I remember growing up and being taught both in school and at home to always respect authority figures. This includes police officers, but in recent years there has been a shift in the public’s perception of those who don uniforms and pledge to protect and serve. Questioning authority (or anything) isn’t always a bad thing. It can shed light on a gray area and raise awareness about topics not discussed enough.
In recent years, there have been numerous articles and TV news stories about police not acting in the best interest of the public, specifically with people of color and minorities. These stories are real and deserve every ounce of attention they garner, but that does not mean all those in law enforcement are bad people.
In a world where everything is digital and people are quick to pull out their phones to record events, it’s difficult to be a police officer. I’ve seen on Facebook countless videos of people getting pulled over for speeding, going through a red light, or even failing to stop at a stop sign and pulling out their phone to record the incident to add to the hate culture currently being placed on law enforcement officers. They will often talk back to the officer in attempts to capture a quick buzz-worthy moment.
“At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade,” John Kelly and Mark Nichols, writers for USA Today, wrote. “Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses.”
That number may look large, but there are currently over 900,000 police working throughout the United States. Almost 22,000 police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 1786. An officer dies every 55 hours or 158 a year. In 2017, there were 60,211 assaults of various kinds against police officers causing over 17,000 injuries.
Dr. David J. Thomas, a former police officer and senior research fellow at the Police Foundation, wrote about police culture and how in a way, it is very isolating. He also acknowledged police don’t always do the right thing and there needs to be better protocols in place for offenders. He believes police need to work to regain the publics’ trust because of past indiscretions.
“We work for the citizens in our communities, and we do not have the luxury of selective policing. Such thinking is destructive, and we are no more entitled to respect than the citizens that we serve. Our actions have cost us something far greater than the respect of the communities we serve; we have become indiscriminate prey for those who are looking for a reason to attack us, ” Thomas said. “The greatest challenge that we have is regaining the trust of those that we serve. This is the challenge and unfortunately, it has become our job.”
Are police always justified in their actions? Absolutely not. Do people sometimes antagonize the police? Of course. Are there bad cops? Yes. Sometimes the system is broken and needs to be restored. Many go into this profession for the right reasons and I believe it’s important to out the bad ones but to also share stories of the good ones. Everyone in the country should feel safe and protected by those in law enforcement.