Police work still difficult, dangerous
June 10, 2020
Four Minneapolis police officers are justifiably facing murder or aiding and abetting charges in the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died after enduring nearly nine minutes of Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck as he lay on the ground.
The protests — non-violent, destructive and even deadly — that have followed across the nation have received ample coverage in all media.
Media reports also signal a new period of introspection as the nation again confronts racism and again reaches out for ways to end it.
I think we are correct to seek changes in the way we enforce the law in minority communities.
While racism in policing should not be tolerated, however, I want to support police officers and the demanding job they do daily.
Take race out of it. What if you had to report to work every day facing neighborhoods full of people who mostly despise you? What if your job was to interact with them, sometimes to prevent them from taking harmful actions against each other and at other times, to stop them while or just after they have broken the law, and sometimes take them to jail?
Even if you know why they hate and fear you, you would go work daily knowing these people who often pose a danger to each other, pose a constant hazard to you.
Now, think about this: In the fraction of a second it takes for a suspect to reach into a pocket and pull out what could be a weapon, society expects you to be intimately familiar with reams of criminal statutes and court law to guide your reaction.
Think of the gnawing in your stomach that occurs when the boss unexpectedly calls you in for a meeting. It could be your livelihood. Now multiply that feeling as your radio crackles with a call of a crime in progress and you activate sirens and rush toward the trouble. It could be your life.
This is what I think about when I hear comfortable armchair criticism of the police.
Add the racial element, and the situation becomes very sensitive and exponentially more complicated.
In all likelihood, policing needs some changes. From my armchair, I would suggest more recruitment of minority officers, more careful screening to eliminate candidates who just want to push people around or act on prejudices against those who are different from them.
As I shift position in my armchair, I would even suggest that law enforcement in poor minority neighborhoods be conscious of neighborhood norms and values, and be conducted with some flexibility, as long as life, liberty and respect for property are maintained, and as much as possible by minority officers who understand the neighborhood.
In the meantime, though, while I sympathize with victims of racism, I will also be sympathetic to the increasingly difficult job that many police officers face every day.
Steve Hansen writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: