Police Perspective: Officer Mark William speaks out
When the staff of Le Provocateur approached me about an editorial regarding the recent protests against America’s law enforcement officers, I jumped at the chance. My hope is that you will take what I have to say with an open mind and suppress any biases you may harbor. In return, I will suppress my own inherent bias.
What inherent bias would that be, you may ask? A little about myself: I am probably the same age as a few seniors, perhaps a year or two older. I am a veteran of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” having served in direct combat in Afghanistan. An injury sustained in combat provided me with the opportunity to exit active duty early and enter the reserves. Upon returning home and reporting to my reserve unit, I began the hunt for my first civilian job.
I hold an Associate of Science degree in something rather obscure, but my college education and military experience have allowed me to secure a job in law enforcement (LE). My very first position within LE was that of a “special police officer” for a private institution. It was low-key, quiet and very, very boring. Soon, I found myself applying to a police department of a municipality in central Massachusetts. My luck held out, and I was offered the job. So, I have just about two years of LE experience under my belt.
I am in a unique position: I’m relatively young to have already started a career as a law enforcement officer officers (LEOs). However, I feel that this allows me to remain “plugged-in” with my generation and hear their opinions better. The people of America, especially our generation, are crying out for something to be done regarding the recent, highly publicized killings by law enforcement. I need only to scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and I can see the outrage welling up, with every new incident giving the outrage even more cause. However, is this outrage justified? Is something truly going on with American LEOs? Are they becoming our enemies instead of our protectors?
First, I would like to state some facts. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we are on track to have significantly fewer deaths caused by LEOs this year than last year. We will have slightly more than in 2013, but fewer than in 2012. So, at least since 2012, the overall number of deaths of this manner is going down. With that said, more LEOs will be killed in the line of duty this year than last if the current trend continues. More LEOs were killed in the line of duty last year than in 2013. The overall trend of LEO deaths is increasing steadily; that’s at least one statistic you won’t hear from the mainstream media.
This brings me to another point: the media’s portrayal of killings by LEOs. Ask yourself, if you were to base your opinions solely off of what the media has to say on the subject, wouldn’t you come to the conclusion that LEOs are killing more individuals every day? That LEOs have become “loose-cannons” who regard their firearm as their one and only tool for obtaining compliance from a suspect?
The media’s business model is simple: more viewers means the ability to charge more for advertisements, meaning more profit for the media outlet. How does the media obtain more viewers? Sensationalism. That said, nothing is more sensational than an unarmed 18 year-old black man being shot by a white LEO, as was the case with when Ferguson, Missouri Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown.
All the elements of a “sensational” story are here: a possibility of racism, a LEO using his firearm against an unarmed individual and the fact that the victim was so young. However, a grand jury declined to arraign Wilson after they were presented with all the pertinent facts, not just the ones the media would like us to see. One grand juror even commented that after reviewing all the evidence, he felt that not only did the grand jury understand that Wilson did nothing wrong, but, in fact, was justified in his level of use of force against Brown. Local, state and federal investigations conducted by a plethora of LE agencies found that Wilson acted justifiably.
In a nutshell, I’d ask you to remember this: the media will only report what is “sensational,” not necessarily all the facts that are pertinent to the case, not just the facts that are released immediately.
What the media does not acknowledge is that all facts may not be readily available to the average person, which brings me to my next, and perhaps most important, point. In Massachusetts, for instance, a prospective full-time LEO for a municipality must attend over 20 weeks of virtually non-stop academy training before ever donning a badge. LEOs employed by a college campus, hospital or a private institution or corporation receive 16 or more weeks of academy training. State Troopers endure 26 weeks of continuous training. Even part-time LEOs receive at least 310 hours of training, more if they are to be armed.
My point regarding all of this training is simple. Ask yourself: if this profession requires so much training, aren’t there things that the average civilian won’t understand? Consider the “21 foot rule.” In the time it takes for a LEO to neutralize the threat, a “bad guy” can cover a whopping 21 feet. This example should explain why many LEOs choose to use their firearm at a distance a civilian might consider unreasonable. Furthermore, how can one question a LEO’s use of a firearm when one has most likely never even handled one, let alone been in a life-or-death situation?
I had the “luxury” of being in direct combat while in Afghanistan. I now know how I will react in such a situation. However, even most LEOs do not know how they will respond in such a stressful situation until they are actually placed in one. The next time you find yourself firmly judging a LEO’s actions, ask yourself this: the last time you had an interaction with a LEO, did he tell you how to improve your writing skills on that medieval literature paper?
I’d also like to make a few things clear, and cede a point or two. I am not advocating turning a blind-eye to any LEO’s actions. Indeed, I would encourage you to read up and study your rights, familiarize yourself with the American criminal justice system and never be afraid to report a LEO if you feel he or she has truly wronged you. LEOs can and should be held accountable for their actions because at the end of the day, they’re here to protect and serve. For many people, the only interaction they’ve had with a LEO has been receiving a ticket.
Don’t let one speeding ticket twist your opinion of LEOs because they are the first ones there when you call, regardless of the names you call them.