Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bad Times

Another law enforcement death. This time, San Diego gang officers Jonathan DeGuzman and Wade Irwin were shot during a contact. DeGuzeman died. Irwin is expected to the extent any officer who is wounded recovers. Questions remain, including whether the person contacted drew the officers into the deadly situation. One grim tidbit - both officers were wearing body cameras.

The year I began my career - 1979 - over two hundred cops died. Several years before that, the number was nearly three hundred. Body armor was slowly making its way into the ranks. Many departments did not provide vests, leaving the decision (and the cost) to officers themselves. What was available certainly helped (since the first vest save in 1975 - more than 3000 lives).

Training - what was accepted as state of the art in the '70s - would be considered superficial today. A good friend reminded me that our basic academy (we both attended the State regional operation called CLETA in 1979) was eight weeks long. Before going, I had worked the streets alone for months after field "training" - three weeks long, an accepted practice. As a comparison, officers at my department now receive twenty-five weeks of classroom instruction, skills-building and practical exercises prior to field training, which takes an additional four months.

So, law enforcement was more dangerous then, and we should all just chill?


Policing has always been hazardous. Harm's way produces casualties. Our society functions to the benefit of the many because, in part, a few are willing to confront people of violence and bring them to answer for their crimes. The astonishing fact is that there continue to be outstanding individuals who compete vigorously, train hard and sacrifice while doing law enforcement jobs.

Is there a "war on cops?"

There is always a war on cops, because there is always a war on society in general. Crime, and violent criminals, are a fact of any community. In the US (as in virtually all western countries) we have chosen a system that relies heavily on men and women employed by government to intervene on behalf of their fellow citizens when people prey on other people. The 2nd Amendment discussions ("When seconds count, the police are only minutes away") have merit, but the need for organized, well-trained officers is obvious.

Peaceful protest against police misconduct (which exists, unfortunately) are plainly not only constitutional, but in many ways represent society's proven method to hold officers accountable and improve professionalism among officers. Cops themselves accept that message very plainly. 

What seems to have resurfaced within the last few years is the practice of targeting officers randomly for execution. A strong case can be made that this is, at least in part, the result of self-important pundits and politicians who have unnecessarily inflamed passions against law officers in general, based on isolated incidents. Training to avoid, or survive, attacks meant to kill multiple officers has already begun.

Okay, you've lasted this long. 

The men and women of law enforcement, circa 2016, are the best trained, best equipped, most professional officers in our nation's history. As a whole they serve with dignity, compassion and courage. They do not shrink from the challenges they face - they rise up to face them, in the company of others who have made a similar commitment. Our communities largely understand this, and support us. 

We will get through this together. The next generation, the ones now training to take their places beside us, are impressive. They are worthy of us, and we of them. Many years from now, officers will still remember the men and women who fell during this dark period. They will carry on in the finest traditions of our profession - service to others.

We are stronger than the times. We have always been so.

No comments:

Post a Comment