“Defund the police” has become a mantra for Americans who are protesting brutality by law enforcement officers, especially against Black people. The thin blue line, which is predominantly white, is under growing pressure but remains intact, with the men and women behind the badges committed to performing their duties despite the recent wave of criticism.
We have worked with enough police officers in reporting the news over the years to say they are honorable, working within the confines of a profession that involves interacting with child abusers, wife beaters, drug dealers, thieves and other unsavory characters. Our job is to keep residents informed by producing a print and online newspaper. Their job is to keep the peace, resolve disputes and make sure laws are obeyed. They must apprehend suspects and make arrests to enforce those statutes.
Unlike most other occupations, though, they carry weapons and are well trained in their use. The militarization of police has evolved over time, with the creation of SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams and similar units. They are law enforcement soldiers, from their firearms to their rank structure including colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants. They are waging a war against crime, but, as multiple gut-wrenching cellphone videos have shown, they can quickly become judge, jury and executioner.
Anyone who thinks racism isn’t thriving in America today needs only look at some of the sewage constantly flowing on social media.
But we like to think that some of the abuse against Blacks at the hands of police isn’t so much about skin color than it is about failure to obey a lawful order, a crime in itself. No one likes being told what to do, and police earn a living doing just that. When individuals don’t fully cooperate, officers can lose their tempers. Disrespect is a prime ingredient for anger that leads to poor judgment.
It’s a matter of fact that Blacks are singled out and harrassed through racial profiling. In 2018, a local man driving his daughter’s car was pulled over for having a graduation tassel and eyeglasses hanging from the rearview mirror, supposedly blocking his view, a traffic violation. A drug detection dog and handler were summoned. We see white drivers cruising around scot-free with dream catchers, handicapped parking permits and other items dangling almost to the dashboard. Driving while Black was the offense.
We watched as the life was slowly squeezed out of George Floyd and wonder how many other incidents occur in which there are no witnesses with cameras. It’s easy to see by our reactions why we are so divided. Some news sources have shied away from reporting on destruction of property and looting following the most recent killings of Blacks by police and others neglect to publicize the peaceful demonstrations that far outnumber those of a violent nature.
But the question remains: Where would we be without law enforcement? That thin blue line separates civilization from anarchy.
The issue has grown increasingly political, with Republicans accusing Democrats of wanting to dismantle police forces across the country. During an interview broadcast on Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace corrected President Donald Trump after Trump wrongly insisted that Joe Biden wants to defund police. Biden has said he sees systematic racism in police ranks and “across the board” in the U.S.
It has been suggested that some of the money spent on policing be reallocated for mental health services and other preventive measures.
Like members of the armed forces, officers take an oath. The following appears on the International Association of Chiefs of Police website:
“On my honor, I will never betray my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve.”
Actions speak louder than words.