‘there are people who have lost many at the hands of the police – and many who fear for their lives when they are confronted by them’
When I read this text from my anti-police friend along with her argument that minorities are inherently victims of racist policing but police are never the victim of hatred and intolerance too, it took everything in me not to lose my temper.Weeks later, with no response to my composed and thoughtful reply still, this comment haunts me the most.
I could have said that I know “people who have lost many” at the hands of cop killers, but of course I didn’t, because I knew the inevitable guilt trip and accusation of victim-blaming that I’d be met with. The favored side of the issue (or at least the side that shouts the loudest) is clear in today’s society. It’s people like this who dichotomize the issue and portray police as intimidating, ruthless, cruel, exploitative people whose job is to dominate and instill fear with their racist disregard for others’ wellbeing.
For the record, I suspect that fewer police officers are motivated by fear in their policing than people would like to think when they claim that if police fear minorities, then that fear is rooted in inherent racism. Cops are trained to—and liketo—interact with individuals from all walks of life; my boyfriend, a 10-year veteran, has never expressed anxiety or trepidation which would impact his decision-making when encountering any group. It’s just the media and anti-police champions who imply that all police officers experience some sort of Jekyll/Hyde split that results in automatically crueler treatment depending on the race of whoever they are talking to.
Even so, every time an officer encounters a suspect, they are aware—probably more acutely in this day and age than ever before—that this person may threaten their life. That fear has nothing to do with racism: I would hazard a guess and say it probably has to do with the availability of illegal (and legal) guns and the likelihood, which seems to me to be increasing with each murder of a cop, that a given suspect might want to use them on police. That fear is the same fear and adrenaline anyone would feel in a situation where a hostile criminal who might have a gun reaches for his waistband.
Those in law enforcement willingly go head-first into battle. Civilians, minorities or not, don’t know for sure that they will have a negative police interaction on any given day. Those who commit crimes which eventually warrant civilian-police interaction still do not make it their life’s work to do so. But the LEO’s life’s work is to actively pursue justice, which pretty much guarantees that they’ll have a civilian-police interaction every shift. Police officers enter into a world of hostility in the hopes of making a positive difference despite the cop haters constantly trying to destroy and incriminate an entire profession. They could easily fear for their lives too; they just rise above it.
The same cannot always be said of those who support law enforcement, thanks to the Black Lives Matter and related movements. You don’t think that there is fear involved on our side of the issue too? You don’t think I have panicked over an unexplained lapse of communication during my boyfriend’s shift? That I have sat, helpless, on the other end of the phone when I can hear a hostile suspect attempting to assault him but can’t do anything about it? That, even though he is courageous and confident and capable enough to reassure me that nothing will happen to him, I fear for his life when he is confronted by a criminal?
We loved ones of LEOs fear for the lives of all law enforcement just as much as the people my friend is talking about may fear for their own. And though I truly believe it is an act of strength and courage that many police officers do not experience heightened fear at work despite today’s attitude towards their job, they would have every right to fear their life when confronted by an aggressive anti-police individual who may very easily want to kill them. I hear it myself, every day: people who hate the police, who want them gone, who wouldn’t be that upset if the method of removal was murder. People who disrespect every death of an officer and burn Thin Blue Line flags intended to honor those who have given up their lives in their quest to better society.
This is not a one-sided issue.
To those who feel threatened by the police, I understand that there is fear, I understand that you perceive great social injustice, I understand how some have been hurt by previous incidents with law enforcement. But please understand that we feel pain too. The context is different, but the anguish is the same. We too, have plenty to fear.
The “many” whose lives have been lost at the hands of the police have left behind a void that can never be filled—and this is the case, too, with the many whose lives have been lost at the hands of cop killers. Unfortunately, the more sympathetic picture is painted by one side than the other, and our losses are considered less valid due to politics, which should have absolutely no place in determining the validity of emotional pain. Somehow we find ourselves in a position now of determining whose lives and losses matter more.
Chicago: a mob forces cops to stop an arrest and let suspect go.https://t.co/4gHbw6ArOI
— michael kirchner (@m1cha3lo0o) March 29, 2019
BLM supporters target individuals to promote their protests against perceived injustice in policing while claiming that this entire movement is rooted in structural issues. They do not treat police officers or their loved ones as individuals, yet we are supposed to take their discrete incidents of police interactions and both their individual and collective feelings into account. It can’t go one way; that’s not fair.
Then again, in some ways, it actually is one-sided, because at least we are not rallying for genocide of another minority. At least we are not burning flags or symbols that represent support of a different race or culture. At least we are not trying to take down or vandalize monuments honoring particular groups. At least we are not promoting racism the way that many now uninhibitedly promote anti-law enforcement sentiment. At least the racist hate crimes committed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis have had, as far as I know, no association with law enforcement, which should suggest that police are not nearly as intensely racist and hateful as civilians can be. But as usual, this doesn’t matter in the crusade to demolish and denounce law enforcement.
Before you post photos on Twitter of a burning Thin Blue Line flag, think of the police officers’ lives that have been lost. You are clearly capable of having compassion for those who have lost lives on the other end of law enforcement encounters. Use that compassion, for a second, and think about what burning that flag really means.
That Thin Blue Line flag honors the officers who have sacrificed their lives while on duty. Many of those deaths don’t even have anything to do with the BLM movement or racist policing. They have to do with the criminals that exist in the world, completely regardless of race, who will shoot someone because they don’t want to face the consequences of their wrongdoing or because that seems to be an acceptable form of social activism nowadays. They have to do with the fact that police officers put their lives on the line and deal with dangerous situations and life-or-death decisions.
To BLM once more, I say: Please just let us have this. Please give us the basic respect of validating our own grief. Please understand the reasons we are notthe bad guys and see the deleterious effects that your actions have on us and our loved ones. Because I will say it again and again: this is not a one-sided issue.You are not the only ones who cope with fear and loss in the frighteningly intensifying divide between the pro- and anti-law enforcement.
If we were all a little more compassionate and rational, the world would be a much better place. Compassion isn’t a one-way street. If you want us to respect your feelings, then you must respect ours. If you want us to respect your mourning, then you must respect ours. If you want us to change our ways, then be willing to change yours too. Let us grieve our losses and experience our fears just as you grieve and experience your own, and maybe we can find a common ground.