Police: Bad Guys or Good Guys

There have been two recent cases, one national and one local, of questionable police shootings. I reserve judgement until I hear all the facts, but I will say it’s hard to understand how you can shoot someone, who is unarmed, without even identifying yourself as the police first.

Without doubt, just as in any profession, there are police officers who should not be doing what they are doing. Still, the police are the good guys. Having the attitude that they aren’t and teaching our children to not respect them only makes the problem worse.

How do we make it better? I think it starts with training and education. Training for potential police officers and education for the general public. I have seen video footage of questionable shootings through the years. Some, in my opinion, were flat out wrong. But some were not so clear cut. Some, even though the person shot turned out to be unarmed, I could understand why in that moment that could possibly be life or death, the decision was made to shoot. No one except someone who has had to face that decision can understand that situation.

I could not be a police officer. I do not have the mentality for it. I would panic and not have a clear head for split second, life or death decisions. Some should not be police officers for the same reason and others because the power of their jobs go to their head. I don’t know what kind of training or mental evaluations one has to go through to be a police officer, but I believe it varies from place to place. There should be a national standard and one that includes evaluations that would weed out those that would not be able to keep a cool head and those that would be prone to power trips. And these kinds of evaluations should be ongoing.

My children’s father is a former police officer. My nephew was also a police officer. The advice my ex husband gave our son when he was considering this field was don’t, especially in today’s climate. The advice my nephew gave my son was that at the end of the day, he needed to go home. And this is true. If someone is putting their life on the line to protect the public, and there is a question who should come home that day… the police officer or the criminal…. it’s the police officer every time.

And this is where I think it would be helpful to educate the public more. I believe in using the least amount of force necessary, I believe that police officers should be carefully evaluated and trained to be sure that only the best able to function under such pressure serve; but still I know that there will be times that you will just not know until the trigger is pulled. And if there is a question who should come home in that case…. the police officer comes home.

I was reading something the other day about a case many years ago of a 13 year old fatally shot by police officers for not dropping his air soft rifle. I don’t know the details of this case, it was only mentioned in the article I read, but I do know had he obeyed police command, he probably would still be alive. I am horrified that a 13 year old was killed. I’m horrified because although his size probably made him look like a man, I know that at 13, his mind was still that of a child. I’m horrified because his mother probably had no clue he was walking around with this realistic looking gun and may not have even been aware he had it because at 13, our children are still young enough to not know better but old enough to figure out how to have secrets from even the most protective of parents.

This may not be the best case to use because, again, I don’t know the details and any case in which a child dies is tragic. But I did read that witnesses say the police officer identified himself and clearly ordered him to drop the gun twice. I understand that the brain of a 13 year old boy who was holding a toy gun may not have understood the gravity of the situation. But I also understand that the police officer who fired the shot didn’t know it was a 13 year old any more than he knew the gun wasn’t real.

So if someone, innocent or not, puts themselves in a situation that may appear questionable, realize that even the best trained, best intentioned police officer may have to make a split second decision and that you may not go home that day.

I get it. My heart breaks when I think about the kid I just spoke of. I have sons. The male brain is wired differently and a takes a little longer to mature. And then you add all that testerone. Boys can be stupid and they do stupid things. I am thankful to a merciful and loving Father for His protection on all my children. My son (not the same one who has an interest on law enforcement) was pulled over by an officer a few years back who evidently lacked the maturity needed for this job. My son was also showing a lack of maturity as the two engaged in a war of words. ( By the way, this was purely a traffic stop, no crime had been committed or was committed. ) At one pointed he threatened to pull my son out of the car. That’s as heated as it got but it was enough to make me angry…. with my son. Of course, as the authority figure, the cop was responsible to keep the right tone. But my son is responsible for keeping himself alive. I tried to explain this to him and he explained that he wasn’t concerned because the body cam would show the cop was out of line. Here’s the thing….I don’t care if the body cam shows the cop was wrong if my child is dead. If he’d gotten pulled out of the car and put handcuffs and taken downtown, that would have been alright too. Oh sure, I would have been fuming, but wrongly arrested and ALIVE is better than anything and DEAD anyday of the week!

I had two thoughts when I began this post on how to improve this situation, but it’s really just come down to one thought: personal responsibiliy. My husband and I own a daycare. There are all kinds of checks that must passed before someone can be hired as a child care worker. You would be suprised at how many people pass those checks who should never work with children. So while I still support more training and mental evaulations, it’s not a fix all. It’s not a fix all because there will always be some who slip through and it’s not a fix all because that isn’t the biggest problem. The biggest problem is a lack of respect and a lack of responsiblity.

Yes, weed out the bad and hold them accountable. And yes, sadly we don’t always know who shouldn’t be wearing a badge until something tragic happens. But don’t let those situations erode your respect because that’s contagious and that’s the biggest problem. And stay objective and don’t get caught into race and policitics and anything else that may color your perception. Sometime people put themselves in a questionable place and that doesn’t mean that police officer shouldn’t be wearing a badge. It just means, that as sad and as hard as it is to think of, sometimes people put themselves in a situation they just didn’t need to be in.

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