“Writing is easy,” the great sportswriter Red Smith once said, “I just open a vein and bleed.” So here goes, I’m going to open a vein. I’m retired law enforcement. I can’t deny my bias.
I wasn’t a police officer or deputy. I worked in corrections, but each law enforcement branch is connected — we all took an oath.
You can receive accolades from your community, save a life, have plaques on your wall, but in one moment, one mistake that takes a life must be atoned for. Those in law enforcement comprehend this.
All who have accepted this risk hope and pray every day as they leave home that their training will carry them through. That they will return home. Those who carry a weapon are not allowed an error. They must be perfect.
Not perfect for one shift or one year, but for 20 or 30 years. No bad days. You might get screamed at, spit on, beat up, struck by debris, hit by a car, gassed, or even shot at. It doesn’t matter. You cannot retaliate, exceed policy, procedure, or use excessive force. There’s a line — it can’t be crossed.
In the Chauvin case, the line was crossed. The verdict was just.
Every day, there are stories and reports about police brutality. It seems like the media desperately seeks a police shooting to lead the news. News coverage of heroic police action or saving a life will never trump coverage of a police shooting and a life lost.
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street columnist, recently wrote, “If I ran the world, we wouldn’t be diverting funds from the police; we’d be spending more to expand and deepen their training — deepen their patience, their sense of proportion, their knowledge. Because they are important to us.”
Our younger generations are being told every day to distrust and even resist law enforcement. Citizens agree that policing methods should never stop improving and evolving. More effective, less-than-lethal options for law enforcement need to be developed.
Early in my correctional career, the Bureau of Prisons had literally zero diversity or female staff. A change was needed. This effort was gradual, but I witnessed the changing of the ethnicity and gender of our staff. The result was outstanding, and the more diverse the staff became, the better our facilities ran.
As a baby boomer, I have witnessed the transformation of American society all around me. I appreciated it when I saw the diversity of my granddaughter’s elementary school classrooms. I witnessed it in the diversity of the staff at Mayo Clinic and in this community.
I don’t accept the fact that our generation did not move the needle in race relations. Every day, I am troubled and saddened over how intensely divided we are as a nation.
Statistics specify that an arrest is made in the United States every 3 seconds. I did some math with a pencil and paper, and according to my unverified results, there are 288,000 arrests made every day. With those numbers, arrests, in particular, with resistance or flight, some will go bad. I think we all understand there will be more incidents.
Tyler Perry is a well-known Black actor, world-renowned director, producer and philanthropist. While accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in April, he called for unity. He said his mom taught him to refuse hate and to refuse blanket judgment.
Mr. Perry said he refuses to hate someone because they are Mexican or Asian or a police officer. He asked people to stand in the middle with him because that is where healing, change and conversations can take place. It was a powerful and meaningful speech.
It’s a path we have to take. Many of us have been calling for our politicians to come to the middle. As Mr. Perry said, this is where positive change for all can take place.
The work to make meaningful changes will continue in policing. Our country can’t continue on the road we are on. Destruction may not bring change or justice.
We will always need those who protect and serve. Many experienced law enforcement personnel are deciding to leave the profession, a profession once highly respected and sought after.
Our kids, grandkids, homes, businesses and communities must be protected from those who want to hurt us. To those law enforcement officers who stay, despite this storm, thank you. Those who will come in the future, thank you.
The challenge is, for all who take a protect and serve oath, as you know, you must be perfect.
Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at email@example.com.