A police reckoning has arrived

Since the murder of George Floyd one week ago, I’ve been concerned about the escalation of violence and the risk to more citizens and cops. We should be thinking about the exponential risk to every good cop who now has to wear the depravity of one of our brothers in blue, callously snuffing out the life of a person in his custody. This event has ramped up violence nationwide and, as always, cops on the front line are the ones in harm’s way.

My friends, we must understand how we got here. I want to talk to you truthfully and frankly, as a fellow cop, because we have to tell each other the truth and see our faults, or we’re going to lose our legitimacy once and for all.

We have convinced ourselves for decades that there was something a suspect did to cause his death. That their actions must have caused their own death. Always. That’s the mantra, right? It’s on a mental loop in our heads, “If he had only”…surrendered…not fought…complied…pick a term. And most of white America goes along with us. If only the person had done, or not done, whatever. The person is never killed by the fault of the cop. Never official misconduct or malfeasance. Their actions dictate our response.

Qualified immunity shielded almost every bad actor that came along. Shootings of individuals lawfully carrying firearms, children playing with toy guns, people playing video games inside their home, women sleeping in their home, the list goes on. We do mental gymnastics and think up a myriad of reasons to absolve the cop of any responsibility. Regardless of training. Regardless of the circumstance. Regardless of common sense. We are tone-deaf to how this looks to the average citizen.

Then came Minneapolis. I’d like to think the image of a cold, callous cop calmly kneeling on the neck of a non-resisting man is finally, finally a bridge too far for my fellow Americans and cops to swallow. This time, it is impossible to look away.

It’s time to put up or shut up, my fellow good cops. We’ve been crying for years “bad apples” not us! Any direct question about individual responsibility is ducked and dodged. Then came Minneapolis and it was all laid bare. The depravity of the primary cop and the failure of the others on scene to stop the murder. What you need to understand is that this is what has been at the heart of the issue for decades. That complicity has tainted you as well. The disgusting behavior of police misconduct has always painted us all with an ugly brush. We were fools to tell ourselves that it could be otherwise.

That is the critical message we have failed to hear. When the criticism comes we immediately go to our defensive crouch, insist it’s only those unnamed bad apples. Trust us. Except that nonstop videos say otherwise. They keep coming daily. We must make it stop.

This is what I want to say to you today with all the love and brotherhood I can muster. It is not enough to say you are not that cop. You must stop that cop. You must reject that cop. You must purge those cops from your ranks. You must make those cops pariahs. You must rise above those cops if you are ever to release yourself from the stain of their deeds.

I realize right now it’s easy to get caught up in the anger against protestors. I’ve been there, too. Taking rocks and bottles, holding the line with a gas mask & shield. This is the part of the job nobody tells you about when you sign up thinking you’ll save the world. Please try not to buy into the negative war on cops rhetoric. There have been riots and difficult times before. Good cops are the ones who will weather the storm, like always.

What’s different now is the political climate mixed with social media and nonstop noise. Will law enforcement live up to the lofty ideals of its code of ethics or succumb to the basest depravity of the disgruntled or criminal in our midst? Resist the temptation to believe the worst and stay true to your oath. We are at a critical juncture in law enforcement, my friends. The future is up to every one of you.

I have always maintained we are better than the worst of us. Those brave enough to run into gunfire or burning buildings are brave enough to stop misconduct by our peers. I believe in the better natures of the true heroes behind the badge. Hold tight to your humanity. There is no us and them, only one human family. Let’s get through these difficult times by committing to our communities and one another to demand only the best serving beside us.

Police honor and integrity are more important now than ever before. A police reckoning has arrived. Our profession and our nation are depending on our morality and courage.

Be safe.

28 thoughts on “A police reckoning has arrived

  1. The qualified immunity shield needs to be revamped when it comes to protecting police officers, district attorneys, and judges. In addition, the good cops need to start helping to elect good district attorneys and judges even if it means that those people will come down hard on cops and even send cops, other judges, and district attorneys to jail/prison.

    It is also time to reduce the power of the police unions or get rid of them considering the fact how cops have tried to destroy unions at the behest of the business leaders and wealthy people since the 19th century If the rest of the population can’t have or wouldn’t be allowed to have unions, neither should the police.

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  2. Had to pass this one along. I was wondering when you were gonna weigh in.

    I admit, the thing that’s kind of gotten to me the most is the silence that happens in these situations. All we hear is the “bad apples” refrain, but no more than a sound-byte or two on what other cops think about this. This is disturbing since you guys have to deal with the fallout of these events. Thanks for enlightening us.

    Be well and all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by and your comments. This is the hard message I’ve been trying in various ways to get across. IMHO we’ve been looking at this all wrong. Somehow, we were convinced that “silence” was the answer, as if speaking about misconduct is what would make people angry with police. It’s actually the polar opposite. People see and experience the bad things. Our silence is what makes them angry. We have to understand this simple truth.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Some of the police and the general society know that being silent is what makes people angry; however, what makes people angry is your failure to do anything about it time and time again, and then it blows up in your face time and time again. Sometimes I wonder why police chiefs, sheriffs, and federal law enforcement people when they retired after 20 or 30 years, either look for new police jobs or come back as retired annuitants and/or complain about the jobs when they have done nothing to solve the problems for those working years when they were on the job.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Your credibility would be even more enhanced if you arrest the cop right then and there in full view of the public, take away his/her gun and badge, put him/her in the paddy wagon, and book him/her. A prosecutor/ credilbity would be enhanced if he/she really went after the arresting cop and prosecute him/her to the full extent of what you can charge cop. In other words. pile on the charges that you can think of. Finally, a judge’s credibility would be enhanced if he/she really threw the book at the cop.

