The tragic death of George Floyd while being taken into custody by Minneapolis police and the more recent shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta have triggered global earthquakes. While much-needed change will come out of these events, some of the developing narratives are wrong and dangerous.
The demonizing of police officers over the past couple of weeks is wrong and, if allowed to continue, will create more dangerous conditions in our cities and communities.
The outcry to defund and dismantle police forces is upsetting.
Even before the most recent protests, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries report showed that being a police officer is one of the most dangerous occupations. In other risky trades, fatalities are primarily from accidents such as slipping, falling, or being struck by another object.
Policing is the only occupation in which the danger is mainly from violence by others.
Over the past year, being a police officer has become even more dangerous.
Prior to the protests, NYPD officers were frequently subject to nonlethal assaults to which they were not allowed to respond. Since 2016, the number of police murders has increased — that is, police ambushed while in the line of duty but not while engaging in an active situation.
Peaceful protesters and a significant number of politicians (including a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council and the district's congressional representative, Ilhan Omar) are demanding the defunding and disbanding of the Minneapolis Police Department. Destroying police departments is, in fact, what most protesters nationwide demand.
The idea isn't just nuts. It's irrational and irresponsible.
Just a few weeks ago, New York City held a small parade every evening for first responders, including police officers, who were heroes as the COVID-19 pandemic began. CNBC reported:
"Between the incessant screams of ambulance sirens rushing new patients to hospitals all day, and the non-stop negative news headlines, there is one moment each day that breaks up this daily monotony that is the new normal. At 7 p.m. each night, New Yorkers open a window, or step out onto balconies or rooftops and make some noise for two minutes. We scream, we clap, we bang pots and pans, we make music, but most of all we give thanks and gratitude to all the frontline workers who are risking their lives every day."
It's not just during the coronavirus crisis that police act valiantly. It's time to remember why we salute police for behaving heroically.
- Maybe too many of the protesters are too young to remember 9/11 and the sight of first responders, including police officers, bravely running into the Twin Towers as everyone else ran away.
- Remember, every time we freeze with terror as another active shooter incident occurs at a place of worship, workplace, or, God forbid, a school, it's almost always a police officer running toward the danger putting an end to the crisis.
- When we have a personal emergency — whether it's a car accident, burglary or assault — we call 911 expecting rapid police response.
- When we go to a big event (at least before coronavirus) such as a concert or sporting event, we look to the police for our safety. Have you ever noticed the difference in discipline and attitude between the big muscle-heads in yellow shirts and actual cops? It's also police who keep things moving as they direct traffic in and out of the venue.
- You don't have to search hard to find examples of cops committing random acts of kindness, like bringing a McDonald's Happy Meal to a (black) 5-year-old boy who called 911. Buying a birthday cake for a mom holding a birthday balloon when they found out, she couldn't afford a cake or raising money for Special Olympics. Police officers are heroes every day — across America.
- And when we do have civil unrest, as we've had in cities nationally the past few weeks, it's usually the police who restore order once leadership finds the political will.
Now, police officers must stand by as protesters scream obscenities in their faces.
We've seen current and former officers murdered or left on life support and nearly 800 injured. Officers have been shot and slashed, had fireworks launched at them, and had rocks, Molotov cocktails, and bottles filled with urine and cement thrown at them.
There have even been reports of attempted poisonings at fast-food restaurants.
Even worse, mayors and governors across the nation are abandoning the police departments that they rely on for personal protection.
With mayors and governors running away from police, it isn't surprising to see other organizations, public and private severing relations with police departments. Here is a recent list of organizations that have cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) (from BringMeTheNews.com):
- Dorsey & Whitney: Law firm says it will no longer prosecute misdemeanor cases via the Minneapolis City Attorney's program.
- First Avenue: Will no longer contract off-duty MPD officers for security.
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Will no longer contract off-duty MPD for special events.
- Minneapolis Licensing: Businesses will no longer be required to use off-duty MPD officers for security at special events.
- Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board: Voted to stop using Minneapolis police officers to staff park events, prevent park police officers from responding to nonviolent calls in Minneapolis, and to differentiate park police uniforms, so they don't look like MPD.
- Minneapolis Public Schools: Voted to remove school resource officers provided by MPD from school buildings.
- Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild: Applauded Parks Board decision and is now searching for alternative security for events.
- Pizza Luce: Reevaluating its relationship with MPD and ending its discount for police officers.
- University of Minnesota: Will not use MPD for large events, including Gophers games; will not use specialized services such as K-9 officers.
- Up-Down Minneapolis: Will no longer use off-duty MPD officers for security.
- Walker Art Center: Will not contract MPD for special events until it makes a series of changes.
These organizations should be ashamed of themselves for pandering and making their corner of the world a little less safe.
Nationwide, we rely on police departments to keep us safe. It's true: there are bad officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, just as there are bad actors in every industry and organization.
No reasonable person disagrees that there is more this country can do to treat people of color more equitably and that we need to get rid of bad actors within police departments as well as other organizations.
But the idea of reducing funding or disbanding police departments is lunacy.
Police perform heroic acts every day. We need to remember those deeds.
Peaceful protesting is a constitutional right.
That right does not include holding a city or state hostage or committing any property damage — no matter how much they are symbols that infuriate some people.
I pray cooler heads prevail, and God bless those who have chosen to keep law and order.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He is regarded as one of the leading radio programmers in the country. Andy served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. For more information, his website is www.andybloom.com. Read Andy Bloom's Reports — More Here.
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