I just read and enjoyed this article on LinkedIn Pulse. I think the message may resonate for some Safety People: (Ie One simple message for safety people who feel ostracised by a workforce or management who don’t appreciate them, instead of dissing them as idiots or whinging about lack of commitment – go out and have conversations with them, spend some time in their shoes – you may find out the real reasons why and they may appreciate what you do a whole lot more!!!)
I am a Cop, and I am Sorry
One lesson I have learned from my wife is the value of a heartfelt apology. I used to believe that an apology was equal to admitting some kind of defeat. For a Marine and police officer, that is sometimes a difficult thing to do. During one of these arguments when I would refuse to apologize, she told me something that I have really grown to appreciate. She said, “an apology doesn’t always have to mean you did something wrong, it can simply mean that you are just sorry something has happened”.
As a cop I am truly sorry that people have been hurt and killed by the very people who have taken an oath to protect them. When one human kills another it is tragic. The purpose of this editorial is to not place blame, justify actions, or make claims on things I know little about. It is simply to tell all those, who mistrust law enforcement, that from someone who carries a badge, that I am sorry if you have every felt, intimidated, singled out, or mistreated because of the color of your skin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, or a myriad of other things that make you different from me.
I am saddened to see the wedge that this issue has created. Media (social and traditional) is on fire with views that are more focused on dividing us then unifying us. They give the microphone to those who are the loudest instead of those who are the wisest. This has become a polarizing topic causing people to take sides. It seems at this point you either have to be pro-cop or anti-cop. If these are our only two options, then where will we be a year from now?
When people argue they clash. Every argument causes them to dig their heels deeper into the argument. Without some kind of intervention this can become highly emotional. So how do we navigate these troubled waters? I have found that until we find some kind of common ground (something we can all agree on) then we can’t move forward with finding a solution.
The same can be true for the current relationship between those who support law enforcement and those who mistrust it. Are there things we can all agree on? I will get this conversation started.
- Most people are law abiding
- There are bad people out there who would harm another person for various reasons
- Most police officers want to protect the good people from those that would harm others
- Racist cops exist
- Police officers often have to make life and death decisions based on minimal information
- Cops have a huge amount of authority
If we can agree with these things then that’s a start. My journey in law enforcement began 7 years ago. My reason for joining was the same reason I joined the Marines over 16 years ago. I have a strong vision of what is right and wrong and I want to hold those that do wrong accountable for their actions. This is something that I believe in so strongly that I chose professions where I accept that fighting for this ideal may mean sacrificing my life. Trust me I am not the least bit suicidal, I have a wonderful life and enjoy every day I have with my friends and family. I strongly believe we live in the greatest country in the world. I am not too sure we have been acting like it lately though. From our country’s leaders on down it seems like pride has become more important then listening to those with differing opinions. At what point is someone going to stand up and remind the rest of us that a house divided cannot stand?
As a Marine I cannot go two minutes without someone thanking me for my service. I have been called a hero, had kids ask to take pictures with me, and even enjoyed the salute from elderly veterans who understand the sacrifices all those that serve their country face. As a cop, my reception is less warm. I am more likely to be called a pig then a hero. The ironic thing with this is, I am the exact same person. I have the same love for my fellow human being and the same dedication towards keeping them safe. So why the difference in the way I am treated?
I try my hardest to understand the anger that those that who mistrust cops have. Some of the comments I have heard is that cops fear minorities, use violence as a way to oppress them, and use their own authority to violate the civil rights of others. If you believe in any of these stances then aren’t you just as guilty of being prejudice as cops? Aren’t you painting the entire law enforcement industry with the same broad stroke you are claiming is being painted on you? Have you met every cop? Have you met me? For those that think all cops are racist and evil well I don’t have time for you. You are wrong and only serve to divide us. You are thinking of only yourself and your narrow divisive agenda.
That being said, for those that think all cops are good and that there are none among us that are racist, prejudiced, or just mean, you are also wrong. The police force is made up of human beings. Just like when teachers or priests abuse young children, when cops abuse their power it should be investigated and they should be held accountable for their actions, but not necessarily be identified as the symbol of the industry as a whole. Even though we have one of the hardest industries to get into and some of the most stringent training to complete before hitting the streets, those that would act to tarnish our badge sometimes get through. When this happens the damage these cops can do to the public trust can be horrific.
My view of the average American is most people, for the most part, are good and want to do good things to one another. Please also adopt my ideology that for the most part, most cops, are good people wanting to do good things to those they have taken an oath to protect. Please remember if you are a good person and get a speeding ticket, the cop is not a jerk; he is just trying to keep the streets safe because he was at the scene last week where a child died because of a speeding car. If a cop tells you to get your hands out of your pockets at gunpoint it is because earlier that day he found a gun in the pocket of someone else.
I don’t know how it must feel to be an 18-year-old African-American getting pulled over by a white cop in the middle of the night. But unless you have been a police officer, you also do not know how it feels to walk through a dark alley, all by yourself, looking for someone you know is armed and has just committed a violent crime.
None of us are perfect, but I think each of us can agree that until we accept the fact that we do not truly understand the point of view of the other person, we will never find a common ground to build on. If you hate cops then have coffee with one or go on a ride-along. If you are a cop frustrated with all the cop bashing lately, then attend a town hall meeting and listen to the frustration of the people within your community. This might not be the end all solution, but it is a start.
Daniel Cortes, PhD