One only has to look at the news to realize that law enforcement officers are increasingly being attacked, both verbally and literally, by some of those we are sworn to protect. According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, between Jan. 1 and April 20, 48 officers were killed in the U.S., 15 of them by firearms. Many more have been injured.
We all witnessed the assaults on police officers in our nation’s Capitol in January, and some of us are aware that across the nation cops are being killed, wounded and shot at by emboldened criminals on an almost routine basis.
In Texas, we have seen the bloody trend close up. In recent days, a state trooper was shot to death near Mexia. Another trooper was shot during a manhunt. An Austin officer was shot and wounded, and the same thing happened even more recently to a Burleson policeman. Other Texas officers have been fired on or assaulted by brazen offenders. A couple of months ago, a man attempted to kill two of my officers by firing at them multiple times.
What is going on here, and who or what is responsible? And is anyone outside of law enforcement alarmed by the apparent trend?
As far as I can determine, there have been no violent mobs setting fires, looting businesses and making off with flat-screen televisions to demand justice following the murder of an American police officer anywhere. To even the casual observer, this would appear to represent some sort of double standard.
Again, what has contributed to a state of affairs in which too many feel attacking law enforcement officers is an acceptable or even laudable thing to do because a cop perhaps thousands of miles away did something fatally stupid? History tells us that extremists of all kinds have long demonized those they hate, often with violent and tragic results. Perhaps without even realizing the potential consequences of their actions, some of today’s loudest, most venomous politicians and self-appointed police experts have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-cop messaging targeted on demonizing peacekeepers. Little wonder that too many Americans are confused and wondering if the faith they have in their hometown officers is misplaced.
News reports tell us that numbers of police officers in places like Portland, Oregon — the home of long-running anti-police violence — are abandoning the profession. Sadly, the most strident anti-police voices likely see this as a good thing because they mistakenly assume that the brutes and bigots are departing. The question they seem to be ignoring is this one: Who is going to replace these officers, most of whom are ethical professionals? Given the present atmosphere, what normal human being would want to experience the hatred and violence that being a police officer today can bring?
Violent crime is already skyrocketing in too many big cities where cops are reluctant to get involved and criminals feel increasingly empowered. The quality of the candidates who will be attracted to police work under these conditions is something we all should worry about.
Those of us who have been in this business for a long time readily acknowledge that we have to get better at what we do. We are working on that each day. We also recognize that there still are people working in our noble profession who do not belong there. Dealing effectively with that issue is our job, too.
But we know that murdering police officers, whether in the halls of the U.S. Capitol or on the roads of Texas, will not help us reach these goals. Hatred and violence are both contagious. When they are directed at those who are pledged to protect and serve us, our nation is in trouble.
The better news is that many Texas police agencies already have in place the “reforms” that some of the loudest police critics have demanded. We ban chokeholds. We prohibit “no knock” warrants. We do not allow warning shots. We require our officers to intervene and report if they witness unlawful or improper behavior by another officer. We will be implementing yet more change as legislative mandates require. But we need our communities’ active support as we strive to make policing better. It is hard to do that effectively when officers have to concentrate instead on where the next attack, verbal or physical, is coming from.
Our cops need to know that the responsible people of our communities support them. But that calls for those same citizens to not be afraid to speak up when law enforcement is under ill-advised assault, literally or figuratively.
Indeed, this is a challenging time to be a law enforcement officer. But facing tough challenges is what we signed up for. You can help us meet those tests successfully through your outspoken support of your sworn guardians. Please tell us when you think we are doing it wrong. But also speak up when you know we are unfairly pilloried by ill-informed even if (sometimes) well-intentioned critics.
We are in this together, after all.