The recent events in suburban St. Louis have rekindled the always smoldering fire that accuses our nation’s police officers of being trigger-happy and looking for somebody to beat up on.
Is that an accurate picture? Are we victims who need to be leery of the very men and women who have sworn to protect and serve us?
While there are villains in every occupational group, including yours and mine, what do the facts say about our law enforcement officers in general?
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial website, there are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers serving in our country. If you are keeping statistics, about twelve percent of those are female.
In the last decade, 1,501 officers have been killed in the line of duty. Average that out and every 58 hours an officer serving his or her community dies.
During the same ten-year period, an average of 58,261 law enforcement officers were assaulted each year.
While our government keeps no records on how many people are killed by police each year, researchers estimate that number is somewhere between 400 and 700.
You are intelligent. You process the numbers.
58,000 officers are assaulted each year. If these men and women are heartless gunslingers looking for an excuse to shoot somebody, then there should be blood flowing in our streets. Literally – with at least 50,000 people shot by police each year. But the numbers don’t even come close. That statistic alone shows the remarkable restraint that our officers demonstrate every single day.
Almost a million armed police officers, yet each year less than 1,000 people die by an officer’s gun. There is no way that can be stretched to paint our officers as cold and calloused brutes.
Still unsure about the attitude and behavior of America’s law enforcement officers?
Visit your local police or sheriff’s department. Ask if they have a Citizens Police Academy or similar program that lets an average citizen step inside the world of law enforcement. Ask about the intensive training that officers receive. You might be surprised to know how much knowledge law enforcement officers are required to master. Federal, state, and local laws. How to recognize drug-influenced behaviors. How to verbally defuse tense situations. Understanding various religious cultures. Communicating beyond language barriers. Emergency first-aid. Immediate identification of prescription medication by sight. This is just a short list of the things they have to know. You might find that the police officer who drives past your house every day is one of the most educated and well-rounded citizens in your community.
Before you join the voices blasting all police officers, run the phrase “police kindness” through your favorite internet search engine and spend a few minutes clicking through the pages that pop up. That will give you just a quick glance at a few of the countless deeds the police officers in your town do every day that never make it to the newspaper or get posted on Topix.
Could things be better? Can our police departments improve? I don’t know of any police officer who wouldn’t scream YES! But baseless accusations, spouted by spotlight seeking cowards who profit by fueling fear, squelch the truth and keep it from healing us and setting us free. It’s time to stop the nonsense, drown out the noisy lies, and speak up for the men and women who keep us safe.
God bless every officer – all 900,000 of you! And may each of you return safe to your family when this shift is over.