As I have said many times before, I have the deepest respect for public safety officials—police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s), and so on. Most of the people who choose to work in these fields are heroes. They are willing to risk their lives day-in and day-out to serve and protect the ‘regular folks’ in their communities . . . you know, people like me, who wouldn’t have the guts to do what they do.
They are, however, human beings . . . which means they make mistakes. Because of the nature of their work, sometimes those mistakes cost lives. There are times when police officers use deadly force, believing they or others are at serious risk of harm, and it turns out that the kid was wielding a toy gun or some other innocuous object. I understand these realities, and tend to defend law enforcement officers’ actions except when there is clear evidence of wrongdoing on their part.
But I also have little sympathy for those officers who abuse or overstep their authorities—and there are far too many of them. In my own very limited dealings with law enforcement, I have been the victim of [minor] police abuse two times. Once, Officer Graham Buck of the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) called my high school principal and told her that I was a dangerous anarchist (what?). Another time, Officer George Lopez (of the same department) verbally abused and threatened me because I misinterpreted his vague hand gestures. Neither Buck nor Lopez were formally reprimanded for their actions against me.
This lack of official response highlights the ‘good ol’ boys’ network—that strange brotherhood within the law enforcement community that leads even good cops to defend their peers at all costs, no matter how badly they have overstepped their authorities.
Another time, one of my neighbors yelled, “Asshole!” at a driver who decided to drive through a neighborhood block party. The driver abruptly stopped his car and confronted my neighbor. He was aggressive enough that, if I had done it, I probably would have been carted off to jail for disorderly conduct or assault. He was aggressive enough that I had my hand in my pocket, gripping a can of pepper-spray, worried that I was about to have to use it to protect myself and my neighbors. If I had been carrying a firearm at the time, I likely would have had my hand on it instead. Read More…