Working as a crime-victim advocate in a prosecutor's office, I see the very worst of what goes on in my own community.
Victim advocates are assigned to help victims in violent crime cases through the court process. I review the case file and read case reports for all sorts of unimaginable crimes. I have gotten to work with many law-enforcement officers and have gotten to see the hard work they do up close and personal.
Contrary to the image of police that has been all over the media lately, I have been so impressed by the law-enforcement officers involved in the cases I have worked. By and large, they have been good, solid, kind men and women who take pride in their jobs protecting our community. They are exposed to some of the worst things humans can do to one another, and those are often images that are forever seared into their brains. They often work with limited resources providing front-line response to community needs for which there is no easy solution. They are always at risk and are often a walking target for undeserved anger and blame.
To be honest, I am more shocked by some of the situations our local law enforcement officers encounter without drawing a weapon than I am by the times that they do. Police officers are routinely the ones injured in arrest situations, not to mention getting spit on, threatened, vomited on, lambasted, accused, cussed at and urinated on. Suffice it to say, if it comes out of a human body, police officers have been exposed to it.
I am not just talking about arrests; if you want a real eye-opener in your community, listen to one day's worth of 911 calls. That might give you a better idea of the problems police are called to solve. I am a social worker yet I would be absolutely overwhelmed with the needs routinely faced with each and every call. Not to mention the frustration of commonly having to respond to the same people who attacked you the day before.
Any conversation about police use of force should include a realistic view of the situations they are responding to and the stress they are under in rapidly escalating traumatic situations.
Believe me, I want racism and criminal conduct rooted out and eradicated from every place it lurks. Nobody likes a bad cop, especially not the good police whose lives might be at greater risk when working with one.
Our communities should establish systems to address any inappropriate use of force. If police have to swallow "innocent until proven guilty" with every single arrest that they make, perhaps they should be given the same consideration when they are the ones being accused?
It is wrong to consider someone a criminal just because of his or her skin color. It is also wrong to target someone for blame just because of the uniform he or she wears. There are ironic similarities. The basic facts are that most black people are not criminals and most police officers are not racist.
We are not going to change any system without taking an honest look at the challenges on all sides of the issue. I am confident there is a way to improve a system without having to destroy individuals within it.
Please remember not only the good works done by police in your community but that for every badge there is a person, family and friends behind it who care.