Breaking News ... Two NYPD Officers Killed (December 2014): Is there a double standard when it comes to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown vs. the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos?
8 upvotes by Rick Bruno (Former Police Commander, Illinois. Bachelors De... (more) ), Peter Burgess, Ian Simonson, (more)
It's hard to answer that question, because so many people have had so many different reactions. Certainly, the reactions have been DIFFERENT. And I do think it's sad that it takes the murder of three officers in one day to bring out voices in support of police.
But if you ask me, the biggest tragedy is not a matter of double standards - it's that we are completely missing the big picture.
The big picture is that most cops are imperfect people doing their imperfect best in a difficult job.
More than 50 officers were killed feloniously in the US to date in 2014. Usually, just for doing their jobs.
Most cops who are killed in the line of duty - and most cops across the board - are good people who contribute to their communities through their job, and in other ways as well. Most of them lead quiet lives, pay taxes, raise families.
Almost universally, the people who kill cops are completely unjustified in their actions. They are hardened criminals, or mentally ill, or fringe anti-government nutcases - or all of the above.
I am unaware of any law enforcement death in recent memory in which there is any cohesive argument to justify the acts of the killer.
Regardless of the officer's race, or gender, or age - regardless of the acts they were undertaking in their final moments - it is rare that a law enforcement death makes any impact on the national news. Neither the President nor his cabinet will usually address such deaths. In social media, outside of law enforcement circles, there is rarely a ripple. Certainly, no one riots.
By contrast, the majority of police shootings ARE justified.
Since there is no formal record of how many people are shot by police in a given year (and there certainly ought to be), it is hard to pin down a number, but 400-450 police shootings a year seems to be a generally accepted number.
Of those, only a few become controversial on a national level: Michael Brown and Tamir Rice are perhaps the most visible examples this year.
Even in controversial cases, there usually is at least a cohesive argument to be made in the officer's defense. A thinking person may come down on one side or the other, but once you step past the headlines and hashtags, it is hard to present a rational argument that either case evinces clear police misconduct.
And yet, despite the uncertainty, it seems it is not enough to merely ask questions.
There are fingers pointed, often at cops. Allegations of racism, brutality, militarization. And in many quarters, these allegations are accepted at face value.
The big picture is that the police are where the rubber meets the road for most of society's problems. Where there is poverty, violence, addiction, strife - we're there. If blood is spilled, we come with cameras and notepads; if a law is to be enforced, we are the ones who put on the handcuffs, even if the law is unpopular; if the government kills someone, we are almost always pulling the trigger, and it is always a nasty business, no matter how necessary.
National sins - things like failing education and mental health systems, legacies of racism, economic trends, crime and drug addiction - we reap the consequences.
So we are easy scape goats.
But that is a disservice, not only to the police, but to society as a whole.
When people leap on the anti-cop band-wagon - because it's popular, or trendy, or politically correct - they miss the opportunity to peer deeper into our nation's darkest corners.
That's the real tragedy, not any double-standard.
We are so focused on Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, but no one is bothering to ask WHY Ferguson was primed to explode. How many people know that the City of Ferguson is notorious for using its police department as a revenue generator? Could that have to do with the mistrust between locals and police?
We talk about black men killed by police, as though the big problem here is bigoted cops looking for black men to kill. Certainly, there are racist cops (there are racists throughout society). They need to be weeded out, as much as they can be. But do we really believe that is the cause of the statistic?
Wouldn't we be better served by asking why so many black men die violent deaths, run afoul of our justice system, and find themselves incarcerated? Does it have to do with poverty? Is this a legacy of historic segregation? What can we do to fix this problem?
#BlackLivesMatter. Of course they do! But if all we are doing to reinforce this point is marching against the police, we are blaming a few grains of sand for a desert. We are missing the big picture.
So whether there is a double standard or not, I think misses the point.
That said - Every law enforcement funeral I have been to - and I have been to too many - is a reminder that the sacrifices made by my brothers and sisters doesn't go unnoticed. It's not just cops in the audience; you see people with their heads bowed as the funeral procession passes, boy scout troops saluting, fire fighters and EMTs standing by in solidarity, churches with messages of comfort on their billboards.
I think the truth is that majority of people support cops. They don't necessarily think we're blameless heroes, because we're not, but they also know we're not racist thugs.
And I try to believe that a lot of folks who are so busy hating on cops - the people protesting Jet Blue for giving free rides to the NYPD funerals, for example - just don't understand. They're led along by trends in social media, without digging deeper.
And I think we, as cops, don't do enough to explain our position, or to put our best foot forward. Mayor Di Blasio does not deserve the respect of his officers, but that doesn't mean they ought to visibly disrespect him by turning their backs. They ought to be better than that. We ought to be better than that.
Ultimately, though, I hope all of us - cops, protesters, victims, taxpayers - can move forward and have an actual discussion. Because the real issues that face all of us are much bigger, and much more complicated, than anything that has made a headline so far.