What Lesson Will The Reaper Learn?

“I was horrified. I’m frightened for my cops,” Chief Thomas Nestel said reacts to surveillance video.

As well Chief Nestel should be, given what was reported by MyFoxPhilly.  A SEPTA Transit cop tried to stop a fare-beater, who didn’t go quietly.

Police said the suspect, Ernest Hays, was avoiding arrest and threw SEPTA police officer Samuel Washington on the ground and then pinned him under a bench.

No, it wasn’t that Hays fought Washington that horrified Nestel, but what happened next.  Or, to be more precise, what didn’t happen next.

Officials said he was wanted in connection with a SEPTA ticket scam when Officer Washington stopped him. The chief said not a single SEPTA passenger called for help but this lady did take out her phone to record the fight.

This generated a slew of commentary about the police, the public and why no one jumped in to help Officer Washington.

“To go out every day they work really hard and try to make it easy for people and make people feel safe but they rely on people to help It’s starting to take its toll and it’s really concerning me,” Chief Nestle said.

At PINAC, Carlos Miller offers his takeaway from the incident:

It’s impossible to tell without interviewing the actual witnesses but it’s a little surprising to hear the outraged response from the police chief when cops in this country have done nothing but create an us vs them mentality between cops and citizens.

This is evident by reading many of the comments in The Blaze’s article:

Figure it out cops, this is the future that I have been waiting for. You have intimidated and harrassed us long enough, NO ONE cares if you get the crap beat out of you

The comments go on and on and reveal a serious distrust and disregard for police officers in general, mainly because of personal experiences or videos they have seen.

Carlos offers numerous comments in the same vein, many of which speak to being raised to trust and respect the police, but having that respect shaken to the point where they will no longer put themselves at risk to help a cop, largely out of the belief that a cop wouldn’t do so for them.  The overarching theme is As you sow, so shall you reap.  To the public, police have become the not too grim reapers.

He sums it up well:

And it’s unfortunate we feel this way because most of us are law-abiding citizens who would not physically fight a police officer.

We just no longer assume they are the good guys when we see them physically fighting a citizen.

The point of Carlos’ post and the many comments explaining why people think the police no longer deserve the public’s trust and respect, not to mention help, is to tell the cops that the path they are following has taken them to a place where they are viewed as the enemy, just as police in riot gear with heavy weapons see the public as the enemy in their war on anyone who isn’t a cop.  This could be a wake-up call for the police. Do they not see that they have lost the hearts and minds of the public through their abusive and violent conduct?

But go back to Chief Nestel’s reaction, that he’s horrified. He’s not horrified that this rift has developed between his officers and the public, to the point that the public will watch this officer beaten without moving a muscle to help.  He’s not horrified that the heavy hand of the cops, especially Philly cops who have a long and honored tradition of horrifically violent behavior toward the public, especially minorities, is viewed as the public enemy. No.

“I’m frightened for my cops.”

On its surface, this incident violates the First Rule of Policing, that a cop was harmed.  More than anything else, the institution of law enforcement cannot tolerate a police officer suffering harm.  And when harm occurs, the lesson is that the First Rule of Policing comes first.

There are two paths the police can take in reaction to this incident. The first, to recognize that the public’s failure to come to the officer’s aid is the product of a generation seeing incident after incident of police beating, abusing, lying, and violating people’s rights.  They are the police, but they are not necessarily the good guys.

They see the same videos we see, but the videos look very different through their eyes. They see police doing what they “have to do,” dealing with the enemy surrounding them as they go out every day and risk their lives to “protect” some amorphous public, the very same people they are beating to do so.  They see no wrong, and believe we, the public, just don’t get it.  No one but a cop understands how hard their job is.

The other path is to rely on Mr. Glock and Mr. Taser, whose assistance is always there for them, since they can’t rely on the public.  The rift of “us against them” is exacerbated by what happened here, and their disdain, if not hatred, of the public is reinforced by the fact that not one person came forward to defend the cop.

And the next time, when force is used immediately and a person is hurt or killed so the officer isn’t, they will believe it completely justified because they have no expectation that the public, their enemy, will lift a finger to help.

Yet, had someone come forward to aid Officer Washington who was getting his butt kicked by Hays, it would not have made the police feel more kindly toward the public and less inclined to beat someone when the next opportunity presented itself. After all, they deserve the public’s respect and admiration because they are the police, they are here to protect and serve, and we owe them our deepest appreciation, to the point of risking our own lives even though they won’t risk theirs for us.


9 comments on “What Lesson Will The Reaper Learn?

  1. Marc R

    The elephant in the room, er train, is that had somebody ran up behind the officer to help him that benevolent citizen is risking his life that responding officers won’t distinguish his attempts to help from a perceived attempt to cause further harm to the downed officer.

    1. SHG Post author

      That could never happen, because Police have this magic radar that enables them to distinguish friend from foe. If they shoot, tase or punch someone, it means they’re a foe, which is proven by the fact that they needed to shoot, tase or punch someone. It’s magic.

  2. Lurker

    What would be the legal status of the citizen helping the policeman out? The citizen is not deputised, so I’d imagine she remains a private person. Would there be a law requiring the state to defend her against civil suits and giving her immunity against prosecution? Would the state cover her expenses (e.g. damaged clothing) and medical costs resulting from injuries?

    At least in Finland, the state answers for the actions of the civilian assisting the policeman and covers his injuries only if the policeman has requested assistance. If the policeman has requested assistance, the civilian has the same legal protections as the police officer.

    And if there is no such shield, it is not rational for the civilian to help police.

  3. George B.

    Seldom has Carlos be so correct AND so succinct, in one sentence. I live near the infamous PG County, home of the likes of Carlton Jones, Keith Washington, Steven Jackson [see Manuel de Jesus Espina] Stephanie Mohr, and others.

    My response to the Chief is more barbed, but on focus. “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!..”

    If you want us to respect your [not our, but your…] cops, start with them respecting *us and our rights.* You do so by charging any criminal actions/actors with criminal charges, not giving out days off, with pay, as rewards.

    1. SHG Post author

      As Carlos said, most people are law-abiding and, frankly, want to believe the cops are the good guys. No matter how angry or cynical, people need to believe that there is truth and justice in the world. Good people don’t cheer harm coming to anyone, cops included. But there is a wide gap between applauding someone harming a cop and someone jumping in to help the cop.

  4. Bruce Coulson

    How often has the phrase ‘Don’t take the law into your own hands’ been preached by the forces of law and order? How many times have we heard from police that they are the trained professionals; that if they are dealing with a situation, civilian input is neither solicited nor wanted? And yet, when citizens act (or rather, do not act) on those principles, Chief Nestel is horrifed.

    No sane, civilized person wants harm to be done to police; but if the police can’t handle a struggling suspect, why would they expect a civilian to be any more effective?

    If you’re constantly stating “Stay out of our way; we will handle this matter”, why so surprised when people take you at your word?

  5. Canvasback

    To expand on Bruce Coulson’s comment: This really is just more self-dramatization by the cops. It could have been anybody being held down on a bench and pounded. This time it was just a cop. Chief Nestel acts like his bro was ignored out of spite. Not so.
    We’re encouraged to stay safe and look for someone with authority when things go wrong. Combine that with the ennui of our day-to-day existence, and you can see why some people start using the word “sheeple.” They just didn’t know what to do when the fight was on. Ernest Hays on the other hand is a risk-taker, thinks for himself. I bet he jaywalks, never buys rental car insurance, and tears the tags off mattresses.

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