Today my heart is sad and heavy. This is a topic that is close and personal to me and I have a lot to say on it. My goal in this particular post is to try to be as calm as possible, because I could easily let my emotions get away with me. I would say I will try to keep it brief, but that’s a promise I don’t know if I can keep and I can only hope to try to unscatter my thoughts before putting pen to paper (so to speak), so that what you read isn’t just a jumbled mess of thoughts. Here it goes… (for the record, this blog is not about race or the Ferguson situation specifically, that is another post for another time)
I will assume, dear reader, that you are not someone who lives under a rock and that you are aware of the situation in Ferguson, MO. If you don’t know about it, you can continue reading, but you should educate yourself about current affairs.
In Ferguson, a police officer shot a teenager. That’s what it all boils down to. There are exactly two people in the world who know exactly what happened and one of them is no longer alive. No matter what the news reports or what your friends post on Facebook, nobody else knows exactly what happened. Plain and simple as that. There have been a lot of opinions on the matter and even though many of them have been debunked as more evidence comes to light, they are still flying around. If it did happen the way it was initially reported, then sure the officer should be punished, but it isn’t at all clear that it did, especially the more evidence that comes out, and I think it is ridiculous that nobody seems even willing to consider the fact that perhaps the officer is telling the truth. His is a completely valid scenario. Police officers have the right to defend themselves just like everyone else.
And that is what brings me to my main point. Right after the shooting, my Facebook feed (and I assume yours as well) was filled with people sharing posts about the white officer murdering an unarmed black boy. When the autopsy came out and disproved many of the so-called witness statements, those same people were not sharing those stories. Why not? As a journalism major, the lack of fair and balanced coverage of news is appalling. We live in an era of social media which has become a whole new source of the news. Everyone is a “citizen journalist” and should abide by the rules of Journalism 101. These days it seems more important to report first regardless of facts. If a story that has been shared online has been updated with more accurate facts, sharing the updated story is the responsible thing to do. It keeps things fair and balanced. To combat bias, both sides of every story need to be presented accurately and it is our job to make sure that happens, to hold the media to that standard.
On that same vein, if people are only sharing the stories about negative encounters with bad police officers, it further perpetuates the completely inaccurate portrayal of all police officers as horrible people hell-bent on ruining the lives of citizens. Guess what? That isn’t true at all. Are there bad cops? Of course, but the same can be said for any job or any profession. Does that mean they are all like that? No. I read a comment on a story about the protests going on in Ferguson. It said that the protestors are mostly peaceful. There have been a handful of outsiders coming in and being destructive and looting. The comment said that we shouldn’t lump all of the protestors together because they aren’t all bad. That’s a great way to think, but why does it stop there? Why shouldn’t the police in this country be given the same courtesy? I caution anyone against painting any group of people with a broad brush whether that be police officers, African-Americans, Christians, white people, Republicans, Democrats, etc. It is constantly being done and it is heartbreaking. But I suppose it makes the news more exciting to divide everyone into their neat little groups, doesn’t it? If we all got along, then what would they do?
So, in a valiant effort to provide a more balanced portrayal of things, here are some facts and stories I dug around the internet to find:
Some news stories I encourage you to read:
On August 15, 2014, a Lakewood Sheriff was violently attacked when he responded to a domestic violence case at the mall. Note that the suspect was “unarmed” when he bashed him over the head with a blunt object and kicked him repeatedly in the head. Unarmed does not necessarily mean not dangerous.
Roberto Sanchez was an LAPD officer whose vehicle waspurposefully crashed into. Again, the suspect was “unarmed” in this situation.
Here are just handful of the many, many stories about officers killed in the line of duty or some just because they were police officers. Some of these incidents were simply results of what the officer thought was a routine traffic stop: Christy Lynn Hamilton (LAPD), Kyle Dinkheller (LCSO, Georgia), James Capoot (VPD, NorCal), Darrell Lunsford (Nacogdoches County, TX), Timothy Brenton (Seattle PD).
There are hundreds of stories just like these. I would encourage you to read about them and even Google some of the happy police stories. Get to know the job a little more before you start critiquing and criticizing something you don't really understand. Make a police friend and ask questions. It could help a lot.
Imagine if anytime you had a job to do, there was the risk of someone shooting you or killing you. The next time you want to give a police officer a hard time for trying to do his or her job, just remember that they deal with the crap that nobody else wants to. They are the first responders to places like Sandyhook, they are the ones who respond to murders and homes with beat up wives and children. They see the dark and ugly things in this world that we can’t even imagine, things you can’t unsee. Ever. The job they hold deserves a certain amount of respect that they don’t get. Please be helpful and courteous and respectful. They really do want to help. They really do want to protect and serve. They are not mind readers and they are not your personal servants. Many of them have families. Unless you are a criminal, they are not out to get you. They are trained to see things in a way most people don’t, so let them do their jobs. Don’t assume they are all dirty or bad or however you see them in TV and movies.
And say thank you from time to time. I’m sure they don’t hear it enough.