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      • We understand. Let’s distinguish “your credibility” with that agency’s credibility. Those are points the police reform protestors are making. Change happens slowly, but it is happening.

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      • Changes for policing have been dead in the water; otherwise, we wouldn’t be in the mess that we are now. We should have been like the police forces of Northern and Western Europe a long time ago.

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  3. I reblogged this on my site: Suziland too or obsolete Childhood. It’s so important for those of us who are NOT the guys in blue to know how you feel. Thanks for sharing. And please, stay SAFE.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wish the cop would have kept his wits and just arrested the guy instead of killing him, but the fact is, he was a criminal and he knew that and knew him, so maybe he had }heard it all before” and was sick of it. I’m not going to justify killing him, but I’m also not going to support the protests. It’s all a ploy to distract Americans from what’s really going on IMO. We are all entitled to our opinion and that is mine. I’m tired of everything getting so blown out of proportion, from the virus to this nonsense, it’s all to distract us from the fact that many people want Trump out of office. We need to wake up, support our police force, before we lose all control and lawlessness reigns.

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    • Professional policing does not allow us to simply say, I think someone is a criminal, so it’s okay to kill them. Your comments are not helpful. In fact, I am appalled that you are so callously saying that a cop who “has seen it all before” is justified committing murder. THAT is the lawlessness that will put us on the road to a rogue police state. Your opinion is not valid if you have never actually policed. I have. I will not support anyone disgracing the profession I love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t say he was justified killing him, I said I wish he had kept his wits and not done what he did, I’m saying why is everyone protesting his death like he was some kind of saint or something? Not to mention all the senseless death and violence all the protesters have caused? And where’s the outrage for the cops who have been shot and killed by protesters? None of it makes any sense!

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    • I think that now you have to worry about right-wing people, police provocateurs, and police undercover cops going out and causing the violence in order to discredit the protestors not to mention you have the police saying that the drug cartels are helping to create the violence. Look at what happen at the G20 Summit in Toronto where undercover cops tried to create violence and got caught by the protestors? I suppose the drug cartels are the new scapegoats since the police can no longer use the word “anarchists” and “communists” anymore to demonize the protestors

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  5. Kim Smyth, the officer’s criminal actions are what’s at issue here. Nobody here is condoning rioters. I’m not going to debate baseless statements. I’ve served my community in the uniforms of this country since I was 19. I’ve lost friends. None of that means we should ever abandon our police ethics. It’s the job. Period. Have a nice day.

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  6. I really appreciate your thoughtful opinion pieces, including this one.

    As a suburban moderate/independent voter, a woman of faith, a mother, I’m one of those lucky to live out of the fray who loathes the violence and has little patience for criminals and the selfish way their actions harm innocent people.

    That said, the rampant injustice is laid bare time and time again on the issue of policing and skin color (amongst other common reasons for prejudice, like visible religious symbols, poverty, or signs of mental illness.) Statistics such as the similar rates of use of marijuana compared with the likelihood of arrest (by the user’s skin color) make it patently obvious that our criminal justice system is NOT fair or equal. This is the first historical example that springs to my mind, but there are many others when one looks at the data.

    So much of this is due to the actions of much higher level actors–politicians, judges, prosecutors, and never mind society itself!–as opposed to individual officers, but the police are the “essential workers” whose hands get bloodied, so the reaction hits there. The life and death risk is all on these men and women while power sits safe in a high office. The public only sees this element of the judicial system most of the time.

    I blame the system, not individual officers, for most of it… but no one else can step up in each and every one of those moments where someone is being wronged in the streets. Police officers must meet a higher standard of fairness and decency than average citizens in order to do the job properly. It’s a very high bar!

    Biased police officers MUST be trained to behave better, and those who violate human rights MUST be immediately removed from the streets. Murderers should face the same punishment, whether brown skinned or pale, street thug or wearing a uniform.

    If only fixing this problem were as easy as complaining about it.

    (All of this said with deepest respect to those who protect and serve in good faith!)

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    • Willow. You are correct. No need to add that you support good cops. That is a given. Being a “good cop” is what is the standard. That’s the job. It’s not something we should have to keep patting cops on the back for. I say that as a member of the police fraternity. It’s time to stop this false victimhood. Honestly. The job is difficult at times. The job is dangerous. It is the job.

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  7. Y’all have already had your chances to reform. Y’all have already tried implicit bias trainings, body cams, chokehold bans. The structure of the profession is corrupt. The culture is toxic. No individual “good cops” standing up to it will make a difference. Reform has time and again proven to fail to make a difference. We need, WE NEED, a different system for law enforcement and public safety.

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    • I agree, Hannah, the time has come to reimagine what we mean by public safety. It must come from a place of inclusion and equality. I think if you took a few moments to look at my posts over the last few years, I have consistently called on my peers to change and get better. Thanks for your comments.

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