Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cop Hate

Cop Hate

I am a middle aged, white, heterosexual, protestant, middle class, non-disabled male American. For me to speak authoritatively on discrimination will irk some who have lived in the overt and covert darkness of prejudice. I can't walk a mile in your shoes. I am part of a hated minority, however.

This minority is subject to unprovoked violence and yet prosecutions are frequently denied when they are victims of violent crime. Not infrequently they get prosecuted for merely defending themselves. While most people hold their tongues when criticizing groups in front of a member of that group, the same is not true of my tribe. Criticism, in fact, is often the first things that confronts us in conversation. With all the political correctness that has put a lid on slang, pejorative, and hurtful words, some of our finest citizens have no reservation about saying they hate us, that we're corrupt, lazy, pompous, and stupid.

Is blue so easy to hate? Here are a few reasons:

Power envy. Critics will immediately challenge the thought that an armed government agent can claim that they are labeled or treated unfairly. It is true that we hold position power, but a look at our subculture can show  a lot of areas where we as individual police officers have a very confined position legally, culturally, and organizationally. Any power that we possess is that which we mediate and administer on behalf of others. But we Americans are jealous of the power and inequity symbolized by the badge and gun.

Media coverage. This is not a media bashing statement. They can only report from the sources they find. When events happen, even those that seem normal and neutral in our world, we are often not allowed to narrate or explain the event. There's no Jesse Jackson stepping in to speak for the police. We all know that raw video and angry relatives and activists without a police perspective is bad news for the cops.

Dedicated hate groups. The internet trumpets hate for the police with a constant discordant presence. A search for the word police plus corrupt, abuse, brutality, etc will bring up not just random rants, but organized hate movements and lots of attorney advertisements.

These three thoughts are just the beginning of the cop hate issue. Without being antagonistic or divisive, our safety on the street and our survival in the courtroom is severely compromised by this prejudice. What can we do?

Encourage advocacy. There are civic and faith groups that are supportive of law enforcement. Optimist International has had a respect for law effort since 1965. One church in my area has a photo display of every law officer in the area (with their permission) for their members to remember in prayer. We should seek out opportunities to speak on the subject of anti-police sentiment in order to confront some common misunderstandings. These presentations should be fact and ethics based, rather than the "I deserve respect because I'm out there with my life on the line everyday" . Other people have tough jobs, they don't want to hear how rough it is in yours. Make sure your prosecutor is tough on anti-police crime, too.

Preload information to the public. Citizens are fascinated with police work. If you give them information they can use, they'll pay attention and absorb it. Efforts like the Hollywood V. Reality video (http://www.forcescience.org/hollywoodvsreality.html) can be very helpful. Getting the idea out that the offender chooses how police act is a theme that bears repeated emphasis. As the Department of Justice says so flippantly "citizens bear some of the responsibility for the nature of relations with the police".The idea that police shoot people unnecessarily is unfounded (http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/june-2012/restraint-in-the-use-of-deadly-force).

Seek and multiply advocacy venues. My organization, the National Center for Police Advocacy (http://policeofficersvoice.com/), is available to be an objective voice for editorials, media interviews, and case studies where official silence is required. I hope that other organizations will be created to do the same thing and more. Telling your success stories on Twitter and other social media can help balance negative stories and stale statistics. Focus on what I call "Positive Policing" - tell your stories and light up your community with more than warnings and crime prevention tips.

Police hate is not just a public relations problem, it's a survival problem.