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Monday, May 11, 2015

LAW AND DISORDER

Are police officers becoming the victims?

There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” It’s not a bad philosophy to follow, and I have often thought of that saying many times over my lifetime when difficult situations arose. I still do. At times, we are all too quick to rush to judgment on issues and events.

Our country seems to be at a dangerous crossroads when we see the civil unrest and lawlessness which are taking place in several cities because of the conduct of some police officers. To be sure, historically African- Americans have had a tough road to walk in their shoes. While significant strides have been made to end racism in this country, let’s not kid ourselves. Racism is alive and well, not only in Louisiana, the Deep South, but in all parts of the country.

I suppose we are all guilty in one way or another. How many of us look over our shoulder if we are being followed by a black person? And the fact that black-on-black crime and other crimes committed by blacks are the focus of most newscasts doesn’t help to quell the fears blacks and whites PNK feel Creative these Studio days.

The recent riots in Baltimore brought to mind the time when I was called as a member of the Maryland National Guard to active duty to deal with the riots in that city which occurred after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968. It took the National Guard, the local police, and federal troops to finally put a stop to the looting and burning. For eight days, I experienced the despair and hatred of blacks. But not all blacks.

As a Second Lieutenant, I was in charge of a gas squad that patrolled the streets. What made a big impression on me was the fact that, as we drove through black neighborhoods, many of the residents came out of their houses and applauded as we drove by. That is to say we should not paint all blacks with a broad brush as being lawless and uncaring about the areas in which they live.

At the same time, let’s not paint all police officers with a broad brush of mistreating blacks. Yes, there are some bad apples in every barrel, but the overwhelming number of police officers take seriously the motto of “protect and serve.” It is a scary trend that’s afoot. It seems that every time a police officer has to use force to apprehend a black perpetrator, demonstrations are quick to follow, which wind up leading to violence, such as trashing police cars, looting and burning buildings.

Perhaps I am over-simplifying things. But it seems to me, if someone commits a crime or is stopped by the police, obeying an officer’s orders would eliminate a lot of the force which is needed to apprehend the individual. Obey the police and let the justice system work. In some cases, as we have seen, when police use force, they become the villains. That is a dangerous trend if law and order are to continue to prevail in our society.

What is also troubling is that there are reports of “professional demonstrators” who travel from city to city wherepolice action has resulted in the use of force on a black person. Their objective is not to peacefullydemonstrate, which is certainly everyone’s right, but to whip the crowds into a frenzy and incite violence. And let’s not give the media a pass in this discussion. The national news media contribute greatly to the unrest with its relentless coverage and innuendos about police brutality.

So, once again, let’s not condemn police officers unless we have walked a mile in their shoes. It is a dangerous, and often times thankless, job that they perform to protect all citizens in their jurisdiction at a salary that is far below what they deserve. In this day and age, a routine traffic stop can turn into a life and death situation.

And when a police officer is shot in the head, assassinated in his car, or wounded trying to keep the peace, the news media may give those events a few seconds, if anything, on their news programs.

The bottom line is the trend of lawlessness and resistance to law enforcement officers must be stopped. The responsibility lies with elected officials from the top to the bottom, meaning the president of the United States, governors, local officials, black leaders – and, yes, the news media. Blacks and whites who break the law need to understand they will be apprehended with force if necessary. And in some cases, they may be shot if the police officer believes his life is in danger. The argument that blacks and poor whites commit crimes because they can’t get a job and have nothing to lose just doesn’t hold water in the 21st century.

Peaceful demonstrations are always welcomed and should be protected. But when thugs use such a demonstration to create violence so they can loot and burn, authorities need to move swiftly and forcefully to stop it. Doing so would benefit all citizens – black and white – as well as business owners and black neighborhoods where most of the violence seems to occur.

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