Head on a swivel.
That’s how a veteran cop I know told me he lives his life these days. If he’s in his car at a stoplight, he’s looking around to see if “someone’s pointing a gun at me.” If he’s standing in his uniform, he wants to know who’s around. If he’s out of uniform eating dinner and other patrons get out of hand, cursing and being too loud, he’s afraid to say anything lest it escalate.
That’s the way it is for police officers in this country these days — some say they feel like targets.
Just a couple of weeks ago in Birmingham a detective pulled over an erratic driver and it ended with the driver beating the officer unconscious with his own pistol. The officer, who has tried to remain anonymous, said he didn’t shoot the life-long criminal who attacked him because he was afraid how he would be portrayed in the media. His attacker was black and the officer is white, and if he shot the man it would have been another case of a cop shooting an “unarmed black man.” Cue Al Sharpton.
Just the other day in Texas a man walked up behind a deputy standing at a gas pump and shot him 15 times, just for the hell of it. Two officers in New York were assassinated in their car late last year. The stories grow as the number of people willing to shoot a police officer seems to be rising every week.
But it’s not just getting shot, it’s having to fight. A Mobile officer was punched in the face just last week answering a domestic dispute. The cop I spoke with said that kind of thing would have been very unusual not so many years ago.
Why is it all happening? It’s a mix of a number of things — media, technology, politics and racial pandering. President Obama’s penchant for popping off when a black citizen is shot by a white cop certainly is a big part of the problem. Having the president assign racist motives to any white cop who shoots a black suspect has given criminals safe harbor. That, combined with the prevalence of cell phones, an anti-police media and some cops who do make bad decisions, has created a situation in which police are seen by many as the bad guys.
“I was transporting a guy we arrested the other day and he said ‘y’all just like to kill black people,’” Mobile Cop said. MC explained how he feels the president’s comments and the media have helped create a situation unlike any he’s seen in more than two decades on the force.
“It’s acceptable,” he said of people hurting or even killing cops. “The right people just aren’t condemning it.”
In the case of the Birmingham officer, people actually stood around and videoed him being pistol-whipped into unconsciousness, then posted the videos online with messages making fun of the situation. Hard to imagine what kind of lowlife does that.
Mobile Cop said he watched a discussion on CNN about the Birmingham beating in which one commentator declared the situation a policy failure because the officer failed to shoot the oncoming assailant, while another applauded the officer for using restraint and taking a beating. He was amazed two seemingly cogent people could have such different views of the crime.
“I get paid to do my job, but I don’t get paid to go out and get injured,” MC said. “I want to do my 10 or 12 hours and go home to my family.”
He says men he has arrested recently have told him police officers should know how to fight and not use their guns, an assumption that’s not uncommon now.
“How many times can you get punched in the face before you go unconscious?” he asked. “If you’re choking me, how long before I die? That’s what people don’t understand.”
MC and other police I’ve spoken with feel politicians and the media have set a scene in which cops are going out and trying to find unarmed black men to beat or kill. What people forget is the vast majority of the time officers are responding to calls about criminal behavior.
“Nine times out of 10 it’s not a chance encounter. Nine times out of 10 someone called us,” he explained.
Those of us who respect what the police do find it hard to understand this culture in which criminals who want to fight with, or even kill, police are turned into victims. In the vast majority of these situations, once the dust has cleared and the politicians have stopped blathering, you can generally find a career criminal engaging in behavior that was dangerous to himself and others. Did he “deserve” to die? Maybe not, but did the officer he was attacking deserve to die or be brutalized? No way.
Of course in any profession there are going to be people who do their jobs poorly, and police are no exception. Yes, police who abuse their authority should be punished, but the pendulum has swung so far it’s hard to imagine what would make someone want to put on a badge these days.
If it wouldn’t be so detrimental to the rest of us who are trying to live peaceful, productive lives, I would love to see all the criminals, police haters and race baiters who think cops just sit around all day waiting for a chance to kill a black man get a chance to live in a community without police. Let them deal with their own Michael Browns as they victimize the weak. Let them have every killer, thief, robber and rapist wander their neighborhoods without a care in the world.
Maybe everyone could gather in the center of the street and yell “F*** the police!” and have a big laugh before the lawlessness begins.
Those of us who don’t want to live in the Wild West should push back against what’s going on. Support the cops. Be courteous if you get pulled over or they ask you a question. I’d even suggest buying that cop at the next table a cup of coffee, but no sudden moves if you walk over to say hello.
Their heads are on a swivel.