This Op-Ed article appears in the Sunday, April 12th edition of Florida today newspaper. The editor is responsible for the title, though I’d have written something more specific like: “Answering Questions About Police Shootings”
Frank: Most cops always do their jobs right
From 1960, when I became a young Dade County officer, to the present time, the police profession has evolved across the nation. I witnessed the evolution in real time, from a segregated force, to one that employed all races, nationalities and gender.
In 1960, racial profiling was commonplace. That changed, not recently, but in the 1970s and ’80s. In today’s departments, the ban on profiling is powerful edict, addressed in all training, which prohibits anything that resembles profiling,
The labor pool of cops today has grown up in an integrated/assimilated world where most young people don’t see color. These youngsters are the police officers of 2015.
Police officers are thoroughly screened, tested, investigated and to the best of all abilities, psychologically evaluated for fitness to wear the badge and carry a deadly weapon. But not every test is foolproof.
Not every lawyer is honest, but they still practice. Not every doctor is competent, yet they remain licensed. Not every journalist is fair and impartial, though they are taught to be. And every so often, a bad cop slips through the cracks and abuses his power. But the cops generate headlines.
Because cops are routinely sent into volatile situations, they are more likely than average people to find themselves in crisis situations where they must react in split seconds to surprise attacks or employ critical measures that will be micro-analyzed by armchair judges later on. The average person doesn’t know that feeling. We should be praising our 800,000 police officers in America for getting it right 98 percent of the time, for they are the ones who risk not coming home at the end of work days — for you and me.
According to an amateur video, the recent shooting in North Charleston, South Carolina, was an abomination. People are right to feel outrage. But we can’t declare every white cop/black victim incident as an act of racism. Plenty of white cops have shot white suspects. Two days after the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting on Aug. 9, a black cop in Salt Lake City shot an unarmed white man. It barely received media notice.
Here’s some questions often asked, with the short answers:
•1. Why aren’t there more black police officers in places like Ferguson?
Answer: Because they are hard to recruit. The job is not that attractive to many young blacks because of social stigma and a desire to enter other professions. And, because an inordinate percentage of young blacks have backgrounds involving criminal behavior that automatically eliminate.
•2. Why don’t cops aim for legs or arms rather than shooting the body?
Answer: Because such practices usually causes a miss, or a wounding shot that does not incapacitate. All training, military and police, emphasize aiming for mass.
•3. Why don’t police agencies provide more sensitivity training?
Answer: Because they are already awash in sensitivity training.
•4. Why not have cameras on all police officers?
Answer: That’s probably going to happen soon. The upside: Cameras will provide evidence of good or bad policing. But it will also negate discretion for cops. I knew kids that don’t have arrest records today because a thoughtful cop kicked their butts for possessing a marijuana joint, instead of arresting them.
•5. Why are so many cops racists?
Answer: They’re not. Blacks are subject to a disproportionate number of police calls and/or attention, because they commit a disproportionate number of serious crimes. Police attention is more often directed to the black community by default. Consider, plenty of black officers have had their share of questionable incidents with white suspects, but get no national attention.
Each incident has its own unique dynamics. We must be careful not to feed into false narratives hammered into our psyche by race-baiters and sensation-seeking media.
Without police, the law would become meaningless, and the nation would collapse from anarchy.