UP FRONT: I support law enforcement. Period.
In my media years, I spent a lot of time around cops. Even made a few friends. Assigned to hang out at the “cop shop” for several years in different cities, I learned a lot about the professional - and often personal - lives of those who make up city, county and state police agencies.
On the whole, as professionals, most were highly trained, extremely loyal (especially to each other) organized, effective and - most of the time - performing varying assignments with attention to detail.
Some emphasis has to be placed on two words in that description: “professional” and “loyal.”
Cops often have an “us-versus-them” attitude in performance of their work. Spending some years doing “ride-alongs,” getting shooting range practice, sitting in on daily shift-change briefings, being an observer of many arrests and even times of violence, it’s easy to see why a lot of cops feel that way. From their perspective, “us-versus-them” is real.
As for “loyal,” that’s real, too. In performance of day-to-day duties, being “back -ups” when other officers are in dangerous situations, learning to quickly “partner up” when they face violence with another officer they don’t know - loyalty is basic to survival. It’s basic to being a good cop.
Having said all that, there’s this. As a reporter, covering a string of arsons in a small Idaho town for several nights, I got lucky by photographing an off-duty sheriff’s deputy setting a barn on fire. The serial arsonist was a cop.
During a “ride-along,” I saw a cop shoot an unarmed drunk. I watched a detective throw a belligerent teenager up on the hood of his car and pound the kid’s head into the sheet metal until he was unconscious. I watched a cop throw an unarmed woman to the ground and kick her repeatedly until he was pulled off. By me.
There are, I’m sure, many, many other examples of poor thinking - criminal cop conduct - unnecessary violence - going too far. In other words, yes, Virginia, there are bad cops, too. And we’re seeing some of them in our nation’s streets.
Then, there’s this.
Have you watched the over-the-shoulder video of the Jacob Blake shooting? I have. Probably two-dozen times. Enough times to shake my trust in policing.
Watch it again. Closely. Blake was jammed between the open driver’s door and the side pillar. Trapped tightly. He was in the grip of two officers - two - one with his gun drawn. Blake could have had a machine gun in his car. But, crunched between the door and the car frame - in the firm grasp of two cops - he couldn’t have reached any further. So, from a distance of less than two feet, a cop put seven bullets in his back! Seven!
Watch it again. Physically trapped and in the grasp of two cops. Stopped! Then the shots. Seven!
No one can accurately guess what was in the shooter’s mind the second(s) he pulled the trigger. Maybe even he can’t remember. Not now, anyway. A subsequent review board will likely take his badge.
One of the problems with firing a bad cop is they usually go to another branch of law enforcement - in their community or somewhere else - and hire on. Two reasons for this. First, training is expensive, especially for smaller communities and that previously trained man or woman can go to work on day one. Second problem, finding men and women who have to be trained has to do with recruiting laws. The one most cited is any drug use, no matter now small. Even some pot 20 years ago. One time. Knocks out some good people.
Even with an extensive background around cops, I’ve got to admit, that Jacob Blake video turned my stomach. In cop lingo, it was not a “good shoot.” It was damned near murder - unjustified murder. A bad cop with a gun who panicked.
Then, our nation’s “chief executive” went to Kenosha, WI, to meet with the principals in the shooting. Really? He ignored the Blake family to meet with city officials and law enforcement. Yes, Virginia, there are bad presidents, too.
Thanks to one Donald J. Trump, other situations around the country that may have resulted in a few disorderly conduct arrests escalated into killings. What might have been peaceful, lawful and quiet marches have been turned into riots. Marches for this-that-or-the-other rightful grievances have attracted unidentified federal “cops” - or mercenaries - courtesy DJT. Also armed Trump supporters. Our right of peaceful assembly has been abridged - wait for it - by our President. And our Attorney General.
Anyone who thinks the hundreds of “Peaceful Prayer” invaders who showed up in downtown Portland without outside “support” isn’t paying attention. Their parade permit was for Clackamas County, not Multnomah. They were supposed to be no closer than 25 miles from downtown Portland. Did you see the foul-mouthed DJT-Pence 2020 flags flying from many of those several hundred vehicles? They didn’t just buy those at Wal-Mart. Semi-automatics, open carry, paintball guns, chemical sprayers. Some planning went into their “invasion.” And some supplying, as well.
Many months ago, Portland marches were peaceful affairs until some grifters and vandals joined in. Vandalism and thievery occurred. Apparently unable to seek out and arrest the miscreants, police presence was doubled and tripled in the faces of subsequent marchers. As the criminal activity continued, “peace-came-to-shove” and arrests of lawful marchers lit a fuse. Things got more militant and Trump - with the able assistance of his “personal” Attorney General - added some gasoline - those armed and unidentified feds - and, sure enough, things got hotter.
The escalating street problems in Portland and Kenosha - and elsewhere - are really political problems. Rather than let locals deal with locals, Trump and his minions have inserted themselves onto the scenes and have fanned smouldering ashes into full-blown fires. Now he - and only he - can be the “law and order” president who brings further federal resources to bear to restore peace. A peace he has deliberately shattered.
Bad politics and a few bad - or panicked - cops share much of the blame for problems we’re seeing in the streets. The thousands of good cops, doing their daily duties, don’t get the recognition or the notoriety. Neither do the politicians who are trying to mediate and solve problems.
But, Trump and the cop who fired the seven bullets into Jacob Blake’s back make the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.
My faith’s shaken a bit. But, the “bad guys” won’t prevail.