We Have to be The Thin Blue Line
In my safe home on a day where the country is without peace, I hear the hatred and the contempt of so many. I hear the battle cries and the yells for change, the arguments by those that have never lived or worked in the trenches; but they have seen it on television or read it online. Our changing world has given everyone a voice. Media is pushing a story for ratings and money. They stir the pot of a stew that is already filled with trouble and turmoil.
President Obama says he is disappointed with law enforcement and the justice system. The fact that he says this influences and encourages the violence and riots. New York City Mayor de Blasio warns his son about the behavior of the police. The liberal media of MSNBC and CNN or the conservative voice of Fox News are all voices screaming for attention and the spotlight. All the while, the police go back into the trenches to seek out the evil and stand up for the weak or needy.
It is not just the President’s, the Mayor’s, or the media’s fault. It is also law enforcements’ fault. We are constantly told about the terrible ways that officers have died; the assaults, the hatred, the ambushes. Our way of life is troubled and dangerous.
We spend decades fighting for peace and justice in our own communities. We run in to help when we are called and will always respond when someone dials 911. Whether it is an old woman who hears the wind outside or a subject who has set fire to his house and waiting to ambush us, we run in.
We put ourselves in harm’s way. We do what we can to be safe. We take extra guns and extra men. If needed, we have armored personnel carriers, sniper rifles, AR-15’s, tear gas, etc. We have to take these things because of the dangers out there.
I believe in a well-trained, dedicated, supported, and equipped police force. I believe we constantly need more. We need more because society is becoming much more dangerous. The mentality must be that we are different from the general public because we are the ones who have sworn to protect our neighbors from the things that go bump in the night.
However, this does not mean that we are above reproach or that we should protect those who do wrong in our own ranks. We cannot protect those who make us appear unprofessional bullies and then turn around and ask to be treated and paid as professionals.
I believe that the right decision was made in Ferguson. However, there have been too many times in the past that led us to the outpouring of emotion. Whether it is in a small town in Missouri or in the middle of New York City, we have gone too far before. We have allowed that extra punch, that extra ride on the Taser, that slamming on the brakes when a subject is in the back seat.
For what? To make us feel better? To make sure that they don’t do this next time? To show how big and bad we are? Do we regularly achieve the outcome that we desire from these tactics?
I have had training officers and mentors throughout my career. Some good. Some okay. Some of them didn’t deserve to wear the badge. One of my first training officers used to say that I can’t get out of the car with everything I have. If I show them everything I have, and they don’t back down, I don’t have anything to go to. Pulling a gun, Taser, or OC is not always the best option.
We have to be ready to, but too many times we pull it out early because of how we’re trained, because of what we’re told. We run up and jump on the hood of cars or grab people through car windows. We fall into a quick tunnel vision and therefore we don’t realize that we have over-used our force and authority.
More importantly, we have put ourselves in harm’s way for minor infractions and then justified our response with an argument that we were attempting to effect an arrest. We see the videos of officers getting shot, stabbed, beat, run over, and killed. We are told of the dangers from gangs, anti-police, the mentally unstable, and any other number of daily instances across this country.
Our sergeants and commanding officers warn us of these threats and then send us out on the street to deal with the general public. The loud noise. The traffic stop. The school crossing. The shoplifter. The domestic. The drunk. The trespassers. The kids in the street.
We have these fears in the back of our mind that we must keep up a shield. The threat can come from anywhere at any time. We have to be aware of the potential that someone is going to shoot us as we sit in a patrol car writing a report. We know that the next traffic stop might end our lives. We understand that as we arrest a husband for domestic violence, the wife might put a gun to our heads.
Yet, we must still be able to calmly, professionally, courteously, patiently, and respectfully deal with the next call. We are not always in a war. We are not always standing toe-to-toe with the wolves. We are not always wrestling with a kid that has a gun in his waistband.
Please remember that there are more individuals out there who support us than oppose us. Unfortunately, they don’t have a strong voice because that is what they are supposed to say and feel. They want to be safe in their homes and respect the law and know that we are out there at night dealing with people they don’t want to think of.
History writes of the revolutionaries, the traitors, the ones that beat their chests from a podium, the ones that fire guns to scare the world… It doesn’t write of those who can understand that this world is getting better every day and are thankful for it. They are thankful for the police. They are thankful that they don’t have to think about the awful things in the world because they are safe. Their conversations don’t dwell on the anti-police movement because they feel that it is such a small outcry from a select few that just care more about themselves than their own culture.
Don’t give up. Don’t lash out. Don’t overreact. Don’t hate. Remember that we are a profession that is constantly in the spotlight for what we do wrong, and rarely for the overwhelming amount that we do right.
We have support. We have love. We have honor and respect. We must continue to stand on the ledge so they don’t have to. We have to be the line because it is what we were born to be. We do this for the quiet masses that support us.
Detective Casson Reynolds, Master of Criminal Justice, serves with the Gastonia Police Department in North Carolina. He has been sworn for 11 years and is a Certified Crime Scene Analyst through the International Association of Identification.