Please watch the video linked here. I want to say a few things about it and you’ll need to have watched it to understand everything I’m trying to say.
Watched it? Good. Here’s my response:
First of all, I agree with much of it. Honestly, being a cop is a difficult, challenging, and largely thankless job. Anyone willing to put themselves in harm’s way to “protect and serve” on a daily basis is worthy of our support and respect.
There was once a time in my life when I wanted to be a cop. Largely because of what I had been exposed to in TV and Movies, I thought being a police officer would be exciting and fun.
But then I read a book that was a collection of interviews with actual, real-world police officers and that changed my mind in a hurry. These guys talked about walking into houses where people had been dead for weeks and how the smell nearly suffocated them. They talked about getting calls to dangerous neighborhoods in the middle of the night and discovering that it was a trap and there were guys with shotguns waiting to kill them when they entered the dark warehouse. They talked about cleaning the brains of their partner off their uniforms after a deadly shoot-out.
That’s when I decided that I should stick to writing.
Police work is more difficult and challenging than most of us will ever – ever – know.
Having said that, there is much in this video that I disagree with. Actually, a whole lot.
Those who created this video have done so largely as a response to “those who crucify (cop’s) character while minimizing (their) cause”, and by that they mean people who make up the “very vocal and sparse opposition (who) flood social media with their misplaced passions and their idea of justice.” [To quote the video above]
The incidents they are referring to, no doubt, include the recent shootings of unarmed black men (and women) by police officers over the last year or so. For more specifics on who those people were and how many, you can see a short summary here.
What I object to is the suggestion that those who are critical of the specific police officers who shot and killed these unarmed black people are guilty of “crucifying” the character of every other police officer.
Question: Would it be “crucifying the character” of every school teacher to criticize the few school teachers who (about every other month it seems) get caught having sex with their underage students?
Would you accuse someone who spoke out about priests who sexually molest children in their congregations of having “misplaced passions” or “wrong ideas of justice?”
Yet, whenever someone (like me) shares a link on Twitter or Facebook about yet another police officer shooting involving an unarmed black man or woman, the response is often a very vocal “Shame on you!” for daring to even mention such behavior in a negative light – much less write an actual blog article (like this one).
Furthermore, would we be ok if those teachers were caught molesting our children on video, and yet a Grand Jury decided not to prosecute them, and then they were put back into the classroom again where they could continue to harm more children? Would that be ok?
With priests, isn’t it true that we hold them to a higher standard of accountability simply because of the authority and trust we put in them as people who are sworn to integrity and honor?
And when evidence of widespread abuse of that authority by church leaders comes to light, are we not outraged about that and moved to action? Don’t we want those people to be put on trial, and for justice to be done and for the victims to have a voice?
So, why is it that when a police officer – someone who is equally held in high esteem and honor within our society – breaks that trust, commits a crime, or kills an unarmed person, we suddenly look down on anyone who cries out for justice, or stands up for the victims, or speaks out?
The video clip does make a few good points about policemen: Most are good, hard-working, conscientious people. They love their children. They love their wives and husbands. They love their dog and they laugh and cry and bleed just like every other person on the planet.
What I would like to challenge, however, is the idea that every police officer is automatically “honorable…courageous…” and “…worthy of a nation’s support”.
Really? What about someone like Christopher Dorner? He was a former US Navy officer who served honorably and received several commendations for his service in Bahrain, and then went on to join the LAPD. Soon after, he was fired for attempting to blow the whistle on another officer who was using excessive force. After that termination, he went on a shooting spree and killed several innocent people until he was eventually cornered and shot.
Even the most ardent supporter of police officers would have to admit that there are some police officers who are not worthy of the badge.
And if we really want people to trust the police officers in our community, and to reasonably teach our children to do so, then we need to start seeing abuses of power dealt with and punished – not covered up and shouted down.
Not every police officer is automatically “honorable, courageous, and worthy of a nation’s support.”
Neither is every school teacher automatically a great person or a wonderful member of society.
Nor is every member of the clergy someone that everyone should respect and honor.
The only people worthy of our honor and our respect are those who are actually honorable.
If a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed 12-year-old, he is not honorable or courageous or worthy of our support.
If a school teacher sexually assaults a student, he is not worthy of our respect.
If a priest or a pastor takes advantage of a child, he is not someone we should honor.
Back to the video clip above: I won’t even try to get into the fact that this video features a cast of 23 white people and only 2 African Americans, or argue with their statistic that “Every 53 hours an officer is killed in the line of duty” – which is totally false and can easily be refuted with a quick Google search. (Actual numbers are about half of that).
At one point the narrator says, “I wish I knew how to fix it.” But what she wants to “fix” isn’t the seemingly endless barrage of unarmed black people shot by police. Nope. What she wants to know how to “fix” is the way police officers are perceived in the media, and by the American public. Specifically, she wants to stop people from criticizing police officers, regardless of why they criticize them.
Want to fix it? Here’s an idea: Start eliminating “bad cops” who use excessive force. Stop punishing “good cops” who try to blow the whistle. Start weeding out applicants at the Police Academy level who tend to be bullies who can’t wait to get that badge and gun. Start putting police officers who use excessive force on trial for their crimes. Start prosecuting cops who choke people to death on the sidewalk, or who shoot 12-year-olds dead in the park, etc.
Any of those ideas would be a great start. But it’s much easier to just make a video.
I’m all in favor of honoring the good cops who genuinely care about the people they protect and serve. Let’s do all we can to help them. We need their tribe to increase.
But at the same time, let’s please also do all we can to eliminate the bad cops who give those good cops a bad name.
Why would anyone be against the idea of doing both?
African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police
, there have been eight police killings over the past two years.
— a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms — police shootings average about a dozen a year.
Keith Giles and his wife, Wendy, work with Peace Catalyst International to help build relationships between Christians and Muslims in El Paso, TX. Keith was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church over a decade ago to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today he is the author of several best-selling books, including “Jesus Undefeated: Condemning the False Doctrine of Eternal Torment” which is available now on Amazon.