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Another Voice: Who looks out for police while they look out for us?

By Christopher P. Scanlon

In recent months, we’ve heard a national and local call for officers to learn how to respect and work with the communities they serve. This respect must be mutual.

Respect is earned, not implicit. Somewhere along the way, this has been forgotten in today’s society. Our officers are spit on, verbally abused and even physically attacked. How can we continue to expect them to protect and serve our communities when many citizens do not even show them the same basic respect every human being is entitled to? We cannot.

Exactly when did we begin treating criminals better than our men and women in blue? Too often when a discrepancy arises between accounts of what may or may not have taken place during an arrest, our officers are placed on suspension, without pay, while the alleged offender is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Furthermore, where is the support from their superiors that these officers have every right to expect? Although I am against professional misconduct in any line of work, I fully support the right of these officers to have due process of law when suspected misconduct occurs.

According to a University at Buffalo decade-long study released in 2008, law enforcement officers are at risk for high blood pressure, increased levels of destructive stress hormones, insomnia, heart problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide. They work under extremely stressful, dangerous conditions and see things most of us could not dream of. All of which results in a heightened risk of physical and mental health issues.    

 Our Buffalo police officers are no exception. They deal with murderers, rapists, gang members, child molesters and drug dealers on a daily basis. They willingly say goodbye to their families each day, knowing it may be for the last time, to face the evils of the world on our behalf. Performing the due tasks that a police officer is responsible for should be appreciated and applauded, not continuously and publicly scrutinized.  

I advise my colleagues in government to proceed with extreme caution when considering limitations on police procedure and policy. I have had many recent discussions with officers throughout the city – black, white, Latino, male, female – and all are concerned with the current climate both locally and nationally. They fear an environment is being fostered that will limit their ability to protect and serve the residents of Buffalo by enabling a total disregard for authority and the law.

It is imperative for the safety and well-being of the general public, as well as police officers, that we do not eliminate officers’ ability to safely and properly do their job.

Christopher P. Scanlon is the South District member of the Buffalo Common Council.