Hero: [heer-oh] noun, plural heroes; also heros. 1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal:
Police forces on the defensive and in fear of patrolling our streets. Protests in cities large and small. Police and community afraid of the other.
How did it become such a binary and non-nuanced argument, with defenders of our blue line insistent that any critique of police techniques or actions is an attack on them personally and endangers their safety? And why are some critics of police tactics and individual officers insisting that all police are corrupt and dangerous?
Our current culture of unquestioned hero worship of regular people just doing their jobs – difficult jobs – and a police culture embracing that hero worship could be a primary cause of the disconnect.
Heroes aren’t supposed to be wrong. Or bad. Or make mistakes. Post 9/11 it seems it’s assumed – and we’re constantly being coaxed to publicly acknowledge – that every single public safety officer is a hero. So when an officer does something bad or makes a mistake, it engenders a sense of real betrayal . You expect bad guys to be bad. You expect imperfect humans to make mistakes. You don’t expect either from a hero.
The unquestioned hero worship is unfair to officers as well. If an officer has been told for 15 years that they are without question a hero by putting on a uniform, there could be a sense of entitlement by that officer. Heroes may not expect to be criticized for their errors or may become overzealous because of righteousness. They may not expect to be talked back to or questioned. All of these behaviors are bound to lead to some very bad interactions with the public.
Without a doubt it takes a person with some bravery to enter a profession where you face bad guys and unpleasant situations on a daily basis. And even though police officer isn’t in the top ten most dangerous jobs (33 officers died by unlawful violence in the line of duty in 2013), it is still dangerous physically even if officer deaths. Officers engage in scuffles and incur minor and major injuries. And the threat of violence itself is stressful and mentally damaging. (more…)