“Pigs!” In the 1960s, it was a disparaging and all-too-familiar moniker; police officers around the country heard it directed at them on a daily basis.
“Pigs!” It continued through much of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s but as long hair shortened, bell-bottoms narrowed and body piercings and tattoos replaced love-beads and Fu Manchus, the term and perspective began to fade.
“Pigs!” by the new millennium, was only a feint echo; all but disappearing in the mainstream.
I believe there are many reasons for this. Law enforcement embraced a community oriented policing philosophy; partnering with the community and listening to citizens and their concerns. Cops began walking beats again. They got on bikes and ATVs, and started Citizen Police Academies. Police organizations and unions became involved in charitable drives: the Special Olympics, Shopping with Cops and Running with Torches.
We listened to the community and modified our training, adding subjects such as cultural diversity, mental health issues, understanding the complexities of domestic violence, sexual assault prevention and advocating for victim’s rights. In addition, use of force training evolved and became more comprehensive, resulting in officers using less force when dealing with unruly subjects.
In short, cops were doing better jobs and putting in a collective effort to reconnect with the citizens they were paid to protect.
Fast-forward: August 2014, “Pigs” is back in vogue once again. At least it is if you follow certain members of the national media who are creating hysteria in spite of the true facts!
Some reporters and pundits are using extraordinarily negative terminology and applying malevolent motivations to the over 700,000 individuals in the law enforcement profession. Anchors, moderators, expert guests, and opinion journalists are describing police officers as militarized brutes, racists, storm-troopers, executioners, power hungry, out of control thugs and even murderers. Phrases such as “epidemic of violence from the police towards citizens” are being bandied about with unchallenged impunity despite reality, truths and statistics.
A woman named Michelle Bernard on a national broadcast insinuated that what happened in Ferguson, Mo. is an example of a “war on black boys” by the police and opined that the result could be “genocide.”
Genocide!? Where the hell are any kind of stats, anywhere, to suggest anything remotely like that is happening between cops and young black men? And her comment was virtually unopposed by anyone else on the panel.
No one knows what really happened in Ferguson except a limited few. Relative information is not being released (which is contributing to some of the paranoia) and nature abhors a vacuum so there is no shortage of pundits willing to simply jump in and make stuff up.
Here are some stats gleaned from such organizations as the National Institute of Justice:
2011: Police officers had direct contact with citizens more than 40 million times. 1,146 of those people were shot (not killed) by police. That means out of all the people police encountered approximately 0.00002865% were shot. If you consider that there are over 320 million people in the country that would mean 0.00000358125% of them were shot by cops.
2012: There were approximately 12 million arrests, which equals about 34,000 per day: slightly over 400 were killed by police. And almost all of them were killed because they were an immediate deadly threat to an officer or the public. Which means that at the times of those shootings, cops were saving lives.
The Truth: Cops are not “gunning down” people in the US. Are there mistakes, overzealousness, an overreaction to stress on occasion; yes, and we have to accept that and do something about it when those occasions happen. If a crime is committed by a police officer, criminal charges need be filed; No doubt.
But a war on the citizenry? Genocide being perpetrated by the police? Storm-troopers taking over cities?
I’ve been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. I’ve seen more than I care to share with people who don’t need to know such evil exists. I’m no different than every other cop out there, and let me guarantee you this; we feel. We are not heartless, nonhuman, Neanderthals looking to inflict pain. In fact, it’s the damn exact opposite. We beg, beg people not to resist, not to fight! And the stats are there to prove it; but why bother with reality?
We are attacked tens of thousands of times a year. We are wounded, paralyzed, put in comas that last decades, and are killed. We’ve been shot with every type of gun including our own; by people who were originally “unarmed.”
Our attackers are young, old, male, female, small, large, weak and strong. Some have extensive criminal records, some have never been in trouble in their lives. We’ve been stabbed with swords, commando knives, kitchen utensils and box cutters.
We also jump into rivers, run into burning buildings, reach into cars aflame, hold victims who need it and cry with people hurting and feeling the deepest of loss.
When somebody is shooting up a mall, university, or movie theatre, we are the ones running toward the gunfire, not knowing how many assailants there may be, what type of firepower they are wielding, where they are and if there will be any opportunity for cover or chance to survive!
We lay on the street holding dying children, women, men, pets and yes, other police officers. We knock on doors in the middle of the night and tell sleepy unsuspecting parents that the child they saw just a few hours ago is in the morgue. We hear and feel their subsequent pain and do our best to comfort them in those impossible situations. And we often ask God: Why?
We find lifeless children in ponds, pools and lagoons. We listen to seven-year-olds describe being raped by uncles. We try and calm women who are beaten so badly that they can’t enunciate words or open a swollen eye. And we try and control our rage as we listen to them tell us not to make an arrest because it was all their fault, all while the degenerate husband laughs and calls her a bitch in our presence.
We stand next to officers who get shot. We hold their hands and hug them as they die. We watch the flags get folded and handed to children who don’t understand why someone would purposely kill their mommy.
We go home and try our best to have normal lives. We hug our kids, help with chores, coach little league and do whatever it takes to hide the ugly side of humanity from our families.
We see the murders, the suicides, the mentally unstable. We help the homeless, give the unfortunate rides, hand a few bucks to the hungry, buy shoes for the shoeless, and get families into hotel rooms in order to protect them from the cold and the monsters looking for prey.
Here’s my challenge for you who dare to yell “Pig” and cast baseless assertions on an entire profession while having no idea what we do or what you are talking about.
You try it. Do what we do. See what we see. Hear what we hear. Feel what we feel. You try and handle the fear that we experience. Make the decisions that we have to make in the blink of an eye. Decisions that will be second-guessed and sometimes haunt us for years.
Live in our shoes for a year, then see if you think we are all still pigs.