Recent events involving law enforcement have forced me to take a closer look at my chosen career path and my place in all this madness. I found myself feeling a little taken aback by the recent events and the harsh treatment of all of us in the law enforcement field. For all the flaws associated with the LVMPD, I have to admit that this is a well-respected organization with a stellar reputation nationwide. The reason for this success is the fine men and women who proudly serve and protect this community. I have had the pleasure of working and associating with, as well as representing, many officers on this Department, and I am always impressed by the professional demeanor and commitment demonstrated by them.
When the events unfolded in Minnesota, I was contacted by a few officers who voiced their disdain and shock at what they witnessed. I responded to them saying, “Well, let’s just wait and see all the facts surrounding this incident.” Little did I know that a storm was brewing. Even though we at the LVMPD were not directly involved with the incident, the backlash hit us and almost every major city in this country. People were outraged, and rightly so, but that outrage does not justify the destruction and mayhem that was experienced by numerous cities. I respect everyone’s right to have and express their own opinions; however, what we saw was utter chaos.
I witnessed assaults, robbing, looting, stealing and just plain old evil. This went on for days, and I heard our officers being called the vilest names you can imagine. People were antagonizing and attempting to get a reaction from our cops, but we did what we had to do and held fast to our training and discipline. Imagine being in the middle of a crowd facing a bunch of cowards who decide to throw rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails at you. Imagine a crowd so worked up that they burn police cars and rob stores because they can. Imagine driving home from work and a crowd of people approach your car on the freeway and begin throwing rocks at and breaking the windows of your car. (Funny how a guy on a skateboard is on the freeway throwing rocks at cars mainly because he is angry but can’t tell you why.)
Now that we are a few weeks removed from the violent protests, what has changed? The anger has subsided, and we in law enforcement are tasked with attempting to repair our reputations and our good names. I have exchanged many calls, texts and emails with family and friends; some have been very positive and some have been judgmental and hateful. There seems to be a call now to scrutinize every action made by any police officer. The rushes to judgment and hateful rhetoric we are seeing are the product of a few people who are not helping but looking to cause harm.
So the question that arises from all this is, what do we do? We have seen a mass exodus from the law enforcement career field. I have seen retirements and, in some instances, officers deciding to quit. I asked an officer I know with only three years on the job why he was deciding to resign. He told me that he loved the job but had no desire to be treated like something less than human because of what he does for a living. We are seeing this negative treatment of officers across the country. For example, in Los Angeles, a deputy sheriff was recently involved in an OIS where an 18-year-old suspect was killed. The suspect was in possession of a firearm, and there was an engagement between him and the officer. Taken on face value, the shooting seems justified based on the circumstances. But despite this assessment, days after the incident, a group of people decided to hold a protest in the officer’s front yard. So now our officers are being subjected to people invading their homes and property.
This is no longer an issue of policing or racism. Recent events involving police officers have become opportunities for people to harass, demean and attack every person who wears a uniform. No longer are our officers comfortable getting a meal or a simple cup of coffee. I stand by my profession and the men and women with whom I serve. I will not bow down to the hate and attempts to vilify the good work we do. I told a good friend of mine recently, “Don’t ever be afraid of standing when everyone else thinks you should not. Don’t be afraid to hold to your values, be a leader, form your own opinions about the world and, most importantly, be honest with yourself.”