He puts on his work clothes and his tool belt, kisses the wife and kids goodbye, and heads off to work. They all are aware of the possibility that he might not be home at the end of the shift, since every day in this country someone in his profession does not make it home because of death or serious injury. The shift can be at any hour, since the job goes on 24/7/365, and the work never ends. The work clothes are a police uniform, and the tool belt has a firearm and handcuffs attached.
He loves the job, but he will spend that shift dealing with one of the most unpredictable creatures on earth. You see, if you’re dealing with certain animals, there is reasonable certainty of a possible attack. Animals can be fierce or docile, but they act on instinct rather than reason, and those instincts are at least somewhat predictable. But he deals with people, and there is absolutely nothing that they won’t do, and no way of predicting what they might do.
Far too many people today have another trait — the overwhelming inability to take the blame for their own actions. Virtually everything that happens to them just has to be someone else’s fault. Their parents refused to tell them they were wrong about anything, so they grew up with a sense of entitlement and the belief that they couldn’t possibly be wrong. In a confrontation with a police officer — usually the result of their own stupid actions- a bad outcome just has to be the officer’s fault.
The officer works in one of the only occupations where a person is hated and sometimes targeted for death simply because of his job, and where a legitimate and honest attempt to do his job properly can result in his being charged with a crime.
He has to have training in human interaction that continues throughout his career, while some of his biggest critics have little social training. They are the way they are simply because their parents, who had them for 18 or more years, never taught them much of anything but selfishness and narcissism. They went off to a school system that is seemingly more interested in their self-esteem than in than in their education, then to a college that often teaches not much more than left-wing tripe.
If the officer is dealing with someone who refuses to comply with requests or follow instructions — which happens with increasing frequency today — he’s flying blind. If that person reaches into his clothing, or into a vehicle, the officer has no idea what he’s reaching for. If he’s reaching for a gun, and the officer waits too long to find out, that officer is possibly dead. The time between a person grabbing a gun and firing it can be a fraction of a second. If he responds too quickly, and it’s not a gun, the officer may unknowingly shoot an unarmed person.
The decision has to be made and carried out in a split-second, and the outcome can result in the officer being either a hero, or branded a criminal. If the incident goes sour and he’s charged with a crime, he may bankrupt himself on his defense, even if he’s cleared.
In many cases when a confrontation has a bad outcome, a significant segment of today’s public, egged-on by a totally biased media, automatically assume that it was bias against the person’s race or ethnicity that caused the officer to shoot. No one wants to accept the probability that it was only a natural act of self-preservation.
The officer is sworn to uphold and enforce the law, but all too often today the charges he files are thrown out by an overly political prosecutor or an activist judge, either of which is more interested in making a political statement or in making the law fit his or her own biases than they are in enforcing or properly interpreting the existing law.
For all of this, in most cities the officer’s salary is barely more than a street worker and probably less than the mayor’s secretary. The most amazing thing is that anyone is even willing to do it in today’s screwed-up world.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.