The vicious killings of two police officers in Brooklyn just days before Christmas should hit close to home here, there and everywhere.
Such killings can happen anywhere at any time. No law-enforcement officer is ever safe – anywhere. We learned that in central Minnesota 13 months ago when Cold Spring officer Tom Decker was ambushed and shot to death while making a welfare check. In 1996, St. Joseph police officer Brian Klinefelter was shot to death during a traffic stop.
All law-enforcement officers know when they leave their homes for work, there is a very real chance they may never see their families again. That’s because they are constantly on the front line of danger – accidents of every description and, horrifically, the risk of being murdered.
Since 1791, a total of 20,267 law-enforcement officers died in the line of duty in the United States, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Association. Such deaths were caused by accidents that included car crashes, drownings, being hit by trains, being struck on bicycles, falling objects, natural and man-made catastrophes, stabbings, beatings and shootings. In just the past decade, nationwide, there were 1,501 officers killed by accidents, including 78 women. Of that number, 548 were shot to death, including 31 in 2013.
One of the biggest indirect causes of assaults against officers are the stupid stereotypes that have been promulgated for years by TV shows and movies. Cops are often portrayed as reckless, corrupt, on-the-take, unstable or trigger-happy psychotics who enjoy shoot-‘em-up frenzies. These twisted versions fit right into the sick minds of sociopaths who, like the killer in Brooklyn, had no qualms about assassinating two policemen just because they happened to be there. Too many people who have had scrapes with the law, including that killer, blame cops rather than their own behavior for the messes they get themselves into. They seethe with anger against authority figures, including law enforcement, until one day they snap and start firing away.
In New York City, just days before the officers’ murders, some demented people in the streets were chanting “Death to Cops.” Imagine the effect of that on the minds of some angry malcontent who gets the idea it’s somehow “heroic” to go kill a cop. If only such assassins could realize, before they grab their guns, how they will not become heroes but merely disgusting scoundrels of the worst order.
It’s too bad more people cannot attend citizen police academies, in which students learn about the true nature of police work. Those TV-movie stereotypes fall by the wayside mighty quickly when academy students learn, first-hand in many cases, the staggering variety of hard work law-enforcement officers actually do: traffic patrol for public safety, responses to accidents, every conceivable type of emergency assistance, help during catastrophes, checking on the welfare of children or vulnerable adults, writing up a flurry of reports, responding to domestic disputes during which tempers flare and get out of control, rushing to the scenes of robberies, doing many community-service jobs (often as volunteers), having to deal with a myriad of nuisance complaints that range from neighborhood disputes to animal-control issues. Dangers are inherent in almost all of those tasks.
We should stop criticizing law-enforcement officers when they do their jobs; we should quit whining, as some people do, about the “blue meanies” who issued them a citation for speeding or some other infraction. Yes, there are some “bad” cops, and when they cross the line they should be prosecuted just like anybody else who commits a crime. There are, of course, “bad” apples in every profession. The overwhelming number of officers are doing mostly thankless and dangerous daily tasks for the sake of our public safety. We should help them by working with them, not bad-mouthing them or stereotyping them.
The surest way to win against crime is for all citizens to cooperate closely with local law enforcement. Such cooperation goes a long way to squelch the stupid image of cops as “blue meanies.”