible criminality in the shooting of Michael Brown. The failure to indict officer Wilson elicited greater distrust in the criminal justice system for many, as well as leading many to believe that the legal system favored whites over blacks -- a conception that heavily resonates in the minds of many today.
According to a national poll by Gallup in 2014, only 56 percent of adults asserted that they had confidence in police. Fifty-nine percent of white adults agreed that they had a great deal of confidence in police, while only 37 percent of blacks stated that had a great deal of confidence in police.
And as distrust of this caliber grows, as does the resentment against police officers -- resentment that has led to senseless violence against police. Specifically the two police officers who were brutally ambushed and assassinated without warning and provocation while they sat in their squad car (December 20, 2014).
However, what young revolutionaries cease to grasp is the threat criminals pose to the wellbeing of officers. Police officers are taught to assess threats by a threat-to-threat basis. Each threat poses a variance of dangers, and requires a variance of police protocols to resolve the situation-- ranging from pepper spray, apprehension, to deadly force. Use of deadly force is not a police officer's initial choice of resolution, in fact, it's an officer's last resort. Police officers will not draw their weapons until it is absolutely necessary, and they certainly will not use deadly force until they've assessed it to be the only method effective in the particular situation. Police officers are taught the value of human life, and taking it is something they will not do unless it is absolutely necessitated.
Contrary to popular belief, police officers do not get into the business to take lives, carry guns, and write parking tickets. As a criminal justice major, I have met an overwhelming amount of future-officers whose intentions are to protect the general public and make a difference in their communities. I have yet to see the power-hungry, gun-wielding, trigger-hungry, homicidal-maniac that the media has portrayed time and time again. As a police officer, their duty is to enforce the laws that maintain social order and general welfare-- they protect us, insure the safety we often take for granted, and elicit justice against those who wrong us. Without them, there would not be any semblance of social order, and the general public would inevitably be jeopardized as well.
We need police officers. It's that simple. And they should not be vilified for performing their job, the very job that insures the safety of you and I every day.
If you reach for a police officer's weapon, deadly force may be necessary, because in that moment you are presenting a grave danger to that officer and to others.
If you are not compliant with an officer's orders and requests, do not be surprised if you find yourself slammed against the concrete moments later, or with handcuffs around your wrists.
They will respect your personal freedoms and liberties, as long as you respect the duty they are trying to perform, and ultimately, their own lives.
In many of the videos passed around on social media forums, context of the situation is not supplied, thereby allowing civilian ignorance to thrive. Many of these videos attempting to illustrate police misconduct or police violence fail to address the activity that evoked the officer's reaction. These videos aim to victimize criminals while simultaneously vilify police officers. We tend to see young high schooler's thrown to the grown by police officers and we instantly believe that be unwarranted aggression against the young, and presumably, "innocent." However, in many of these cases, these high schoolers failed to comply with police orders following a criminal act they had perpetrated, therefore resulting in an arrest or detainment. These videos do not highlight the innocent and undeserving as many may believe. If the video fails to supply ample factual evidence, or contextual background information, you should not take it seriously, and you should especially not allow it to help formulate your general feelings towards police offices.
A major figure, and head of the war against police officers is the media themselves. In almost every instance of police misconduct, headlines convey poignant words and phrases such as "innocent," "unarmed," and "teenager." Most controversially, reporters will mold their stories around the notion of black vs. white, in some cases, creating a racial issue where one never existed. One headline following the death of Michael Brown bluntly stated: "Unarmed black teenager shot and killed by white cop." Michael Brown was not fatally wounded because of his race, but rather because he presented a grave and immediate danger to the police officer (who just so happened to be white). A black cop probably would have reacted in the same fashion, just as officer Wilson would have reacted had Brown been white. The case was never black vs. white, but the media certainly had us thinking it was.
Admittedly, corruption in the legal system does exist. This is a point I cannot ignore, despite how much despair it brings me as someone wishing to be apart of it someday. I would love to say our criminal justice/legal system is without flaws, and without corruption, but that simply is not true. In some of these cases, officers did breach police protocol and overstep their enumerated duties as an officer of the law.
It is important to remember, however, that this is not the norm and this type of corrupt character is not representative of the police force as a whole. It is decidedly unfair to allow the wrongdoings of a few officers portray the force as whole, or more specifically, the criminal justice system in its entirety. And despite its flaws, our criminal justice system is still the best in the world, for it encompasses freedoms and constitutional privileges people in foreign countries can only dream of.
Corruption runs rampant in a multitude of career fields, yet for the most part it goes unnoticed, and it certainly does not prompt the distrust police has experienced in recent years. Despite hundreds of cases of malpractice, doctors are still generally believed to be "the good guys"-- the ones who save our lives when we're sick. Why have they escaped the scrutiny, discrimination, feelings of mistrust, and overall resentment that police have faced? Why is their corruption somehow better, if it resulted in the loss of human life, as well? Yet, the ones who save our lives on a daily basis are depicted as the bad guys because of their misconduct.
Now I am in no way insinuating that doctors deserve to be detested, nor am I attempting to trivialize their jobs. They too hold a valuable place in our society. I'm merely pointing out a very unsettling societal double-standard. We would never allow the actions of a corrupt doctor represent the medical community in its entirety, so why should we allow this to occur in our justice system?
In this midst of mass vilification of police officers -- in a time when it virtually seems "uncool" to stand beside police officers, one restaurant chain is taking a brave stand against these harmful misconceptions.
Chik-fil-a has recently shared images of their employees sporting shirts with the phrase "back the blue" emblazoned on the back. Chik-fil-a, notorious for boldly standing by its convictions, is taking a stand against violence against police and I couldn't be happier. Similarly, a new hashtag #PoliceLivesMatter has emerged, combating the backlash from the black lives movement that police have experienced.
As a granddaughter of a retired cop, a criminal justice major, and a girlfriend of a future cop, I too am showing my unwavering support for the men and women who risk their lives everyday to insure that we don't lose ours.
I will never stop standing behind law enforcement, no matter what the media tells me to believe, or how "uncool" it becomes.
Police lives matter.