I am a police sergeant with more than 25 years of experience. I am also the director of a program that helps cops battle addiction and trauma-related issues.
Since 1828, there have been 258 Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty. More than 20,000 names have been inscribed in the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. All of these officers were killed in the line of duty protecting the citizens of this great nation.
I go out on the street trying really hard not to be the next person who ends up on those memorial lists. There are a couple things that the people currently protesting deaths at the hand of law enforcement have in common: One, they don’t realize that many of the officers killed in the line of duty are killed with their own guns or by assailants’ bare hands. Two, they have never been scared to death, in a life-threatening situation, or lost a coworker (or many) to violence.
I recently saw a post in which someone compared the Michael Brown incident to Eric Frein’s capture. Frein was the guy who shot and killed a Pennsylvania State Trooper and severely wounded another in September, sparking a massive, lengthy manhunt leading eventually to his arrest.
The post stated that Eric Frein was captured without a shot fired because he was white. Being white had nothing to do with why Eric Frein didn’t get shot. Eric Frein did not get shot because he surrendered and was arrested. There is a great lesson to be learned from that: Let the police do their jobs and have your day in court.
Cops are almost always professional and use great restraint. I have been involved in investigations and provided peer support to many police officers who could have been justified in using deadly force — but did not. In most of those cases, the officers gambled with their lives and got lucky. Many officers have used restraint in violent situations and ended up dead.
Since 2006, ten Philadelphia police officers have been killed in the line of duty. Seven were killed by gunshot wound, two by vehicular assault and one was killed in a motorcycle accident, struck by a drunk driver. Carrying those numbers in your head every day when you prepare for work isn’t easy.
Many of the police officers involved in violent confrontations have been in very violent situations before. That experience, coupled with their training, causes them to act instinctively to get an upper hand on the suspect so that they don’t end up dead or seriously injured. If a suspect does not want the officer to get physical and be forced to overpower the individual, he or she should just surrender and be arrested. If the person is not guilty, there will be plenty of time for the courts to find the truth – just as both grand juries did after looking at all of evidence in both the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
Even if a suspect feels that he or she did not commit a crime, it is not ok to resist arrest. Resisting arrest or assaulting a police officer are separate crimes. They often carry more severe penalties than what people are being arrested for in the first place. There is no constitutional right to resisting arrest by an LEO.
I will never deny that there are race and socioeconomic issues in this country that affect crime and policing. I will submit, however, that these two incidents that everyone is protesting about have nothing to do with race. They have to do with crime and resisting arrest. Both situations would have turned out the same way if Garner or Brown were white or any other race.
I am also disappointed in the media on this one. If anyone should be charged with “inciting a riot,” it should be the various news outlets that were constantly posting and reporting very inflammatory remarks and information.
When the news that Darren Wilson was not going to be indicted emerged, CNN posted, “No indictment for Darren Wilson, the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.”
I was a fan of CNN for a long time; I even toured their facility in Atlanta twice. Conversely, FOX News was interviewing Tavis Smiley, who stated that there was an epidemic of police violence against black males. FOX commentator Bill O’Reilly reported that in 2013, 123 black males were killed by police gunfire and 326 whites were killed the same way.
I was not watching the interview on FOX News; I found that information doing research. It is interesting information that probably won’t incite a riot or make for great news.
Police across the country continue to protect protesters’ rights and protect the actual protesters while they exercise those constitutional rights to free speech and assembly. It takes a lot of class and dedication to do that while under attack by the public and the media. We take our oath seriously, and it includes protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States.
On the local news, I watched a large squad of bike cops surrounding the Ferguson protesters at Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, outside Lincoln Financial Field, so they could demonstrate and stage a “die in.” The protesters laid on the ground for more than four minutes. A lot of Eagles fans voiced their disdain for the protest as they walked past the demonstrators. The Philadelphia Police Department personnel steadfastly protected the protesters so they could stage their demonstration. It’s times like this that I am so proud to be a police officer.
Many police departments in big cities are having a hard time finding people who want to be police officers. We are losing many more officers to retirement than are being hired. We cannot find qualified applicants who want to be in life-threatening situations, work shift work, and be away from their families for most holidays.
If the public thinks that the police are doing something wrong, they should get hired and change it from the inside. Despite all the public criticism, if those who criticize us are in trouble, call 911. We will still rush to get there and save you. No need to thank us, It’s what we do.
Sergeant Andy Callaghan has served with the Philadelphia Police Department for 25 years, with 20 years in narcotics enforcement. He is currently assigned to a federal violent gang and drug task force. He is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional and also serves as the director for the FOP Lodge 5, Law Enforcement Peer Support Network (www.lepsn.org). Sgt. Callaghan is the Program Director for the Livengrin Foundation’s First Responder Addiction Treatment (FRAT). For more information about FRAT visit: www.responderaddiction.com He has been decorated for valor, bravery and many other commendations for police work and his work in the peer support field.