Tuesday, July 16, 2019

To the Deputy in the Shooting Yesterday

Dear Deputy,
A reader sent a headline to my inbox yesterday. It didn't say much, yet, but it was about you.

You are the deputy who shot a gunman in a remote little lake resort yesterday.
I don't know you, but I know your life.
It's my family's life, and we've walked your walk.

You work alone.
You're always far from backup.
Your radio doesn't reach dispatch, as often as it does.
Nearly everyone you contact out here in the country is armed.
A lot of them have rifles, and you know your vest doesn't stand a chance.
Your department doesn't have body cameras, or dash cams, and they don't send you to training often enough, or have range except when you're qualifying, so it's all on you.
And yesterday, it was all on you , again.
*photo by DanSun Photo Art*

When you could go home, you were exhausted and keyed to the breaking point---but you went home.
Your friend who's a deputy too, drove you and stayed with you for hours; he sat where you could see him, so you'd feel safe and finally get a little rest. Every time you opened your eyes, he was there.
You'll never forget him for that.
Eventually he had to go home, though ; his wife had to go to work, and there's no childcare provider in this small town who works her shift.

Maybe you shook or threw up, once you knew no one could see you, except your wife.
She doesn't care; you came home.
You held each other that night instead of sleeping, and wondered if it was okay to cry now, or if you shouldn't, because maybe you wouldn't stop. No one ever trained you for this part---everything up to pulling the trigger, sure.
Not a thing for anything after that, so , you just don't know.
But you did come home.
She looked at your hands, and in your eyes, and wondered if you were different, now that you'd killed someone. Then she felt weird for thinking about that, even to herself. Who thinks that? Who ever has to?
Yes. You will be; but you're still you, and you came home.

People you work with don't know what to say.
One said 'Congratulations, great shot.' That was awkward.
A lot of them shook your hand, and a few patted you as they walked by,and nodded, and tried to decide whether to make eye contact. A dispatcher hugged you, and she cried. And then, she walked away as fast as she could.
They're glad you came home.
But, they don't know what to do either. No one trained them for this.

The investigation is still going on. Your name hasn't been released yet, but it's a small town. Everyone knows. Everyone knows the suspect's name, too.
Everyone knows where you live.
Your kids go to school with the suspect's siblings and cousins, or kids, and there's nothing you can do about that because, well--
it's a really small town.
There's only the one school.

There's only one grocery store; while your wife is waiting in line there, she'll hear two women in front of her talking about 'what you should have done.'
Her cheeks will burn, and her eyes will narrow and fill with angry tears, but she won't confront them.
And she'll never forget it.
She'll buy her fresh green beans, and chicken thighs, and juice boxes, and head to the car in the rain, rehearsing all the things she could have said to them, but didn't.
She'll tell you about it later, words like automatic fire, and you won't know what to say back.

You'll be criticized and second-guessed online, by people who weren't there and didn't have to make that choice.
Teachers will talk about the suspect, no matter how long ago he graduated, and insist there had to have been some other resolution.
Even though the toughest choice they ever faced was whether or not to send that suspect to the office, they'll still talk about what you should have done, when the choice the suspect gave you was 'die' or 'shoot him instead'.

It's not fair. That's okay to think.
You did deserve better. It's okay to be angry, at least for now. The final choice was in the suspect's hands, not yours.
You did your best.
It's okay for your wife to be angry, with the suspect, with anyone who speaks badly of you. It means she loves you.

Remember, you came home. Start there.

When you have your fitness-for-duty evaluation, and they send you back on the road, if your sheriff is lazy and doesn't find resources to help you find your new normal, find them your own self.
The interwebs are an infinite resource. I wish we had had it, when we walked your walk.

There's Cop Church , and they're always there. You can call them, and email them, and their messages stream online and in podcasts. They're real people, cops like you, with families like yours; it's just that they're ministers and counselors, too.
Trust me, the nice marriage and family counselor in your little town has no idea what your life is like now. 'Police stress' is not a relationship problem, but it can make one.
We already tried that, so I'll save you and your wife that step.

There's Under The Shield Foundation , and they're always there. They know stuff, and they know people, and they exist to help you find the right ones.

There's The Wounded Blue , and Call4Backup, too, and Safe Call Now --- some professionals, some peer support, all confidential, all there for you.

And there's the First Responder Support Network , too, on the west coast. I really, REALLY wish I'd known about them.
You're not alone. I promise.

