As you all are aware, violence toward police officers is on the rise nationwide. We have all heard the stories of officers being attacked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if you are pumping gas, sitting at a red light or even eating: We as police officers are targets, and we have to remain vigilant. A heightened sense of vigilance, however, can be taxing, especially when our profession is under more and more scrutiny and criticism. In the age of technology, with cellphone cameras and video recorders, it is safe to assume your interactions with the public will be recorded and posted to the Internet or local news outlets.
Is this a war on cops? We encounter people in their worst moments on day-to-day calls. We can no longer assume any call or stop is routine. Often, the people we encounter know that they have committed a crime, even if we do not know it, and fear having their freedoms taken away by being arrested. This brings out their fight-or-flight response, which can lead to a deadly attack against officers. Encounters with the mentally ill are often dangerous. If they are armed and committed to their plans to injure officers or commit suicide-by-cop, there is very little we can control. As officers, we represent law and order. Some people resent this fact and believe that the government and police have no right to take action against them, and they believe that they can take action against us. Recently, here in Clark County, we have seen attacks against our officers by these subjects, which have resulted in officer-involved shootings.
Or is it a change in society? Times have clearly changed. It doesn’t take a sociologist to see this. Just look around and the signs are everywhere, from the acceptance of violence on television, in video games, and by professional athletes, entertainers and social media. Our values, morals, family structure and upbringing, in my opinion, have deteriorated. I was born in 1976, and was brought up to listen to teachers and parents, be respectful and polite, say “sir” and “ma’am,” work hard and respect the law. Clearly today’s era is vastly different. Sociologists list many factors as to why this change has occurred, from economics, single-parent families, poor education, crime and violence. We can change and impact society by our professional demeanor and treating everyone with respect, as we have always done.
No matter what any use-of-force policy or de-escalation policy states, or even if every officer wears a body camera, we will not be able to stop officer-involved shootings and the motivated suspect committed to doing harm to us. Recently, after an officer-involved shooting, we were asked by a staff member, “Officer-involved shootings are up, what can we do about them?” To me, the answer is easy. If the subject simply complies with lawful commands, does not produce a weapon and does not use that weapon against the police, the officer-involved shootings will not occur.
Law enforcement has traditionally been supported P# 4719 by the community we serve and from within our families. All too often, the negative rhetoric is heard louder and pushed to the forefront of the media. We appreciate the support from our community, and over the last few months, the community support has been overwhelming. When you leave the station for your shift, know that not everyone is against you. Embrace the supporters, and train to protect yourself from the attackers. Stay vigilant, watch your back and look after your partners. You deserve to go home after each shift the same way you came in. Do not be afraid to use force out of fear of discipline and media scrutiny. We support you and will stand beside you and defend your actions. Stay safe and continue providing our community with the highest level of professional police service that it expects and deserves from the LVMPD.