In the early morning hours of November 10, 2016, two Police Officers were dispatched to a home in western Pennsylvania for a domestic disturbance. As they arrived, shots rang out in an ambush style attack. Both Officers were shot and a seven year veteran of the Canonsburg (PA) Police Department, fifty-two year old Scott Leslie Bashioum was killed. His death would mark the 120th Line of Duty death this year (up 14%) and the 56th death by gunfire (up 60%) Officer Fatalities. In fact, as of November 2, 2016, ambush style attacks against Law Enforcement have seen an increase of over 167%. But what’s the root cause of the rise in assault and murder of Law Enforcement? Many in Law Enforcement see it as an all-out attack based on false narratives and a lack of true leadership from the Obama Administration. However, we have a newly elected President that has shown, at least while campaigning, a strong support of Law Enforcement so everything should return to normal soon. Not so fast.
The breakdown between Law Enforcement and the communities they serve can be traced to a myriad of reasons. Some accurate, some purely based on falsehoods. But the main reason that many view as the breakdown again, starts with this administration. On July 16, 2009 Harvard University Professor Henry Gates was arrested for Disorderly Conduct by Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley. Sgt. Crowley had been dispatched to the Gates residence after a passerby had observed someone forcing their way into the front door of the residence. The person forcing their way into the residence was Gates, who had inadvertently locked himself out of the house however Sgt. Crowley had no way of knowing this while he is responding to the call. After the arrest became public, President Obama commented on the arrest saying that “the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” I would agree if that was all that actually occurred, but it’s not. After the facts were out and facing large amounts of criticism from Law Enforcement groups and members, President Obama walked back his comments saying that he “regretted his comments and hoped that the situation could become a “teachable moment”. The entire situation came to a close, at least publicly, at the famous “Beer Summit” where both men agreed that the situation could have been handled differently. Professor Gates later said that his relationship with Crowley was “amicable.”
Had this been the only time that Obama or his administration had spoken out against Law Enforcement without first obtaining all of the facts and evidence, one could say that life may have been at least somewhat different for LEO’s. But that was simply not to be. Throughout his tenure, he and/or members of his administration were quick to slam members of Law Enforcement within the early moments of Police related incidents. From Ferguson to Baltimore they fanned the flames of a tenuous relationship between Law Enforcement and the citizens they work to protect. And cities burned, people died and property was destroyed. All due to a false narrative that was perpetuated by this administration and spread by Social Media (and the mainstream media) by those unwilling to ask the hard questions or wait for the facts to come out. And we see how the overwhelming majority of these cases played out.
Some view the election of Trump as turning the tide against all of the hate and vitriol against our nations Law Enforcement, but this didn’t just happen overnight. This has been years in the making and will take years to undo, if it can be undone. We are hopeful that President Trump will stand in support of Law Enforcement with more than just words. He needs to be willing to once again provide them with the tools and laws that they need to protect their citizens as well as actually calling for cooler heads to prevail in incidents involving Law Enforcement. He could also provide local Law Enforcement with actual assistance from Federal agencies instead of selectively sending them in on a witch hunt as some have become accustomed to. A new non-biased driver in the seat of the Department of Justice would go a long way in accomplishing this.
Another item that could move relationships forward is the actual willingness to call things as they actually are. If you encounter a Law Enforcement Officer and you assault him or her or point or move for a weapon to use against them, you and everyone else should understand that your force will be met with equal or greater force. The public should understand this and should call it what it is when it occurs. Policing the neighborhoods of this nation isn’t pretty. Some areas are incredibly violent and unfortunately have to be met with violence. We can no longer sit back and pretend that this violence doesn’t exist or that it exists in a vacuum and then cry foul when an Officer has to make a decision in a fraction of a second that will haunt them the rest of their life. They simply need to be given the benefit of the doubt until facts and evidence prove otherwise. You have to ask the hard questions. Why did this occur? Simply stating that the police are bad or corrupt should no longer cut it. Look beyond the surface, truly seek the truth and you may just be surprised at what you discover. The overwhelming majority of Law Enforcement personnel are incredible people that simply want to protect those around them, including those that hate them. Casting about hate and aspersions on Social Media simply because you were ticketed or an Officer appeared rude is wrong and unconstructive.
We’re all in this together, like it or not. Ask yourself if you truly wish to live in a society where the rule of law is no longer valid and the protectors begin to diminish. One needs only to look at the news on this day after the election to see what would happen in some larger cities without the protectors. Godspeed my brothers and sisters in blue, the majority support what you do each and every day, even if they are silent.