Monday, January 5, 2015

And then police wonder why some people don’t give them their full trust

Officials in New York on Sunday laid to rest police officer Wenjian Liu, an occasion that could have been a moment where the people showed their solidarity and support for the law enforcement types who are supposed to be there for our protection.

Instead, numerous officers in New York felt compelled to turn the funeral services Sunday for the officer shot to death while sitting in his parked squad car last month into a statement that will reinforce the beliefs of some in our society that the police are as much the problem as anybody else.

I HAD HOPED officers would not see the need to make their statement against Mayor Bill deBlasio as they have on several occasions, including the funeral services held last week for Liu’s partner, Rafael Ramos – who also was shot to death by a man who used Facebook to say he was avenging the deaths of black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo., who were killed by police.

Their gesture was to turn their backs to de Blasio – as a way of publicly showing they refuse to acknowledge his presence.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had said he wanted New York officers to show the mayor professional respect during the funeral service on Sunday. Instead, officers outside the funeral home where a Buddhist service was held turned their back to a video screen while de Blasio spoke – and faced it again once de Blasio sat down.

Although it should be noted the New York Daily News reported that it was not clear that all the officers who “protested” were actually New York cops – some may have been out-of-town officers who showed up to show solidarity amongst law enforcement personnel.

BUT IT STILL comes across as a juvenile gesture – one that legitimate police officers seeking public respect ought to know better than to commit.

For the record, police in New York have been turning their backs on de Blasio ever since the death of Eric Garner – who was strangled by a New York cop with a headlock grip. De Blasio, who has a biracial son, made comments about how he feared his son might be treated by police.

In short, he conceded that the activists upset over the deaths of Garner and Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburbs may well have a legitimate point when it comes to police encounters with black people.

These officers, instead of trying to figure out how to close the gap in trust that exists between them and black people, seem to expect blind loyalty.

AS THOUGH THE lesson we should learn from the deaths of Ramos and Liu (who by all evidence were not doing anything threatening to anyone at the time they were shot) is that people like Garner and Brown (and anyone else whom police decide to use force upon) got what they deserved.

I know there are some people in our society who will be eager to believe such a line of thought. But THAT is the problem we face!

That is why I’m not sure what to think of the fact that other law enforcement agencies feel compelled to express their support to their New York counterparts.

Including Chicago, where on New Year’s Day our city’s own officers gathered at a police memorial near Soldier Field to show their support for fallen police officers – with Ramos and Liu given special mention for the Dec. 20 incident in which the two were shot and killed while on duty in Brooklyn a month earlier.

I’D LIKE TO think our own police officers would behave better than their New York counterparts if the incidents were occurring here.

Then again, with the gap in trust between police and some in our society, that might be the New Year’s wish that’s just too much to ask for.


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