It’s terrible that police officer deaths in the line of duty are up 43% this year over last. Not because the death of police officers, regardless of how “line of duty” is defined, are more significant than the death of any other person, but because the untimely death of a person who happens to be a police officer is as significant and unfortunate.
That doesn’t make it my fault, however. Via FoxNews :
Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the number of officer fatalities fluctuates from year to year. However, he said he has noticed an “alarming frequency” of people targeting police.
“There has been a spate of particularly brutal and senseless attacks on the police,” said O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor in New York. “It seems to me, an unprecedented level of disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers all over the place.”
He said a rise in mental health problems and scathing criticism of police, such as the comments found on some blogs, could be fueling the brazenness and disregard for authority.
Could that be true? Possibly, though there’s absolutely nothing to suggest it aside from O’Donnell’s facile use of the statistic to lash out at “enemies of the police.” Hey, why not? You love police. You hate critics of police. The opportunity is available, and it’s not like people think hard enough to realize that you’re just making it up. At least some people will buy it, in any event.
I don’t buy it. Aside from the total absence of any substantive basis to support the claim, and despite the fact that many of the deaths were the result of vehicular negligence (yeah, maybe people were negligent because they were reading SJ on their Kindle while driving. It could happen.), let’s consider this in terms of cause and effect.
The content here about police is almost invariably in reaction to something a police officer has done.or failed to do. We(meaning bloggers who are disinclined to be police apologists) don’t make them do it. If it was up to us, they wouldn’t do it. It’s not, and they do it anyway. Only then do we write.
But O’Donnell claims that our highlighting and criticizing wrongdoing on the part of police “[fuels] the brazenness and disregard for authority.” Well, yeah, guilty on the disregard for authority part. But there is a monumental leap, even if it were factually connected, between criticizing police and the “brazenness”, assuming there’s a factual basis for such a claim, with which people deal with cops.
Clearly, the expectation of people like O’Donnell is that the public should obey and be compliant. I can hear the choir in the background singing, “it’s a very hard job to be a cop.” The song strikes a sour note. Contrary to the viewpoint of some police officers, as well as academics like O’Donnell who view the citizenry as existing to be subject to authority, it’s not our job as human beings to be compliant with the every whim of the cops. They’re the ones being paid to “protect and serve,” not to dominate and control. Worse yet, not to engage in conduct that results in the needless death of people at their hands. We’re getting just a wee bit tired of hearing the police officer say “oops, it was an accident.”
The problem, at least for me, is that the needless deaths of people at the hands of police are just as tragic as the needless deaths of police officers. The difference is that when a police officer dies at the hand of a criminal, it’s at the hand of a criminal. Criminals are, by definition, functioning outside the law, and are behaving in a way that society does not tolerate. Criminals are not the bar by which police officer conduct is judged. When deaths occur at the hands of police officers, they can’t be excused because of the behavior of criminals. Society expects police officers to conduct themselves better than criminals.
And so bloggers are critical when police officers engage in misconduct, abuse, stupidity and violence. We do so because police officers behave this way. We do so because other police officers conceal and excuse such behavior by their blue brothers. We do not cause this behavior, and we’re not responsible for it happening.
If there is any truth whatsoever to O’Donnell’s claim, and I doubt there is, then don’t place the deaths of police officers at our feet. Cops act. We react. If you want to change the equation, go to the source. And if the complaint is that those of us who report or opine on the improper and criminal conduct of cops encourage or enable those who are otherwise inclined to do harm to police, then there’s an easy way to shut us up. Stop the misconduct, abuse, stupidity and violence.
What a glorious day it would be if there was nothing negative to say about cops.