John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
I’m struggling to understand what’s happening in our country.
This morning, I did what many Americans do. I woke up and looked at social media.
My parents’ generation would turn on the news. We turn on Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. LinkedIn. Snap.
And within moments, I was sick to my stomach. I made the mistake of reading an article by a Connecticut television station about a police officer that had to shoot and kill someone driving a car straight at him.
It was bad enough to see the local media dig up every ounce of dirt they could on the officer, while painting the criminal who tried to kill him as being a “sweet and innocent” young man.
But the comments… my God, the comments. People calling for attacks on police officers. People attacking cops and their families. People convicting the officer in the court of public opinion.
It used to be that jurors were sequestered so that their opinions wouldn’t be tainted in a trial. But then social media happened. And regardless of whether or not a case even goes to trial… regardless of whether or not an officer is completely cleared and proven to have been justified in a shooting… that cop’s life and career are ruined.
We can thank the local media for that. We can thank the bottomless news hole that needs to be fed. We can thank the race to the bottom among “journalists” to see who can be more sensational.
Sorry, journalists. I get a vote in this. I was one of you for years.
Suffice it to say I have a bad name now in my old newsroom. I never drank the juice. I believed in God. Country. Warriors who serve and protect. Innocence until guilt was proven.
This week, we saw a suspect walk up to a police officer in Missouri and kill him in cold blood. When the suspect was perp-walked in front of a huge crowd of officers, he sneered at all of them.
What has happened to us?
Late last year, I sat down and interviewed dozens of Survivors. For those of you who don’t know what the term means, it references surviving relatives of officers killed in the line of duty.
I spent days in tears. I met people who had their lives shattered, and I saw the incredible work of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), which has helped rebuild tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
We’ll be joining them at National Police Week next week. I’m looking forward to embracing many of the Survivors on the Blue Carpet at the Blue Honor Gala (shameless plug: if you haven’t already bought tickets –they are still available).
What has happened to us? How has it gotten so bad that we have tens of thousands of survivors? That we had 163 Line of Duty Deaths in 2018 alone?
(Above: A video message to the families of fallen police officers.)
How is it that in 2018, we had more officers take their own lives than we had officers killed in the line of duty?
I’ll tell you how.
If we want a true indicator about why cops are being murdered… if we want an understanding of why they are taking their own lives… we can look at a simple marker in society: how we treat our wounded officers. It’s something I’ve written about extensively in the past. Allow me to explain.
I’ll never forget the conversation with my buddy who took six bullets in the line of duty.
“I wish that when he shot me, he killed me.”
I couldn’t wrap my head around it for quite some time. Until I realized that the sad truth of it is that with the dozens of LEO’s who have been shot in the line of duty that I’ve interviewed over the past six months, it’s a pretty common feeling.
During the first couple of days in the hospital, when they are barely clinging to life, they are surrounded by love and support. Local politicians rally around them. The community comes together in prayer. #BlueStrong we proclaim on Facebook.
And then the officer pulls through and everyone realizes she or he is going to survive. The bills start piling up. The worker’s comp and disability battles begin.
(Above: The story of a Philly cop who was shot by a terrorist while sitting at a stop light.)
And everyone disappears.
The physical and emotional scars remain. But the true pain runs much deeper, as a community abandons those who made such an incredible sacrifice.
Gone is their ability to work overtime to provide for their family. In many cases, the family savings get pumped into medical bills while the bureaucrats try to find the most efficient way to pay out the least amount of money possible while still covering their asses and declaring
(Above: Would you recognize them? A video tribute to police.)
And the road to recovery slows.
“Had I been killed, my family would have been provided for. They would have received significant death benefits. They wouldn’t have had me as a burden. They would have grieved… but they would have moved on,” one wounded officer told me.
And then there are the prescriptions.
“I’m going to end up overdosing on heroin one day,” another wounded officer told me.
When he saw the look of shock on my face and saw that I’d become speechless, he explained.
“I can’t make ends meet right now,” he told me. “The department is letting me go in a couple of weeks. I can’t afford to sue. My medical coverage is going to disappear. I can’t survive without the opioids right now because of the pain.”
He explained what he figured would happen when he couldn’t afford the prescriptions.
“I’m going to have no choice to turn to the streets. My kids will be fatherless within a year, because I’ve fallen through the cracks and I’m about to become a statistic in the very opioid war that I once fought.”
If that’s not an indicator about where we are in society, I don’t know what is.
As a country, we are only as good as we treat those who fight to defend us. And you know what?
We suck at it.
We give the message to our wounded officers that their lives… their families… their healthcare… isn’t valuable. Why? Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t fit the political narrative. It grabs headlines when you talk about families being separated when coming to America and the need to feed, clothe, shelter and care for them. But it’s just assumed we do that for cops.
If you don’t think that ALL officers see that, you’re wrong.
How is it that our country can be so great… and yet so screwed up? As my good friend Sal DeFranco, Former Navy S.E.A.L. and owner of Battle Grounds Coffee with his wife put it this way:
“We are the greatest nation in the world. We can topple governments. We can take over entire countries. We are back to back world war champions. And yet we can’t take care of our own.”
