Why cops shoot and get shot

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A campus safety vehicle parked outside the Cowan-Blakley Memorial Library. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

On Feb. 5, Sheriff ’s Deputy Micah Flick was killed in southern Colorado Springs, Colo., while a part of a multi-agency task force investigating a car theft. His death marks the third Colorado police death in five weeks. In those five weeks, five other officers were wounded
by gunfire.

Two days later, on Feb. 7, Officer David Sherrard of the Richardson Police Department was killed in a standoff in DFW. Then on Feb. 10, two more police officers were killed in Ohio
while responding to a 911 call. In response to Flick’s death, El Paso County sheriff Bill El-
der delivered an impassioned plea, expressing his frustration with the current public opinion of law enforcement officers.

“Unfortunately, in the past few years there has been a lack of respect for the men and women that are there to protect our communities, and frankly it just shocks me, it shocks
my staff, it shocks the leadership of public safety throughout the country,” Elder said.
“It’s got to end.”

The current social and political climate makes general distrust of police socially acceptable and almost mainstream, even at a place like the University of Dallas, where the addition of a police department or Mall camera has yielded suspicion. During the recent Groundhog festivities, some students complained of their parties being broken up by police officers, even though they were violating underage drinking laws.

In last week’s edition of The University News, an anonymous student spoke with the
newspaper about how she was at risk for being “arrested” for hosting a loud party with public drinking. In terms of trust or suspicion, she certainly erred on the side of suspicion, remarking that she was not given identification by the officers or told if they were responding to a complaint.

President Trump and the current republican leadership have inflamed similar suspicion by their attacks on the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. Despite all
these societal pressures, one statistic stands out that ought to inspire empathy for all police officers and alarm those concerned about the moral state of our culture.

The total number of on-duty police deaths after 9/11 inside the U.S., 2397, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, is almost the same as the number of military deaths in Afghanistan after 9/11; 2466, according to the Department of Defense. The same number of men and women in blue have died driving down the streets of Chicago, Detroit and Dallas as in places where Americans wear camouflage, like the Sangin district in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

Some people complain of the militarization of police forces across the country, but
when the same number of officers are dying in the United States as troops in Afghanistan, can you blame them? With the current state of gun laws, police should be on the same tier of firepower as criminals, and they need the kind of equipment to give them an advantage.

If you support the Black Lives Matter movement, like I do, you ought to support the Blue Lives Matter movement, because no organization does more to defend black lives in America’s inner cities than law enforcement. The crisis of young black men being murdered by police officers ultimately creates a legacy of betrayal.

However, getting to the root of why those tragedies occur, not partisan squabbling, is the only fruitful venture. Police officers shoot because they fear for their lives, which is common sense. Many assume that this must mean in a specific scenario. With the current hostile climate, it is a reasonable fear for law enforcement to fear for their lives at all times, making them more likely to shoot in any scenario, as has been the statistical trend, according to The Washington Post.

The Black Lives Matter movement and Blue Lives Matter movement are two sides of the same societal coin, but the conversation is hijacked by partisan politicians and pundits. No one has more to say about the issues and less to do with them than these types of commentators. Police officers are fast becoming the new Vietnam veterans, who
had to accept Mother Teresa’s mantra:

“We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, with so little, for so long, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

As a society, we cannot afford to alienate the officers who both protect human life and also serve and support the rule of law. UD students seeking to live virtuously must respect that vocation and the rule of law, especially in a climate when officers don’t know if they’re entering a situation that could result in their death, given the statistical possibility. Officers no longer worry only about public safety, but also their own personal safety. At the very least, if you contribute to the general distrust of police, on Groundhog day or any other day, don’t claim to back the blue.

1 COMMENT

  1. As the author of this article, I am ashamed and sincerely sorry for the pain this article may have caused and continues to cause. As a zealous 21 year old 2 and a half years ago, I thought that I was taking a balanced position. It was not only unbalanced, but immoral. I regret writing every word of it. At the time, I was being recruited by multiple police departments and enamored with what can only be described as male toxicity present in policing. It made me willfully blind to its examples of racism. Thankfully, I did not choose that career option. In this response, I hope people who may happen upon this will not be tempted by the misleading claims it presents.

    First and most important point: police are the largest danger facing young black men in inner cities. The legacy of police has never been anything other than betrayal. Police have always been on the side of oppressor. Crime statistics that appear to say communities of color are more dangerous are not crime statistics; they are arrest statistics from over-policed areas.

    Speaking of statistics, while it is true on-duty deaths were relatively equivalent at that time to the number of troops killed in combat in Afghanistan, the leading cause of death among police officers is traffic related incidents. Implying that mitigates or excuses in any way the militarization of the police is at best misinformed or misleading and at worst nefarious. I regret believing it and I sincerely apologize I wrote it.

    In contrast, the leading cause of death for young black men is being shot by police officers. The militarization of the police department and adoption of “Broken Windows” policing are the two twin relics of Jim Crow barbarism. These two institutions of policing, fueled by irrational fear, coupled with severe implicit bias and full bore racism in many cases, are inexcusable, indefensible, and incompatible with judicious law enforcement. They are literally killing Americans. Blue lives do not matter.

    Again, I hope if you are reading this you will accept my sincere apology for the opinions presented in this article. “It is time to normalize changing your opinion when presented with new evidence.” Black lives matter.

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