You'll discover other officers right where you live, ones you never knew much about before, have been in shootings, too.
They just don't talk about it much. If they reach out, reach back.
They won't offer if they don't mean it.

And they know some things you'll face weeks or months from now, when everyone else acts like they've moved on, or that maybe your trouble is contagious:
They know you're not crazy, no matter how you feel.
They know it's normal to have an abnormal reaction to an abnormal event.
They know this won't last forever.

You don't have a peer support system, or critical incident management team, or a chaplain. We didn't either.
Ultimately, it was faith and family who brought us out the other side.
You're just starting down this road. We walked it.....well, a long time ago. But we're still standing, and so will you.

I can't fix it. I can only offer what I know, and what I have, and hope you'll take it.
When I run out of words (even I eventually run out of words), I pray. When I run out of prayers, I read this psalm.
I'll give it to you, now, and wish you peace tonight, and rest.
Your world won't always be upside down.
*photo by DanSun Photo Art*

Psalm 91
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

You're home. You came home.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Damn Lies and Statistics

There's a list of 'Dangerous Jobs' on the internet.
You know the one: every keyboard commando and cop hater on the planet keeps it bookmarked.

Loggers. Commercial Fishermen. Roofers. Truckers. Pilots. Farmers.

All honorable and necessary professions.
All risky. No argument there.
But that's not the point, at all. There IS a point, and people who compare those risky, honorable professions to the hazards of law enforcement are missing it.
The refrain is getting old --
"Being a cop isn't even dangerous. More (fill in the blank with career choice) die every year than cops."
Way to misuse statistics.
Without getting into a lecture about trendlines, working analogies, margins of error, gross numbers vs. per capita or per hundred-thousand, and the like, let's just get to that point.

Casualties in all those other occupations represent industrial accident.
No crab pot, bucket of hot tar, snapped cable, or toxic manure pit sets out to kill the fisherman,roofer, logger or farmer because they're at work.
Trucks don't jack knife because they had a bad driver once, their truck friend got impounded last week, and this driver said something they don't like.

There's nothing personal about mechanical failure, or the fact of gravity.
Malice is the exclusive purview of humans.
Some police officers die in very sad accidents, or of the frailty of their regrettably human bodies.
The rest are murdered.
It's not the same, at all.

There's more to that refrain up there ^^ It goes like this:
"But fewer cops die in the line of duty now than ever before in history!!"
And that's true.
It's also true that fewer infantry soldiers and Marines die in combat than ever in history, and for the same reasons, but no reasonable person argues that war is 'safe'.

So, what are those reasons, anyway?
1. Ballistic armor, and
2. Faster access to ever more sophisticated trauma care.
That's it.
"Less death" doesn't equal "safe".

I know I said I wouldn't talk about trendlines, but here's one anyway.
Take a look.

See when that trend peaks, and then really starts to fall? That's the mid-1970s, when ballistic armor first became widely available for law enforcement agencies to purchase.

When you can look at numbers reflecting officers attacked who survive, the numbers are holding steady, for years now.
In fact, between 2003 and 2014, while workplace injuries decreased for all other job fields, injury rates for law enforcement rose , with the leading cause deliberate attacks and assaults. A study by the National Institute for Safety and Health demonstrated that cops are three times more likely to sustain non-fatal injury than all other U.S. workers.
There are thousands of officers, and their families, who face down life-altering, sometimes career-ending, wounds every year, utterly unnoticed by the public.

They're real, with real people who love them, the ones who fall, and those who survive to battle on.

Challenge the propaganda.
Break the silence.
They're worth it. You're worth it.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Killing the Messenger

A handful of Oregon state senators went AWOL to avoid losing a vote on a fiercely-contested environmental issue.
Without their presence on the senate floor, there was no quorum; without a quorum, there could be no vote.
Their flight to neighboring states dominated west coast headlines, and inspired bold proclamations of support from fans, countered by howls of outrage from the opposition.

As the deadline approached, the governor requested that state police round up the errant senators, and send them--or bring them--back to fill the quorum, and fulfill their duty to vote.
In response, one state senator, with a flair for drama and apparent lack of filter,made headlines by telling reporters that any trooper sent to find him better be unmarried, and come heavily armed.


I don't live in Oregon, so why do I care?
I care because my ultimate interest is the ability of law enforcement to do their jobs professionally, objectively, and safely.
I care because words mean things.

