August 27th, 2014
All Eyes Are On Ferguson, Missouri
For the past week or so, the attention of the nation has been focused on the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the aftermath of the shooting death of 18 year-old Michael Brown. While there are relatively few undisputed facts known thus far, we do know that Brown was shot six times by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson PD. Accounts of what actually precipitated the shooting vary wildly. One account has Brown essentially being executed while attempting to surrender with his hands in the air, while another has Brown being killed after attacking the officer and trying to take his gun. An investigation is underway, and the entire nation is watching.
As always seems to happen when a tragedy like this hits the national news, social media has exploded with reactions covering the entire spectrum of possibilities. One side argues that Brown was a law-breaking, drug-selling thug who got what he was certainly going to get at some point in his young life, while the other screams that this is yet another case of an out-of-control, power-crazed, ticking time bomb of a police officer over-reacting to what should have been a routine situation. The fact is that the investigation is ongoing, and until it has been completed we really won't know what happened or, perhaps more importantly, why it happened.
What I do know is that a large percentage of the reactions I have heard and read are critical of the police. I think it is safe to say that it's almost a part of our heritage as Americans to be suspicious of those in positions of authority. In the "land of the free", we are instantly critical of those in a position to take away our freedom. What concerns me is what I perceive to be a move from healthy suspicion to knee-jerk, cynical criticism. So before we all decide that our police officers are all ego maniacs, foaming at the mouth and hoping for an opportunity to draw that weapon and fire, let's stop, take a deep breath, and think.
Most of us don't have the slightest idea of what a police officer has to deal with on a daily basis. Throughout my time as a prosecuting attorney in Marshall County and now in the City of Moundsville, I have learned a lot about what it's like to be in law enforcement. One of my closest friends is a WV State Trooper, so I've heard the stories and seen the aftermath first hand. What I have concluded is this: police officers (and their families) deserve our support, our thanks, and most of all our respect.
Cops get to deal with the absolute worst our society has to offer on a daily basis: the drunks, the drug addicts and drug dealers, the petty thieves to the violent rapists, and everything in between. They leave for work every single day knowing that they might not ever come home again. They gladly take on a job that requires them to be equal parts psychologist, doctor, mediator, EMT, firefighter, mechanic, MMA fighter, and marriage counselor. They deal with the ugly underbelly of society, the part we know is always there, but we prefer not to talk about around the dinner table. They get spat upon, urinated upon, vomited upon, scratched, punched, kicked, clubbed, bitten and shot at, and they take it all in stride. They risk their lives so that we can sleep peacefully at night. Aside from being a soldier in an active war zone, I can't imagine a more stressful profession. And they do it all for what is at best an average wage.
So before we jump to unfounded conclusions, let's be sure we have all of the facts. Is it possible that the officer in Ferguson acted improperly? Of course it is. As with every other profession on the face of the earth, there are good ones and there are bad ones. If the investigation concludes that Officer Wilson acted inappropriately or with criminal intent, he should suffer the consequences of his actions, as would any other member of society who breaks the law. I'm simply suggesting that before we look to condemn the entire profession, and before we try to further handcuff them from doing the job we all need them to do, let's make sure we know what happened, and why.
I for one am ever grateful for the thin blue line that protects my children and my wife from the worst our world has to offer, and whenever their actions are called into question, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think they've earned it.