The number of law enforcement officers shot to death in the line of duty rose more than 50% last year, according to the Washington-based National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. – CNN article
Two police officers have been killed have been in Wisconsin and in California. Men with evil intent in their hearts shot them. The malefactors were killed by return fire. There are no winners in this scenario. There are only brave men who put their lives on the line in order to protect us. In one sense, society won because we are safe from the evil of those two men. But, in another sense society lost, for who would wish to lose good men, who would wish to see families in grief, who would wish to hear Taps played too early in someone’s life?
This has been a tough year for law enforcement officers. It certainly goes with A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only,” – Charles Dickens.
On the one hand, this has been the year of many demonstrations against law enforcement. Reports from the Justice Department have shown unacceptable levels of police violence, bias, and misconduct in Ferguson, Cleveland, and other cities. Projects, such as the Innocence Project, are proving an increasing number of victims innocent of the charges for which they were jailed, often also showing deliberate malpractice of justice both by law enforcement and prosecutors. [The Innocence Project alone is up the its 325th victim set free by DNA testing.] Given that various of the victims were on death row, this means an unsavory tendency for some in law enforcement and prosecution to lie and/or withhold evidence in order to get a conviction and clear a case from the books, even if it means the murder of an innocent victim. When government is willing to murder or jail victims; when government is willing to lie and/or withhold evidence in order to increase its “case closed” rate, we all ought to fear.
On the other hand, this has been a year in which law enforcement officers have been placed in harm’s way more often than before. They have been exposed to those who would murder them in an evil desire to “even the odds” because of the bad reputation that law enforcement has received this past year. Innocent law enforcement officers have paid a price for the misbehavior of some among them. For the first time since the decrease in violence that began in the early 1990’s, this is a year in which violence against law enforcement has increased. At a time when law enforcement officers most need the support of their community, they are meeting questions and doubts. It is a tough time to be a law enforcement officer.
This is a time that law enforcement needs our support. But, frankly, what they do not need is nice little church celebrations in which we bring up a police person from our midst and praise them. No, they need more substantial support than that. I know from my viewpoint that I would like more young priests and pastors to become volunteer chaplains for their police force. Maybe some of us need to volunteer to be on civilian oversight boards with the conviction that we will do a good, fair, and neutral job. I will tell you clearly what we do not need to do. We do not need to take political sides on the reports that have been released. There is a difference between supporting and whitewashing.
Support does not always mean agreement. Support definitely does not mean covering up. But, support does mean recognizing the essential nature of law enforcement in our society and working to support what is right, what is just, what is honest, and what is proper. If we commit to that, then it can be a good time to be law enforcement.