Threats by powerful people seep over invisible lines, interpreted by radicals and dimwits alike as approval, allowing them to rationalize attacks on officers in the course of their duty.
It's happened before; it will happen again.
Oregon State Police deserve better from their representatives than promises of violence when they do their work.

I'll be honest: of all the places to watch out for threats, a Republican, military veteran senator wasn't my first thought.


Boquist isn't a young man. Let's not blame immaturity, and undeveloped critical thinking skills.
As a retired military officer, and (unsuccessful) three-time candidate for the US House of Representatives, he should definitely be familiar with the United States Constitution.
Counting his multiple terms as a state senator, how many times has he sworn to uphold that document?
Article 1 Section 5 provides that absent legislators may be compelled to attend; that was included in the Founding Fathers' framework just to prevent a salty minority from holding a vote hostage by refusing to show up for work.

Considering his current position on the senate Rules Committee, he should know Oregon's senate rules do provide for a 'call of the house/senate', which permits arrest warrants to be issued for absent legislators.

This wouldn't be the first time that law enforcement have been dispatched to collect straying legislators.
In Texas, in both 1979 and again in 2003, Democrat senators fled the capitol, and then the state, to avoid a quorum. Both times, Rangers and Texas DPS were directed to find them, and return them for the vote. Refusing the senate call is not a criminal matter (in that the legislators will not be prosecuted or imprisoned), but they may be arrested and returned to the floor.
It happened before in Oregon in 2007, when then-Governor Kulongoski sent troopers to Corvallis to bring senators to the capitol for a vote. That time, the matter was resolved before action was taken--even the customary polite request to join officers on a drive to the legislature chambers.
And at the federal level, Oregon Senator Bob Packwood was arrested by Capitol police in 1988 while evading a quorum by barricading in his office, and carried feet-first onto the Senate floor for a vote.
Once arrested, Senator Packwood accepted his fate with good humor, making jokes about calling for a sedan chair, and showing reporters the bandage on his bruised knuckles the next day.

What Senator Packwood, flawed as he was, could teach Senator Boquist is that activists who dabble in civil disobedience without accepting the consequences of their choice lose the moral high ground.
Instead,Boquist postures for the extremists in his base, gaining attention by drawing theoretical fire down on lives that aren't his to risk.

It is true that the vote would have gone against Boquist and his fellows in Oregon's senate.
I live in the rural West, and I understand the stakes, and the divisive politics.
It's true that the jobs and livelihoods of many rural, resource-based communities would be harmed by its passing.

The larger truth is this.
A law isn't unconstitutional because it's personally distasteful.
Citizens, even legislators, don't get to pick and choose among the bits of the Constitution, or even legislative rules, searching for the parts they like.

We are a nation under rule of law.
That means that no one is above the law, even legislators.
It also means no one gets to threaten the lives of law enforcement officers for carrying out a lawful order.
The senator should apologize to the officers he threatened as publicly as he transgressed, and he should also make a public call for restraint among the many supporters offering to "intervene" on his behalf.
Maybe he's a politician now, but that's how an officer and a gentleman behaves.





Sunday, April 7, 2019

"Militarized"? Nope. Just "Equipment".

*Bishop Police Department, California*

One of the bloodiest ambushes since July 2016 left seven officers bleeding and helpless in a giant field of fire, until an ugly old MRAP rumbled onto the scene, providing cover to evacuate them.
For one veteran Florence officer, it was too late.
Another fought mightily, and succumbed to her wounds two weeks later. The rest recovered as best they could.
Less than six months later, in an even smaller South Carolina town (Huger, population 3000-ish), a traffic stop in a rural neighborhood turned into a gunfight.
A solo officer was pinned behind his vehicle for half an hour, until yet another MRAP made its slow and homely way to his rescue.


Bad guys have always used the best technology available to them at the time.
It stands to reason that police must, as well.
In the early 20th Century, as gangsters and organized crime made use of the best tech money could buy, manufacturers made sure law enforcement could access it, too.

Armor has been in use since prehistory. Armored vehicles have been in use since the invention of wheels.
Specialized armored police vehicles have been built for nearly a hundred years.
Characterizing the use of technological advances as a sinister, modern development is both misleading and misinformed.

