Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Police Department removed 72 police officers from the streets amid an unprecedented investigation into the officers’ social media postings. According to virtually every new report, many will be disciplined and even more will face termination.
Now, let me be clear here. Hate speech is hate speech. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior, regardless of the source; and it’s that last part that has me a little confused.
I could literally go on forever listing governmental leaders, respected public officials, and even just every day citizens that have publicly, using their own personal social media accounts or outlets, made statements, remarks or comments that are hateful or malicious in content. In some cases, our governmental leaders have misused their position and their social influence as their platform.
Mere days ago, while processing the scene of a police officer being shot and killed accompanied by a now barricaded suspect, the Sacramento Police Department had their officers taunted, being told things like, “The officer that was shot? Needed to be. Ya’ll need to be”, and being called bastards and cowards. The police officer that was killed was Sacramento Police Officer Tara O’Sullivan who was simply attempting to help a woman retrieve her belongings pursuant a domestic violence scene. She had been a police officer for six months.
Back in October of 2018, Robert Wood Johnson/Barnabas Health Executive Vice President Michellene Davis, using her own personal Facebook account where she identified herself by her position and employer, unprovoked and unquestioned, commented on a positive story about the Fair Lawn Board of Education hiring police officers to serve as school security throughout their district. Ms Davis took that opportunity to comment, “Who is going to train them not to shoot black children first?”
The obvious implication here was that the American police officer is so predisposed to baselessly shooting black children that they actually require specific training to not be; and this comment didn’t just come from an every day citizen. This comment came from an educated and respected attorney who is paid a million dollars a year to fill her seat which, ironically, has oversight of the organizations ‘diversity’. How was this woman reprimanded? Glad you asked.
After initially lying about her account being hacked, Ms Davis walked back that lie and offered a half-hearted apology. In effect, she didn’t apologize that her statement was biased and baseless and, without any shred of statistical data, fanned the flames of hate by implying that all police officers are inherently reckless and biased. Instead, she apologized that you (proverbial) were upset by her words.
After being given a paid week off in order to allow things to calm down, Ms Davis seamlessly returned to work with a vote of confidence from the head of her organization. Despite their claims that they collectively hoped that this situation created dialogue between law enforcement and the community, Ms Davis and RWJ/BH, on several occasions, refused to meet with Brothers Before Others or law enforcement officials in order to do just that. In fact, to date, NOTHING has been done to ‘discuss’ anything related to this matter that wasn’t a closed door meeting between involved parties and attorneys. Even better? In April of 2019, Ms Davis was honored by Junior Achievement of New Jersey by being elected into their ‘Business Hall of Fame’ for, among other things, being a ‘role model’.
In 2016, Black Lives Matters walked the streets of New York City (ironically their route being PROTECTED by police officers), chanting “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”; the same Black Lives Matters organization that was honored by having one of the cofounders attend a State of the Union address and have her/her organization’s accomplishments recognized.
Also in April of 2019, at the ‘We the People’ Conference in Washington DC featuring several presidential hopefuls such as Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren, Jamal Watkins of the NAACP had the crowd chanting along with him as he quoted and honored notorious cop killer and FBI most wanted criminal Joanne Chesimard. Chesimard has been living under political asylum in Cuba since escaping prison in 1979 where she was serving time for executing New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster .
The point here is that swipes, jabs and outright lies that are frequently hurled at police officers are often meant only to provoke. This ‘free speech’ commonly reaches the level of threats on police officers’ lives and the lives of their loved ones. There are catalogues of rap songs with lyrics and song titles dedicated solely to this. The disrespect and disregard for the American police officer is so common place that it rarely even makes the news and even less frequently results in the calling for anyone’s job. In fact, using the few examples that were cited, the actor(s) were praised.
Law enforcement, no different than any other profession on the planet, has it’s own jargon. While it may not always make sense to a civilian, and even may seem harsh, it’s our way of coping. Let’s be honest here: calling someone an “animal” or a “savage” based upon their ACTIONS is sometimes perfectly appropriate. No one with any sense really cares what verdict was read. Casey Anthony is still commonly believed to have duct taped her daughter’s head and mouth, put her in a black trash bag and threw her….alive…in a ditch and left her for dead while she partied with her friends. If that is in fact true, is there anyone that WOULDN’T describe that behavior as savage?
I know it may be offensive to some people’s senses, but every single day police officers see horrific things. Often times, police officers are called upon to respond to, handle and then process the unimaginable. Expecting them to not, in some way, express the anger and frustration that could justifiably come from these incidents in ignorant.
We have seen, what, four police officer suicides in the last month alone? If you don’t think the expectation of infallibility, the unfair level of scrutiny over the most mundane things, coupled with the increasing pressures being placed on the American police officer all contribute to this, then you are living with your head in the sand.
I am sure that, of the 72 Philadelphia Police Officers pulled off the street, there will be some pretty stupid things uncovered in their social media accounts. I am equally as sure that the vast majority will be so petty and overblown in nature that they would pale in comparison to the accounts of the loudest critics. The fact that they are public servants should not make their missteps any more different than the missteps of everyone else. Again, hate is hate regardless of the source. We either stand against ALL hate, or our outrage is selective.
The American police officer is tasked with protecting and serving. It’s convenient to lean on the ‘service’ aspect of a police officer’s job when it comes time to play the critic, conveniently ignoring the ‘protecting’ part. That protection almost always involves correcting the behavior of grown adults or the taking away someone’s freedom; and I know this might sound crazy, but that just might result in a certain portion of the population not being big fans of police officers. Those who do not value the rule of law and care about no one else’s rights other than their own will ALWAYS hate cops. There is nothing that you will ever do that will change that. Do we, as law abiding citizens, really care if society’s criminals are ‘offended’ by police officers’ words? Really? Because words are all we’re really talking about here; social media posts.
What you are seeing now being played out in Philadelphia and cities/towns all over America is weak leadership, worried about their own position and political self-preservation, cowering to the bullying of the American police officer. Plain and simple. Just as Sheriff David Clarke said in one of his recent appearances, (paraphrased) as the head of a police department, if you are not man or woman enough to stand up for the men and women you supervise, than get the hell out the way and make room for someone who is.
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