By A. Benjamin Mannes
The horrifying carnage in Dallas following the recorded police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota has once again brought forth a heated, racially charged debate on police use of force in America.
The Black Lives Matter movement and related groups have painted the police shootings of African-Americans as an epidemic of racism. The “killer cop” narrative is often in direct conflict with the evidence that is later made public when an investigation is completed.
In Ferguson, Mo., two autopsies, a state investigation and a federal investigation concluded that Mike Brown assaulted the police officer who took his life. In New York, the media and protesters focused on Eric Gardner’s saying “I can’t breathe” and attributed his death to an unauthorized choke hold administered by a far smaller police officer. However, expert grand jury testimony showed that it was Gardner’s obesity and bad heart that contributed to his death. If the police had administered a true “choke hold” on him, he would not have been physically able to resist arrest and say “I can’t breathe.”
So why is the public, through the media, so quick to judge the police? Consider these facts:
• The law enforcement community functions with intense oversight and scrutiny, from internal affairs to inspectors general, to civilian oversight boards, to elected mayors and their appointed police executives.
• The average law enforcement officer udergoes a background investigation, psychological exam, months in a training academy and a year of both probation and field training.
• Lastly, if the news footage from the scene at Dallas showed anything, it’s that being a member of a public safety agency or military shows how little racist one can be.
Dallas officers, white, black or brown, were rushing to protect their fellow officers and the very protesters who cursed their name that night. These men and women volunteer to take a job with marginal pay to serve the very communities that are demonizing them as you read this.
It may not be “cool” or “progressive” to side with law enforcement, but it’s hard work and they deserve the respect they have earned by raising their hand to take a dangerous position of public service in the very communities accusing them of hatred.
The metrics and independent, scientific evidence support these statements, So what will it take to get people to take a breath and let the process play out before staging knee-jerk protests, fueled by a competitive, ad-driven media, that tie up valuable police resources that can be spent preventing and responding to violence in underserved communities without any regard for potential facts or outcomes?
A. Benjamin Mannes serves on the Criminal Justice Board at Peirce College in Philadelphia.