News and commentary critical of the 1033 Program emphasizes "grenade launchers", "machine guns" or "tanks".
Ignoring, for now, that an armored vehicle is not a tank, never mentioned are the other "militarized" items available under the program :
sleeping bags, cots, water filters, camel backs, rain jackets, or night vision goggles--- all items designed for and supplied to the military, and once again available to law enforcement, with minimal cost to their communities.
All of this gear, by the way, is used for health and safety applications; it's protective, and defensive, not offensive.
As much of it gets used to safeguard local citizens as their police: MRAPs are used all over the country for evacuations during floods and after hurricanes,and to safely remove innocents from active shooter scenes.
For that matter, even armed standoffs have a chance to resolve peacefully if officers have enough cover to wait them out in relative safety. If a bad guy's life can also be saved because police have better equipment, where exactly is that downside?
*Coral Springs PD transporting a newborn and her mother during Hurricane Irma*

Better equipment means better response, to any situation.
A pair of NVGs saved two Washington state deputies from ambush. In a place with no streetlights or backup, a domestic violence call in progress means responding officers need every possible advantage.
What reasonable person denies officers the ability to see on a dark night, because they don't like the way the goggles look, or who paid for them?

I can think of three officers saved by their helmets in 2016 and 2017, alone.
(Los Angeles, Orlando and Tulare County, if you don't want to look them up yourself.)
*clockwise- shield used in the Bataclan siege, helmet from Orlando Pulse shootout, and Ferguson riot helmet*

Any worker doing a job needs the correct tools to do the job proficiently.
If it's a hazardous job, it is ethical and moral to ensure they have the equipment to do that job as safely as possible, as well.
Assuming that a North Hollywood -style robbery won't happen again is silly.
Assuming that the U.S. is immune from a Beslan or Mumbai-style terrorist attack is, at best, ill-informed (although on hard days I may envy your optimism).

France, Belgium and other European countries respond to terrorist attacks with actual military, and their police have the safety equipment they need. (You DID see the picture, up there, of that body bunker from the Bataclan entry? )

Unlike Europe, in the U.S., the Posse Commitatus Act precludes military response to any attack on our soil that may involve our own citizens.
National Guard takes days to mobilize.
Therefore, local law enforcement will be the first responders to any violent threat.
Since this is the case, they need the equipment to respond effectively, and with a chance of surviving that response.
Dead and wounded officers cannot stop an attack already in motion, and they cannot defend their communities, either.
Rather than protecting anyone else, they're now a strain on resources, and a distraction.
If you want effective response, your officers have to be able to stay in the fight.

If U.S. citizens insist on pretending that Mumbai and Beslan (and Paris, and Brussels, and...)can't happen here, then they don't get to say "You should have done something" when they don't like the outcome.
And they get to take the blame when those who do respond reap the whirlwind , unprepared and ill-equipped.

Protective equipment is scary, you say?
You know what's actually scary?
Someone's son, husband, father was holding that shield, wearing those helmets.
I'm glad they had them. Their families are glad they had them.

I don't see "militarized" . I see "PPEs".
I see loved ones home again, safely.
I see officers who can wait out a barricaded subject.
I see safe evacuations during floods, blizzards and active shooters.

And then I see a lot of critics who never take a risk that doesn't involve their paycheck.
I see people who complain that the stuff is scary looking.
They don't like camouflage.
Their officers 'shouldn't look like soldiers'.
The scary Feds shouldn't provide surplus equipment to their local cops.
Well, then, ladies and gentlemen, pony up the funds to equip your officers with the appropriate gear your own selves, and you can paint that $350,000 Lenco Bearcat pink, if that makes you feel safer.
Buy the rifle plates and carriers yourself, and have your officers put unicorn morale patches on them. I don't care.
But these ARE your tax dollars at work, already bought and paid for.
Might as well use it wisely.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ten Things Your Agency Should Pay For, Not You


When I started writing this blog, and running a public Facebook page, I didn't expect the kind of behind-the-scenes feedback I get--good and bad-- about law enforcement agencies and leadership.
Living in a state with relatively stringent workplace safety codes, it never occured to me that, in the year 2019, there are still law enforcement agencies that fail to provide bedrock, dealbreaker basics for their officers.

I read a little article on Forbes.com titled "Ten Things Your Employer Should Pay For, Not You" ; it was written for an IT specialist at a financial services firm, but the principle is sound:
If you work for a business, there are expenses that are the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee.
If you work for a law enforcement agency, that principle still applies.
There are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the department- not you- as well.

