In 2009, in response to the arrest of Cambridge, Massachusetts resident Henry Louis Gates, President Obama had this to say:
“I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.”
In one definitive moment, the highest elected official in the land immediately made it acceptable to, without witnessing something firsthand or even ‘seeing all the facts’, assume that law enforcement is guilty until proven innocent. President Obama made it perfectly ok to express whatever it is you feel about the American law enforcement officer, no matter how baseless and reckless your comments might be. That trend of ‘false narratives’ as it pertains to law enforcement has never relented and is still being played out today and everyday on a local level.
In a recent example of this, in response to a NorthJersey.com Facebook article detailing the Fair Lawn Board of Education’s hiring of uniformed police officers to serve as resource officers in their schools, Robert Wood Johnson/Barnabas Health Executive Vice President Michellene Davis, using her personal Facebook account where she advertised herself by her title and employer, unsolicited and unprovoked commented: “Who is going to train them not to shoot black children first.”
If we are assuming that her question was, in fact, even a question, it was rhetorical at best. However, most reasonable adults, sworn or civilian, can read the implication loud and clear: Ms Davis believes at her core, despite not having one shred of evidence to support her statement, that the American law enforcement officer is predisposed to ‘shoot black children first’; and so much so that they actually require training in order to not be so. It should be concerning that her ability to make baseless statements sans evidence exists despite the fact that she is an actively licensed attorney. It would seem to me that a person capable of that level of bias and hatred would have a hard time impartially practicing law. However, not only did her employer not see it that way, they in fact applauded her and supported her with a vote of confidence from their CEO, Barry Ostrowsky.
Ms Davis is just the latest in what has been a flood of elected officials, community leaders and self-proclaimed “advocates” making inflammatory and nonsensical statements about law enforcement. What’s more concerning in this case, however, is the fact that the responsible adults of society are not taking the steps to ensure that her biased statement is recognized as such. In fact, they seem perfectly comfortable simply imagining that it never happened.
In his statement of support for Ms Davis, RWJ/BH CEO Barry Ostrowsky bragged about his organization’s great relationship with law enforcement. How ironic is it then that he would have such a hard time simply acknowledging that another adult, let alone one of his own employees, told a dangerous lie ABOUT law enforcement? If the alleged support for law enforcement is real, then why would Mr Ostrowsky be so reluctant to highlight the true statistics in regards to law enforcement’s use of deadly force?
Also in his statement, Mr Ostrowsky claimed that he hoped constructive dialogue came from this situation. Interesting. A biased statement like Ms Davis’, not only doesn’t facilitate conversation of ANY kind, it actually serves as a roadblock. Furthermore, if Mr Ostrowsky’s assertion were true, he had that very opportunity and, not only rejected it, but outright ignored it.
Through the Kenneth Tietjen Memorial Foundation, a charity partner of Brothers Before Others, BBO offered to sponsor ‘Coffee With a Cop’, to be held in the lobby of any RWJ/BH facility of THEIR choosing, in return for a simple acknowledgment of the truth in regards to police use of deadly force. The law enforcement community would literally WILL Mr Ostrowsky’s alleged hope into action. Ms Davis could even be the first one at the table and could properly and maturely express her concerns to a real live law enforcement officer. Again, despite this alleged great relationship that RWJ/BH has with its law enforcement, they couldn’t be bothered.
Despite the rain and the cold, on November 5th, the law enforcement community from various departments, unions and even states gathered outside of the RWJ/BH corporate headquarters for a second educational rally.
While RWJ/BH seems content and confident that, if ignored long enough, this will simply go away, the law enforcement community will continue to show up and continue to demand that the record be set straight. While Ms Davis is protected and entitled to feel how she pleases and even express that opinion, it is required that the level-headed adults of society combat hate, regardless of the source. It certainly is the responsibility of those claiming to support law enforcement to ensure that the American police officer is not unfairly or unjustly misrepresented.
Plans for a third educational rally are already underway. While the date and times for the first two were provided to the staff of RWJ/BH, it is likely that, going forward, that information will not be. RWJ/BH clearly has taken the position that the opinion of the law enforcement community is meaningless in the grand scheme of their business. As such, why would we accommodate them any more than is required?