(Above: Sal DeFranco speaking to a group of wounded officers.)
If we don’t think that officers who are considering killing themselves see that, you’re wrong.
If you don’t think that criminals see that lack of support and prey on it, you’re wrong.
If you don’t think that the media likes the term “officer involved shooting” because it drives ratings, you’re wrong.
What has happened to us?
We are allowing hardened criminals to be released onto the streets after our LEOs bust their butts to take them off the streets to protect Americans. Why? Because it’s better for statistics to show a low crime rate, right?
All across the country, we’re passing legislation to tie the hands of police. To make it more difficult and more dangerous from them to do their jobs. To make them have to assume a greater risk… and to put other citizens at a greater risk… because we’re more concerned about protecting bad guys and feelings.
Why do we have a problem recruiting new officers in America? Gee… I wonder.
Why do we have former and current cops taking their own lives? Gee… I wonder.
Why have we empowered activists to rise up against cops? Ge… I wonder.
We have literally created a society where there are officers out there who think that the world – or their family – would be better off if they had died.
And so we have failed.
(Above: A speech to those who serve and their loved ones about sacrifice.)
This week, the FBI released 2018 statistics on LEOs killed in the line of duty. Let’s take a closer look at their data.
- 106 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2018.
- Of these, 55 officers died as a result of felonious acts, and 51 officers died in accidents.
Let’s look at the felonious deaths.
- The number of officers killed as a result of criminal acts in 2018 was 9 more than the 46 officers who were feloniously killed in 2017.
- The 5- and 10-year comparisons show an increase of 4 felonious deaths compared with the 2014 figure (51 officers) and an increase of 7 deaths compared with 2009 data (48 officers).
- The average age of the officers who were feloniously killed was 37 years old. The victim officers had served in law enforcement for an average of 10 years at the times of the fatal incidents.
Of the 55 officers killed in felonious acts:
- 52 were male
- 3 were female
- 46 were white
- 7 were black/African American
- 2 were Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
Let’s talk about the circumstances surrounding how they were killed:
- 23 died as a result of investigative or enforcement activities
- 8 were performing investigative activities
- 6 were involved in tactical situations
- 3 were interacting with wanted persons
- 3 were investigating suspicious persons or circumstances
- 2 were conducting traffic violation stops
- 1 was handling a person with mental illness
- 11 were ambushed (entrapment/premeditation)
- 6 were involved in pursuits
- 4 were involved in foot pursuits
- 2 were involved in vehicular pursuits
- 4 were responding to crimes in progress
- 2 were burglaries in progress
- 1 was a report of a person with a firearm
- 1 was reported in the category of other crime against property.
- 3 were involved in arrest situations and were attempting to control/handcuff/restrain the offender(s) during the arrest situations
- 2 were on administrative assignments and were performing prisoner transports
- 2 were assisting other law enforcement officers with foot pursuits
- 2 were responding to disorders or disturbances
- 1 was responding to a disturbance call
- 1 was responding to a domestic violence call
- 1 was performing traffic control
- 1 was involved in an unprovoked attack
What about weapons? Firearms were used to kill 51 of the 55 victims. Four officers were killed with vehicles as weapons.
Out of the 51 killed by firearms:
- 37 were slain with handguns
- 10 with rifles
- 2 with shotguns
- 2 with firearms in which the types of firearms were not reported.
Now let’s look at who killed them.
There were 55 alleged assailants in connection with the felonious line-of-duty deaths:
- 49 of the assailants had prior criminal arrests
- 20 of the offenders were under judicial supervision at the times of the felonious incidents
Here’s the bottom line.
We are failing our officers. The attack on cops can be attributed to a number of different things – criminals being released back into the population, irresponsible journalism, you name it.
But we need to do better. We need to stand together as Americans and let those who hold the Thin Blue Line know that we stand behind them.
This is why I accepted the position as National Spokesman for Law Enforcement Today. This is why a guy who is a marketer by trade gives speaking engagements across the country about standing up for police. Because I’m NOT a cop… and we need more voices of every day Americans. We need people to stand up and raise these difficult conversations.
To those officers who are struggling… who are thinking about quitting… or ending it all… I’ve got some tough love for you.
You WEREN’T a warrior. You ARE a warrior.
That didn’t stop when you got shot or stabbed or run over.
That didn’t stop when your department turned their backs on you. When politicians used you as pawns. When the media condemned you. When society failed you.
You don’t get to give up the fight and throw in the towel. That’s not what warriors do. What has changed is that now you have a new battle.
Now you need to fight not for society, but for your family. For what you deserve. For what THEY deserve.
The mission has changed. But it’s a mission nonetheless.
The world would not be better without you. The world is better because of you. And you need to stand and fight not just for you and your family… but for those who will come after you.
More will be hurt. More will suffer beyond words. More will be forgotten by the system. More and more will be lost.
That’s why you need to rise and fight … and know that you’re not alone.
There’s a rising tide of those declaring “enough is enough”. Our family at Law Enforcement Today has your six. Who is with us?