The problem is that people become accustomed to their own environment, sometimes to the exclusion of reasonable perspective on a bigger issue.
This post is about what's actually reasonable, whether you see it locally or not.

It's not normal for an officer to be poorly equipped, or poorly trained.
It's not reasonable, it's not safe, and it's not acceptable.

Let's begin at the very beginning:

1. Your agency should pay for or issue your sidearm, a shotgun, and either pay for a patrol rifle or permit you to qualify with and carry your own.

2.Your agency should pay for your vest.
Rifle plates are a strongly recommended bonus, in today's new normal of high velocity, high risk.
It can be concealable, or external, but it needs to fit, and it needs to be replaced as it wears.

3. Your agency should pay for a vehicle appropriate to patrol in your beat.
It doesn't have to be new, it doesn't have to be pretty, and the fleet doesn't have to match.
It does have to be equipped with a cage, if you ever transport prisoners. Ever. Like, even once.


4. Your agency should pay for vehicle maintenance. Maybe they can only afford ugly vehicles. That's fine.
Vehicles with bald tires or bad brakes? That's not fine.
Keep it safe, or get it off the road. No excuses.


5. If you are expected to use a cell phone, on or off duty, your agency should pay for that.
Do not use your own cell phone for work-related calls, searches or messaging, even if your agency pays you a stipend to offset costs.
Established case law will permit your personal phone to be searched if there is information pertinent to an investigation, and one side or the other can make a case that the information is needed for court.
Your phone is your phone; don't blur that line.
It's not worth it.

6. Your agency should pay for continuing ed, to meet or exceed your state's POST.
All officers must have regular legal update training, training in perishable skills like EVOC and use of force, and advanced classes to develop them as professionals.
Yes, of course officers need to invest in their own professional development: read, collaborate, take classes.
But the agency's development is on agency leadership, and so are the costs.
Get creative to minimize expenses, but do it.
Share costs with other agencies, send one officer to certify as a trainer and come back to train the rest, piggyback on a bigger department's training, use webinars and online classes. It can be done.

7.Your agency should pay for firearms training. Not qualifications: training. There's a difference.
Getting bodies out on a range to punch a few holes in paper once, or four, times a year, is not adequate.
Low light, crowded environment, weak hand, awkward position--- none of it is intuitive, and you're going to play like you practice. It's far more effective to send one or two senior officers to certify as trainers than send the whole department out. What you spend will make up for itself in reduced liability.
The very first question by an attorney after an OIS is "When did you last qualify?" followed by "Show me your training records."

8. Your agency should pay for practice ammunition.
Confidence and accuracy come only with repetition, and ammo is cheaper than failure.
Officers are far more likely to spend their own time on the range when they don't have to balance the cost of practice against purchasing diapers or groceries.

9. Your agency should pay for individual first aid kits (IFAKs), including tourniquets-- at least two TKs per officer.
Of course, this includes the training to go with them.
I don't ever, EVER want to hear again that an officer bled out from an extremity because someone above his paygrade wanted to save $40.

10. Your agency should pay for communications equipment that works.
That means dispatch consoles, portable and in-vehicle radios, and the repair or replacement of repeaters.
If you can't get help, or information, because you're THAT far from coverage, that's life.
If you can't get help or information because your comms fail that's... just failure

There's more--there's always more. But these are the basics.
Meeting a basic standard is within reach, and it's a reasonable expectation, for both an officer deciding whether to stay with your current agency, or a boss calculating whether your department is meeting the mark.

This isn't the Old West, even if you live in cowboy country, and we don't just wing this stuff anymore.
21st century law enforcement is a profession.

To be professional means standards and high expectations, from the agency, from the officer, from the public.
To hire, train and retain professional officers will mean time, money,and effort.

It will pay off in better morale and confidence among your officers,better applicants, improved officer safety, reduced liability, and better relationships with the public.
If your agency isn't there yet, find one that is and ask them how they got there.
Then, do the thing. All the things.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Photos and the Fallen : History Isn't About Our Feelings

*evidence photo from the Newhall incident, 1970*

*updated December 2018, originally posted in March 2017*

Photos from life's front lines force change, and sometimes change the course of history.
What we remember, and how we remember it, is shaped by the images we associate with the events. That's why we remember a boy named Emmett Till, but don't have names for thousands of other crime victims.
It's why modern law enforcement understands deeply the effects of the North Hollywood Bank Robbery, but not so much the effects of a century of train robberies.

