When you see the word, what do you think of?
Oh, sure, there was Sting’s old band of the same name.
But I mean the real police, the men and women who enforce our nation’s laws.
That’s a complicated question these days. Just how do Americans view their police?
In a August Gallup Poll, 56% of white adults and 19% of Black adults expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police. That 37-point racial gap was the largest Gallup found in its annual Confidence In Institutions poll.
The year just past was a tumultuous one for the country in general, and law enforcement in particular.
There were the highly publicized killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and, more recently in Columbus, Ohio, Andre Maurice Hill. Floyd’s killing sparked protests throughout the country, further dividing a nation already bifurcated by race and politics.
“Defund the police,” protesters cried. Some even called for a total teardown of the present system of policing.
Swift and extreme reactions always come in the immediate wake of a painful and senseless incident like the killing of George Floyd. Swift and extreme reactions are seldom good ones.
We are a nation of laws and we need our men and women in blue, khaki or whatever color their uniforms to enforce those laws, to keep the law-abiding from being victimized by those who choose to ignore the law.
Defund the police? No. Perhaps some of the money could be spent on better training officers to deal those who suffer from mental illness, or for more proactive community policing measures, where officers get out in the neighborhoods they patrol to put a human face on the people behind the badge.
To say defund the police, or get rid of the police, is to paint the entire law enforcement community with a broad brush. Painting with a broad brush reveals no details, simply offers splashes of abstract color. There is no nuance involved.
Imagine yourself as a police officer responding to a call. You are trained, you are a professional, yet every time you make a traffic stop, every time you knock on a door, every time you step into a situation, you risk your life.
Police are not all devils, nor are they all angels. That is a broad brush interpretation. But all risk their lives, every shift, for the people they serve. That is indisputable.
On an otherwise quiet Christmas morning in Nashville, Tenn., an RV was parked downtown outside a building housing ATT telecommunications equipment.
There was the sound of shots being fired, after which a warning blared from the RV’s loudspeakers, “All buildings in this area must be evacuated now. If you hear this message, evacuate now,” followed by a warning that the vehicle contained a bomb.
Six Nashville police officers responded to the shots fired call. Officer Amanda Topping, Officer James Wells, Officer Brenna Hosey, Officer James Luellen, Officer Michael Sipos and Sgt. Timothy Miller heard the warnings blaring from the bomber’s parked RV, and did what most ordinary folks would never dream of doing.
They moved toward it, running up and down the block, which contained residences as well as businesses, knocking on doors, warning people to evacuate.
They ran toward the danger, not away, concerned more about the safety of others than their own.
How many lives did they save? We’ll never know for sure, but even if it was just one, they are heroes. Three civilians were injured in the blast and were hospitalized. One officer was knocked down by the explosion, another suffered hearing loss.
So how should we view the police? Again, we should avoid the broad-brush approach. Many are heroes, some are not, but all are human beings, like the rest of us, with all the foibles and faults possessed by those they serve.
These six officers are the best of our men and women in law enforcement. I dare say they are far from the minority.
As we move ahead into 2021, here’s hoping the example set by these fine officers will begin to heal the distrust many Americans feel in regards to law enforcement.
Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at email@example.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.