Friday, July 15, 2005

In Defense

So an absolute tragedy occurred here in the LA area a few days ago. You can go here to read an accounting of the story.

Many people in the community are reacting against the LAPD, saying that they never should have shot the man when he was holding a toddler. While I agree that the final outcome was not the best, I get upset at people who judge the men and women in law enforcement. I have two people very closely related to me who are in law enforcement, so perhaps it strikes a nerve because of that.

For some reason, the people in law enforcement are expected by most of the population to be practically superhuman. They are simply not allowed to make mistakes, and when they do, there is always a cadre of people who are more than ready to shout out how horrible they are. It is so hard for people to imagine the fluidity of a hostage situation, and how easy it is to make the wrong decision. No one is more aware of the stakes of the situation than they are.

I know that I make mistakes practically every day. There are at least two or three situations a day where I look back and think, I could have handled that better. This is just me with a toddler, mind you, mostly just kicking back at home or going to the park. I know when I worked, I definitely made mistakes, and in the heat of the moment I probably made quite the few stupid decisions. Those decisions just didn't happen to be life or death. Few people are willing to put themselves on the line like that.

When you work in law enforcement, you are on constant "watch." You know that just by dint of your uniform and unit that you are a target. You can never let your guard down. When you do, something like this might happen. Try that feeling every day when you go to work, and then living with that for years.

When in law enforcement, you often deal with the dregs of society on a regular basis. Drug dealers, wife beaters, theives, assaulters, gang members, liars, druggies, deadbeats, you name it. Try dealing with that every day and see how long you can maintain a happy-go-lucky attitude. Yet, for some odd reason, we expect police officers to be social workers as well as enforcers of the law. They are supposed to deal with every single person with sensitivity and kid gloves. I have seen librarians treat members of the public very rudely, but rarely does anyone call the city or the county to report it. But when they feel a police officer has looked at them the wrong way, they feel completely justified in lodging a formal complaint.

Rarely are people happy to see someone in law enforcement. Oh, perhaps if they have helped to find a missing person or something similar, a grateful response is given. Most of the time, though, they are faced with a resentful person who wishes that they would just go away. Unlike firemen, who have a glamorous job in comparison, no one cheers for them when they ride down the street. But it is little known that most often, police are the first responders to a fire or car accident.

It is so easy to blame law enforcement when something goes wrong. It seems to me that often, personal responsibilty from the other party is completely overlooked. Yes, a person can make a mistake. But when you keep making one bad choice after another, when does it become your fault and not someone else's? I think that if you choose multiple times to disobey the law, you should be prepared to take the consequences.

I feel for the family of the little girl, it is very sad that she is no longer with them. She, unfortunately, had no choices. But my heart also goes out to the officer who shot her, as well as their family. I can gaurantee you that he/she did not arrive at work with the expectation that they would shoot a toddler in the head. But that is part of the job, to be faced with situations such as that one. And yet they still show up every day. That person is absolutely grieving about the unnecessary loss of life. Until we ourselves are willing to don the uniform and the gun, I feel that we should suspend our judgement until we know all the facts.

Addendum- Hubba-hubba pointed out that an officer was shot by the suspect in this situation, and nobody seems to particularly care.


Mel said...

I agree with you completely. The fault lies with the father who put his child in harm's way.

Dee said...

When I first read this, my thought was, they are going to blame the cops for this. I just cannot do that in this case. The father was shooting at them and they had to do something. They could not allow him to keep shooting at them the way they were. Time for people to start blaming those who are responsible for such actions and not the cops all the time.

Karla said...

I read this a few days ago and felt overwhelmed with sadness for that little girl and had to get up and do something else to get my mind off of it.
I agree with Mel and Dee. The father is at fault for putting his daughter in harms way.

The passion and conviction in your words are very moving. Thank you for taking an important stand and sharing these thoughts with everyone. It needed to be said.