Top Police Stories of 2017

Like most years, 2017 passed with many stories that affected your lives and careers. Usually, at this time of the year, you see the top ten of the year lists unfold. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most important stories I remember from 2017. They are in no particular order. What is more important to me might be of no value to you. Since this article is published in Law Enforcement Today, what I find very important here in Chicago may mean nothing to you when you read it across the country. I number them only for convenience not rank.

  1. On President Trump’s first day in office, he issued a statement of support for our nations law enforcement officers. After years of no support or respect from the city, state, and federal levels an administration publicly announced support for the officers who pledged to serve and protect.
  2. Riots and protests hit the streets in cities across the country. These demonstrations protest the election of President Trump. The media praises the heroics of these demonstrators.
  3. June 14th, U.S. Capitol Police officers stop a gunman shooting a congressman and aides at a morning softball practice. Crystal Griner, a U.S. Capitol Police officer was shot in the incident while protecting the congressman.
  4. Nov 21st, Baltimore Police Commissioner drops administrative charges against the last officer in the Freddie Gray case. This was a case which had resulted in massive protests and rioting on the day Freddie Gray was buried.
  5. July 5th, N.Y.P.D. Officer Miosotis Familia was assassinated while sitting in a squad car by an ex-con with a history of violent crime. Sadly, this was one more example of officers singled out and assassinated. New York City has seen its share but this is a nationwide issue.
  6. Nov 14th, NAACP announces Police Body Cameras threaten civil rights of Black and Brown people. After demanding police departments use individual body cameras, they now protest that the cameras give the officers an unfair advantage.
  7. December 2017, The Chicago Police Department restricts the use of TASERs used by their officers. The cases where an officer can now use a TASER are significantly limited and puts the officers in both physical and legal jeopardy when using or not using the tool. Departments across the country will look to this policy when determining their own rules for use.
  8. December 2017, Chicago’s new Civilian Office or Police Accountability determined that a shooting that occurred two years before their creation which had been determined to be justified by the department, (the offender attacked the officer with a baseball bat and was shot dead) was in-fact not justified and suggested action be taken against the officer.

These last two articles are from Chicago, but I include them because what happens here will have repercussions nationwide. Let’s face it, before a community institutes a policy on use of force they look to the larger cities and examine their policies. Those policies have usually been tested in the courts and those large cities absorbed the legal costs. It’s just good business.

In preparing for this article I solicited opinions from police officers in several groups on Facebook. What I found was not so many actual stories but instead, several issues that trouble officers now and for the last year.

The constant villainization of police officers by the public media, politicians, and anyone in the public eye has become a huge issue in undermining the effectiveness and safety of both officers and those they are charged with protecting. A completely justified use of force when facing violent criminals is portrayed as another example of police violence. Stopping a vehicle for unlawfully tinted windows becomes systemic institutional racism by the police officers once it is discovered the driver is not white. This pandering to the uninformed public by the media and politicians for votes and revenue does nothing but widen the gulf between good citizens and police officers.

There was a time when a politician ran on a platform strong on law enforcement. Today it’s the opposite. Today they canonize the criminal and vilify the police.

The prosecutor’s willingness to sidestep the facts of a case and to bring criminal charges against officers, while at the same time refusing to charge criminal offenders with felonies when it is clear they should be only because it makes the elected state’s attorneys look good in the media. It betrays the trust given them by the public as well as their oath of office. Again, the police officer is the bad guy in these cases in the public eye and nothing is done to correct it.

All these issues put stress on an officer who normally is under a great deal of stress in the first place. Try raising a family, clothing them, schooling them, and feeding them while you also worry about someone walking up and shooting you while you sit in your car. Imagine those worries and then realizing that protecting yourself or another using the training and tools provided by your employer might result in the loss of your job and criminal prosecution. So, what is the result? More police officers than ever take their own life.

The job sucks, and yet people still join up. Thirty-five years ago, I stood up and took the oath of my department and over the years most of you did so as well. We didn’t do it for wealth and fame, not even power and glory. We did it because it was the right thing to do. There are still so many men and women in uniform protecting our families and loved ones. They deserve our respect and admiration for doing a very dirty job.

I have always believed that the tide would change and like a pendulum, the conditions would swing back. How many innocents need suffer before the pendulum returns?

Well Robert Greenberg from LET told me to make it my own when he asked me to do this article and I guess this is not your usual top ten list, so I must have succeeded.

Happy New Year to all the law enforcement officers.

Bob Weisskopf