Bad apples will spoil the bunch

The Catholic Church had a centuries old problem it failed to address that police departments and unions should heed. After complaints became more public, the Catholic Church was forced to more drastically deal with pedophile priests. Failing to address these bad apples painted the whole church and its entire priesthood in a bad light. Now, the significant majority of priests were not pedophiles, but the bad apples tainted the whole bunch.

While the majority of police officers are good people doing a hard job, it would be incorrect to say there are no bad apples among their ranks. Even the best of the police will make errors of judgement when fear enters the equation (note this observation comes from a police chief). But, there are a number of police officers who have unhealthy racist bents or are prone to undue force. They are bad apples.

As with the priests, the failure of police department and union leadership to police their own paints all police in an unfair bad light. Holding police officers accountable is critical in regaining trust. Those good cops who make errors in judgement due to fear must be helped to be better through acknowledgement, training, and more training. And, punishment may be necessary.

Yet, the bad apples must be dealt with. Too many racists and violent prone police officers have been identified through numerous complaints, yet they go on largely unscathed. Some have even risen in the union ranks due to an unhealthy zeal to protect rogue cops, including themselves.

While this last point may alarm some, NPR reported the head of one Police Federation has had thirty official complaints and has created an old boy’s network. This same union leader made insensitive racial remarks about George Floyd and spoke of exonerating the four officers, not mentioning the kneeling on Floyd’s neck. It should be noted fourteen officers in this federation have broken ranks from this position and have condemned the officers for wrongdoing toward Floyd.

The bad apples must be acknowledged and dealt with. The failure to do so, emulates the embarassing and criminal oversights perpetuated by the Catholic Church. And, that is not good. On the flip side, I am proud of the police officers of all colors who have joined the civil protests.

Knife wielding suspect subdued (and lives)

The title gives the climax away, but that is not the whole story. A man wielding two knives was threatening people in the halls of his apartment complex.

Three police officers showed up and told the man they had a taser and asked him to put down the knives. After a lengthy discussion and pleas, one officer moved toward the man who lunged at the officer and was tased. Remarkably, the man kept trying to knife the officer, who was able to avoid getting stabbed. The man was taking away to face a court date and jail time.

There are two other keys to this story. It was in Australia, not the US. In Charlotte last year, a man wielding a knife was shot dead by police with nine shots. I understand police have a difficult job, but the eagerness and frequency in which assailants are shot seems much higher here on the US. Plus, the number of shots stymies me – nine, eleven, sixteen shots are too representative.

The other issue worth noting is the man was white. I often use the story of how a 65 year old white man was disarmed by Detroit police after an hour conversation. Tamir Rice, an adolescent black boy, was killed within two seconds due to the toy gun he was carrying. Why? Why is there such haste to unload a weapon when the alleged perpetrator is black?

We must do better at addressing these issues. The police are doing a hard job, made harder as they don’t know who is packing heat and what firepower such heat has. I believe this adds even more tension to any police encounter where there is uncertainty. And, race plays a huge factor. Another black man was gunned down at a Walmart by police yesterday.

We cannot overtrain police at identifying threats and de-escalating tense situations. And, we must treat every shooting like the pilots investigate crashes. We must be transparent and learn how to avoid poor or hasty decisions. Other western countries do not have our overall and police gun death rates. We must do better.

Be mindful of your news media sources

We are a nation divided. We must find one another again. We must engage in dialogue rather than talking past one another. We must be mindful of our news media sources of information.

While we mourn over horrible tragedies like the police shootings, the too common Black deaths occurring at the hands of police or the mass shooting or terrorist tragedies, we tend to look for simple answers and culprits to blame. We have grown too accustomed to moments of silence and are reluctant to have needed dialogue around underlying reasons and possible solutions.

Our childish political polarization stands in the way of that dialogue and it truly must come to an end. We must task our leaders to stop their zero-sum antics of “I win/ you lose” and start leading. And, as citizens, it is incumbent on us to be truly informed with uncomfortable data.

Right now, we tend to get our information from biased sources that tell us what we want to hear. Or, we may get it from shallow or conflicted sources that gloss over a news story and miss key points or may not cover a story at all as it is not entertaining.

We live in a country of opportunity, but not all get a fair shot at that opportunity. Our problems are complex, especially around gun deaths. The causes include poverty, lack of education, crime filling the void of opportunity, lack of mental health access, entertainment violence, inherent bigotry, and gun access, e.g. Our biases predispose us to a gut level reaction, when we should guard against that.

At the heart of the matter, violence is not the answer and should not be condoned. Violence against those here to protect us is even more abhorrent. But, we should not lose sight that violence against our Black and Brown citizens is occurring with too much frequency.

Let’s start talking and listening to one another. And, let’s be truly informed from reputable news sources and not from our own echo chamber. Otherwise, we will miss the point.