As the son of a retired police officer, I can tell you that growing up, you learn a lot about why police officers do what they do. Not just why they do the job, but why they do what they do while on the job.
Too often we sit comfortably on our couches and judge how police officers handled a situation in the heat of a very tense moment. It’s analyzed by reporters fresh out of a makeup chair, safe behind security.
Most of us have never had to endure having an angry drunk charge at you or had to restrain a crack-addled man from hurting not only you but himself. Most of us have never had to comfort a devastated child who just watched his father beat his mother half to death, or deliver the news to someone’s family that their loved one had just died.
Many of us will never have to do any of this, but for police officers, this is their 9-5. It’s an incredibly taxing job that requires you to deal with 10 percent of the population 90 percent of the time and, many of them having the worst day of their life. You don’t do this job without feeling the weight of it mentally.
In today’s day and age, our police officers are reviled as jackbooted thugs who are only out to satisfy an inherent need to exert authority over others. They’re classified too often as racists when their interactions involve anyone but a white person, or if the officer themselves are from a minority, accused of giving in to the white supremacy that our society is built on.
Being a police officer went from being a thankless job to a one looked on as villainous.
The truth is that the real villains aren’t the police. As Harvard professor Roland Fryer made clear in a study about how proactive policing helps our society, the police are responsible for saving hundreds of lives a year.
“Our estimates suggest that investigating police departments after viral incidents of police violence is responsible for approximately 450 excess homicides per year. This is 2x the loss of life in the line of duty for the US Military in a year, 12.6x the annual loss of life due to school shootings, and 3x the loss of life due to lynchings between 1882 and 1901 – the most gruesome years,” reads Fryer’s study.
What’s more, despite what the media says, 81 percent of black Americans want police to maintain their current level of involvement in their cities and, in some cases, even increase it as Fox News reports:
When asked if they wanted the police to spend more time, the same amount of time or less time in their neighborhoods, 61% of Black adults surveyed prefer the presence remain the same. The finding is similar to U.S. adults at 67% and White Americans, of which 71% preferred authorities spend the same amount of time in their area.
Around 20% of Black people polled said they would like to see an increased police presence compared to 19% of respondents who favor the police spend less time in their area. Asian Americans were more likely to want less police presence in their neighborhoods with 28%, according to the findings.
The real problem isn’t the police, it’s the media who demonize them and attempt to highlight every single flaw they have. If all you hear about is someone’s flaws, then all you’re going to do is hate them. In truth, the media exacerbates every situation they touch and do so in order to get your attention. They don’t care who it hurts.
But I’ve seen the police when the cameras are off. They are — the vast majority of them — good people. They have families and loved ones, emotions, desires, dreams, and more. Their willingness to put on a badge and strap on a gun isn’t a desire to lord over the populace, it’s a selfless desire to keep the peace in the society they live in. Without them, there is no society.
To be sure, there are bad apples and even good officers make mistakes. We’ve seen that time and again, but for every mistake that the media zeroes in on, 100 officers did something extraordinary just that day. They may have saved someone from danger, stopped an accident before it happened, protected a child, caught a rapist, or even gave up their lives trying to protect their community.
An officer’s life is very storied and it’s often dark and grim, but they take that onto themselves so that you can be protected from the things they see daily.
All this to say that mistakes are bound to happen in any profession, and when mistakes are made in the profession of policing, they can go from mundane to extraordinarily life-destroying. That’s the burden they bear for you.
In return, it shouldn’t be too much to ask that we give them the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake and that in the event that it happens, we don’t allow it to affect the way we see all police officers.