The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis County Clipper.
The past few weeks have not been kind to police officers. Actually I’m not sure there has even been a great time to be a street cop. It’s not a job that I would want.
Police have been the focus of scrutiny this past month in Salt Lake City, a St. Louis suburb, and a host of other communities. There is a grumbling and an investigation into the “militarization” of local police forces and a cry to bring back the gentle Andy Griffith-style law enforcement. We see footage of a California cop banging a woman’s face into the pavement, an apparent reaction to her jay-walking on a busy highway. We hear promises of street riots in Missouri unless a policeman is convicted and jailed for killing an unarmed youth – even if a jury finds him innocent. A Utah officer is hounded after shooting a snarling dog during a search for a missing child. Several times a week, we hear new reports of unarmed citizens injured or killed by police.
The sides have been drawn – and yet there are certainly some things upon which all should agree.
One is that aggressive “bad cops” have no place in law enforcement. The Missouri policeman televised making racist and anti-female comments during a banquet should be given his walking papers immediately. Similarly, we should celebrate the firing of two Denver cops who senselessly beat a black college student for simply asking them it they had a warrant. (When the young man awoke from the beating, he saw a handful of officers grinning at him, with one of them sneering, “What do you think about that warrant now?”) The youth received a settlement from the city of nearly $1 million.
But at the same time, we must realize that policemen don’t conduct their work in a 50s-era “Leave it to Beaver” world. When an officer approaches a motorist inside a vehicle, he or she is always taking a risk. Most of the time, the response will be a “Sorry, officer” plea to avoid a ticket. But gang members and drug-addled motorists can turn a simple traffic stop into a horrific incident.
In many cases, the police have the time to use a Taser rather than a gun. But other times, police have to make split-second decisions affecting their career, their own lives, and the lives of victims.
A Utah police lieutenant once analyzed his department this way: “There are probably 10 percent of my guys who should either be fired or sent to a desk job. They are here to serve citizens, but to bully them. There are another 20 percent of my force who mean well, but often react inappropriately, especially under pressure. But that leaves 70 percent who really do take the job seriously and are dedicated to serving the citizens Р and they don’t get a lot of thanks for it!”
I’ll thank them now. And for the others, let’s help them find a different line of work.