Heroes Through and Through
By Mike Perez
I’m stepping out of the background to shine a bright light on something that bothers me; something that I think bothers you, too.
It’s the shift away from civility toward, and respect for, those who serve and protect us: our local law enforcement officers.
Whole cities seem to have turned against the police officers and sheriff’s deputies whose job it is to keep the peace.
Isolated incidents of alleged police misconduct are quickly elevated by traditional media sources, leaving the public with the impression that law enforcement is an oppressive and dangerous force in our communities.
The truth is, our police officers and sheriff’s deputies are part of our communities, and they have a vested interest in keeping us safe. They’re our neighbors, parents of our children’s friends, members of our civic clubs, volunteers for our causes, and defenders of our way of life.
They own homes and rent apartments; shop in the same stores as the rest of us; drive the same streets; enjoy the same parks, movies, and events; and have dreams for the future.
As a matter of fact, the only difference between law enforcement officers and the rest of us is the oath they take to uphold the law, and an acceptance that their oath may require them to give their lives in keeping that oath.
Think about that for a minute. Most of us go to work every day, and the most dangerous situation we face is the possibility of a car accident, or a cup of hot coffee spilled in our lap.
The men and women in law enforcement live daily with the idea that they may die because of the kind of work they do. They are heroes through and through, duty-bound to protect and serve. They walk toward the violent criminal, the domestic dispute spiraling out of control, the unknown disturbance in the alley. Their training and experience are all they have to fall back on in deciding whether and how much force is necessary to keep the peace.
Sometimes, being human, they’ll make honest mistakes, and some of those mistakes may result in a suspect’s death.
It’s tragic. It requires objective investigation, and that takes time. Time to learn what happened, time to evaluate the officer’s response, time to know if the tragedy could have been avoided.
Those who don’t want answers, who only want to create strife between law enforcement and the community, use incomplete information to spark an immediate and dangerous response in the community. Law-abiding citizens are left to founder in confusion while small groups of protesters turn into fearsome gangs and angry mobs, rioting and railing against law enforcement, destroying property, and endangering even more lives.
Angry voices overpower the voices of reason. “Professional agitators” search for and amplify every incident where a rogue officer pushed his or her power beyond proper boundaries.
I’m the first to agree that if an officer purposely abuses the shield, then that officer needs to be removed from the field, reprimanded, and, if necessary, released from duty.
That situation is rare, though, and it angers me that so many people actively promote disrespect and even violence against our brave law enforcement personnel.
These are the first responders who confront kids vandalizing property, or guys brawling in a bar. They approach the uncertainty that surrounds domestic disputes, and arrive to help a homeowner who finds her house ransacked. They comfort frightened children and help find grandparents who have wandered away from home in confusion.
I am filled with pride every time I read about someone in law enforcement who helps someone in need: The officer who found a homeless family sleeping in their car at a rest stop, and paid for a hotel and meals, then helped connect them with social services and jobs for the parents. The officer who talked respectfully with homeless veterans, and joined hands with them in prayer. The officer who stayed with a frightened child in the mall, waiting for her mother to be found. The officer who discovered a young family who was robbed of all the things they’d bought for their new baby, and led a drive to replace the items.
Each of these acts of kindness is enough to make these officers heroes in my book, and it tears at my heart to see them treated with disrespect.
These are the same officers who will put their own bodies between an armed robber and an intended victim. They will rush into the water, weighed down with the trappings of their uniforms, to save someone from drowning. They will respond to reports of “shots fired,” even before they know the details of who is shooting, or why.
These are the protectors of our homes, who will respond when we hear something that frightens us in the yard in the middle of the night.
It’s our law enforcement personnel who run toward someone screaming for help, and must work to understand the situation in the blink of an eye.
When anything threatens us, we all expect that a law enforcement officer will respond to our need, and sacrifice his or her own life to protect our own.
That’s why I’m stunned, frustrated, and infuriated when I hear or see anyone rallying our communities against our law enforcement officers. Our officers don’t ask our race, religion, gender, or political party before coming to our aid, yet these same officers are berated by citizens of every stripe, accused of “selective enforcement,” and even called “murderers” when they are compelled to use deadly force.
It’s all well and good to sit in our living rooms, watching the news, and second-guess what an officer should have done differently in a particular situation. Imagine how you’d feel, though, if a stranger knocked on your door and forced his way past you to threaten your family. How “unnecessary” would you consider any amount of force a responding officer used to rescue you?
I’m proud to call a number of law enforcement personnel my friends, and proud of the dedication I see them demonstrate every time they interact with the public.
These men and women are “heroes through and through,” and it’s my honor to use this space to recognize them and let them know that there are many more of us who see and appreciate their courage, and value the protection they provide to us every day.