Like everyone else, I've been monitoring the news from London. As usual, I'm going to sound less-than-sensitive just now.
You can disagree if you want;
If I were a delicate flower, I'd have had to find something else to do a long time ago.

I've seen some outrage over upsetting photos on news articles today, cries and criticism that they should be un-published.
*MP Tobias Ellwood renders aid to a fallen officer*
The photos are meant to be upsetting.
They are meant to be an outrage.
They're not supposed to be sensitive to anyone's feelings, even the families of the victims.
The photos are a record of history.
Photojournalists , and now dash cams, body cams and common citizens with cell phones, stop time and record it, so that we do not forget.

Someone committed acts of evil today.
Someone will tomorrow.
Someone will lose a loved one.
Their lives have meaning, and worth.
They deserve recording, and remembering.
There are iconic photos of moments in history, whether lovely, or heartbreaking or horrifying, that all of us have seen because someone else took a photo, and an editor published it.

These images and events, whether a churchyard in Antietam strewn with soldiers, emaciated corpses in a mass grave in Bergen, the Zapruder film, the scorched little girl fleeing napalm, the bravery of a student in Tienanmen Square, a thousand yard stare in Iraq, the Dinkheller video or the fallen in Westminster, must not be airbrushed, edited into acceptability or hidden away.
*Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy, Reagan assassination attempt*


It's not about your feelings.
It is evidence: that this happened, that real people fell, that we must remember, that this must not happen again.

If you are highly sensitive to visuals, or caring for someone who is, turn on the radio, turn off your TV, and get off social media for a while.
The fault is not with the photos.

It is not correct that only what is lovely should be visible.
We who can bear it owe it to those who died and those who survive them not to look away--and to make sure that those responsible are called to account.

That is not only for someone in a uniform.
Any of us with a mind and a voice or a keyboard can do this.
Turn the page, if you must.
But don't turn your back because that's easier.
And don't require that anyone else does.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hypocrisy and Free Speech : Words Mean Things



I shouldn't have to qualify this, but I will-- I am an ardent believer in the freedom of the press.
It's one of the five First Freedoms enshrined in the constitution, and I frequently annoy friends and readers who haven't worked with journalists, by defending them.
I'm an advocate for free speech, another of those First Freedoms.
That said, I'm stuck.



^^ Up there is a quote from Assemblywoman Michele Fiore , NV (R) during a 2016 news interview. She was exercising her right to free speech, and access to a free press.

Following the coverage of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate, I heard the following accusation against influential people who have been critical of the press:
that saying nasty things about people incites violence, and allows those committing crimes to justify their actions against The Other, the one who 'deserves' it, the one who has been demonized.

When progressive politicians and news outlets were targeted by a domestic terrorist sending explosives through the mail, the refrain was repeated again, this time on behalf of the elected officials as well.
Criticism of insulting metaphors, and controversial depictions of representatives from past political contests filled the airwaves, and acres of print.

While activists and commentators blame ugly political speech for violence against women, immigrants and racial or religious minorities, I want to know why divisive politicized rhetoric is acceptable when it targets cops, even after violence resulting in multiple casualties at a time.
(In 2008, 42 officers were killed by gunfire; at this point in 2018, we're already up to 49. Despite the protests from copblockers, more cops have been killed feloniously than accidentally for a long time now.
Go ahead and fact check me on odmp.org's statistics page. )


I have been told many times to shut up and get over myself--- that it's free speech, protesters blowing off steam, people expressing themselves, words don't have that power, cops know what they signed up for and can stop being one any time they want.
I was told that people just doing a job they can quit shouldn't expect any sort of protection from threats,stereotyping or dehumanization, whether it's by an authority figure or on social media.


Hypocrisy makes me angry.

Journalism is a profession, like law enforcement, not a protected class like sex, race or religion.
So is being an elected official, like the ones targeted with mail bombs by the nutter from Florida.
Law enforcement officers are United States citizens just like journalists and elected officials.
Just like them, they have civil rights, including an expectation that they may live without being targeted for the job they do.

Academics, journalists, politicians and the public have a choice to make here:
either words can be destructive and incite destructive behavior, or it's all just permissible free speech, immune to criticism.
No one gets to have it both ways.
It's time to grow up and own the damage.

In the words of the famous, fictional LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, "Everybody counts, or nobody counts."
We don't have second class citizens in our country.
Or, at least, we shouldn't.