The American police officer is standing directly in the middle of the conversation of race. He is no stranger to the environment of contention, contempt, and hatred. He is stoic in his uniform and his commitment to the community.
The police officer must experience the raw, physical trauma and shear gore that comes with homicides, suicides, and car crashes, then walk in their front door at the end of a shift – dead body, and sounds of a grieving family, still a sizzling image in their mind. When the officer gets home, they take out the trash, hug the child, kiss the spouse like nothing happened.
The police officer is constantly reminded of the statistical chance they may never make it home to see those mundane household chores. The police officer understands but can’t make sense of the fact that someone wants to kill them because of the color of their uniform and their devotion to justice.
Numerous times during the course of a 20-year career, the police officer will shine her boots, polish her buttons and dust off her dress cap to attend funerals. These aren’t normal funerals. The casket holds someone that looks like her, dresses like her, and took an oath like her. She will listen to the bagpipes drone out Amazing Grace before dressing down the uniform and hitting the beat again with unwavering bravery.
The police officer can’t win. The police officer knows no matter how hard he works, how many arrests he makes, how many lives he saves, how many cars are stopped, how many kids are met and counseled, crime will come back. There is always another call for service on the radio. An exhausting and disheartening reality. A constant reminder of the cyclical nature of sin.
Why has this modern-day knight been vilified in America today? It could certainly be the Alabama and Mississippi state troopers who released their dogs and clubs on the freedom riders, lunch-counter sitters, and voting rights protesters in the 1960’s. It could be the slave patrols that enslaved frightened humans and separated families on new-world shores. It could be the officers that have killed an unarmed people of color and were given pay, free legal defense, and no jail time.
In reality, it isn’t any of those. It’s the silence. Americans understand we have a system where humans police, prosecute, and imprison humans. There will be unacceptable and inexcusable mistakes, lapses in judgement, and murder. It’s the nature of fallen man. However, there should be a louder voice from the “good apples” when these atrocities occur. There should be an ever-present effort on behalf of the uniformed practitioners of justice to be evaluating how to make the system fairer for all, and how to decrease the error rate that ends in the victimization or loss of human life.
When a police officer is reprimanded, fired, or prosecuted for a crime that discredits the very badge they wear, the group of people that should be most upset are police officers. Police officers should hold, not only themselves, but their peers to the highest standard. Police officers should be the first voice to condemn the actions of a criminal disguised as a vigilant and honorable sheepdog.
The police officer lives in a paradox of loyalty to fellow officers and devotion to fellow man. The police officer must trust his peers with his life. The police officer is indoctrinated with the “thin blue line” mentality. This level of trust makes it intensely difficult to criticize, but the time has come for officers to critique the very few of their own.
As a police officer, I unequivocally condemn the officers that have used excessive force, planted evidence, shot when de-escalation was safely possible, or used their position for sex, money, power, and favor. I call on my peers to do the same. I call on citizens to continue to hold their officers to a standard worthy of being called the finest.