Saturday, July 25, 2009

Respect for All - Civilian AND Law Enforcement

We are all guilty of jumping the gun from time to time, "Monday morning" quarterbacking and passing judgement on other people's action, especially when it comes to Law Enforcement action. Even the President can find time to criticise Law Enforcement action.

Law Enforcement Officers are taught early that our profession is one that is held to a "higher standard." From academy training on ethics and professionalism, the Field Training Officer who teaches and mentors, to the Supervisor who continues to monitor and develop Officers, new and experienced. The vast majority of Officers guide their careers by adhering to a "higher standard." Like all professions, there has and unfortuantely always will be the few that do not maintain that standard. It is the duty of every other Law Enforcement professional to hold them accountable. Conversely, we also have an obligation to stand behind any Law Enforcement professional who is wrongly accused.

A recent LA Times article by Sandy Banks refers to the Cambridge MA event as a "Power Play, not prejudice." The author makes some good points in support of her theory, but fails to recognize both sides of the coin. She even uses quotes from local Law Enforcement in an attempt to bolster her position. Look at the photo in the article. The Officer is holding a hand out, still continuing to attempt to calm the obviously yelling suspect. The author writes, "That's when the officer's actions turned a minor altercation into a national drama." I beg to differ. An Officer's actions at a scene are most often the direct result of the actions of a suspect. It is not the Officer that makes an individual uncooperative, unruly, or violent. The suspect makes a choice and the Officer is left to anticipate those suspect choices and actions, acting in response to the suspect.

Sandy Banks writes, I was angry when I first heard the news. If "Skip" Gates -- prominent scholar, author and friend of Barack Obama -- can be arrested on his own front porch simply for mouthing off to a cop, then the rest of us "loud and tumultuous" black folks surely better stay inside.

Where do we draw that line? Simply "mouthing off" is not normally beyond that line and most people recognize that. Officers take "mouthing off" all the time. It is the individual event as a whole that is considered. That is why there are laws in California that prohibit interfering with or delaying an Officer, threatening an Officer - there is a line and it does not matter who you are. It is the totality of the incident that determines where that line is drawn.

Law Enforcement is a difficult job. Early on, Sandy writes that we all deserve respect. How true! It does not matter who you are or what title you hold. But this also includes the Police Officer. It is not a citizens blind submission to authority at all. It should be simply a respect for the Officer who is trying to uphold the laws put in place by this society and for the Officer who is simply trying to do his or her job. Yes indeed, we all do deserve respect and have an obligation to respect everyone else as well.

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