I know I’m fighting an uphill battle. The things I’ve read in recent days– the anger and bitterness I have heard– leave little room for optimism. I’m going to try anyway.
I understand the fear. I understand the anger. My biggest fear is that my son will soon meet a police officer who will misunderstand his behavior and hurt him. Fear is reasonable.
It is also dangerously deceptive.
There are literally hundreds of positive, successful and tragedy-averting interactions between our loved ones and our police on a daily basis. You never hear of most of them because cops, traditionally, are lousy at self-promotion. But, like a spark in dry kindling, news of one tragic event, however sparse in detail it may be, ignites and spreads across social media and becomes the assumed rule, rather than the statistically rare exception.
That is not to excuse or minimize a tragedy that leads from our failure. When one of us fails, we all fail and endure the consequences.
For reasons I have yet to figure out, negativity and outrage spread at a rate exponentially faster than positivity and hope. They also linger in our consciousness far longer. Some of you have already stopped reading and begun typing your “comment” citing a negative police encounter you experienced or heard about. Some of you have grown angry at me for even attempting to defend our cops.
Fear has seeped into our souls, pessimism has taken root and outrage has become a comfortable emotion. In response, our police will grow defensive. They will start to feel attacked, under appreciated, bitter and completely unmotivated. This is a recipe for unrecoverable disaster.
I know I’m fighting an uphill battle. Hell, it may already be too late. But, I am going to try anyway. I am going to tell you about the cops that I have met.
I have met the biggest, toughest, most hardened officers dressed in tactical gear and body armor. And, I’ve watched them wipe away tears as I described the challenges and struggles facing our families.
I have seen groups of police Chiefs spend hours on a Saturday morning sitting and taking meticulous notes as they eagerly learned about our needs, concerns, and fears.
I have witnessed the most junior officers get on the floor and make connections with our kids that would draw envy from the most experienced therapists.
I have seen decorated investigators and police administrators devote countless hours of their time creating and implementing a database of identifying information and personal interests of our loved ones to better serve our needs.
I have watched officers cold, tired and wet, shivering in the rain and snow, refusing to be relieved from their shift until one of our wandering kids was located.
I have watched them cheer and hug each other when the child was found.
I have watched those same officers fall to their knees in grief and self-blame when their heroic efforts were tragically unsuccessful.
I have heard officers beg through tears for the person at the end of their gun’s sights to drop their weapon and not force them to pull their trigger.
I know of officers so damaged and broken from what they were forced to do, they have chosen suicide over living with the grief and guilt.
I have seen staggering kindness and jaw-dropping selflessness. I’ve seen Good so pure, the only reasonable explanation is Divine intervention.
Believe me, I am critical when it is warranted. I have spoken plainly and frankly about our failings and needs for improvement. I do not view this topic with rose-colored glasses and I fight back the fear and dread of “what if” just like you do.
But, I have seen the Good. And, I want you to see it too.
Reach out to them, yes. Educate them, yes. Train them, absolutely.
But take a minute to get educated about them as well.
Be critical. Demand excellence. Demand justice when we fail.
But, understand how fine the line between justice and vengeance.
Don’t judge them unrealistically and rashly.
Don’t dehumanize them. Don’t underestimate their humanity.
They are people. They simply want to survive their shift, do some good, and go home to mow the lawn.
They are my family… like you are my family. I will defend them and go to war for them… like I will for you.
They… We… are the good guys.