Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Guns, Law Enforcement, and Accountability for All

Nearly 100% of law enforcement officers and personnel I know (which is a considerable amount given my background)* are for citizens owning and carrying weapons. The current sheriff of my own former department has gone above and beyond to expedite the process of obtaining one's concealed weapons permit in that county. Here's the problem: how then do they know a good guy from a bad guy especially in a fast-paced, chaotic situation? Those blurred lines are creating even bigger issues than we had before, which were already plentiful and myriad.
Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous encounters law enforcement officers ever have. Tensions are already high. Suspicions already abound. Wouldn't you then want to know that someone with a gun in the car you just pulled over is *certainly* not legally justified in having one? Wouldn't you want to eliminate any question so you could act accordingly and appropriately without fear of being fatally incorrect?
Open carry is applauded by many of you I know, as well, and yet that only further blurs lines and creates confusion and heightened danger. If someone outside of a store is wielding a gun and you respond to that call in an open carry state, how can you instantly tell which person holding a gun is the bad and which is the good? Wouldn't you want to eliminate any bewilderment so you could more confidently and efficiently do your already terribly dangerous, stressful job?
Your unending support of the "guns, guns everywhere" mentality is creating infinite problems for you, for us, for everyone.
Your unquestioning loyalty for those sharing your profession does nothing but create further distrust as opposed to the feelings others would have for you if you would simply evaluate each case on its own merits, stand behind that which is right, but also firmly admonish and distance yourself from that which is wrong. People can get behind someone, anyone who says, "Ugh. I'm so sorry that one not-fully-trained or mentally unstable or highly emotional or inexperienced or just plain mistaken in this circumstance officer did what they did. It wasn't right. It also isn't representative of the overwhelming majority of us. As ever, we continue to do our jobs, because we care." People can get behind someone, anyone who says, "That was a mistake" regardless of its egregiousness. People distrust unfailing support of that which is sometimes so very clearly wrong, sometimes questionable, sometimes riding the line of morality.
As a teacher, I am understandably sensitive and defensive when others post negativity about teachers. My knee-jerk reaction is to stand up for them. What does that say to others, though, when it turns out the teacher has done something unconscionable? How does anyone trust me as a teacher if I jump to the defense of all teachers blindly and without regard for offense? They can't. And I can't ask them to.
I know you. I see you. Let down your walls, allow your humanity to show through, give others a glimpse of your heart as opposed to the coldness of your blue walls.

I wrote this just a couple of hours before seeing a similar plea about peer accountability from Officer Nakia Jones and then as she expounded upon that in a press conference the next day.  I wrote this days before hearing Chief David Brown speak eloquently and passionately about guns in public making his job and the jobs of his employees infinitely harder. I wrote this a week before reading the Associated Press' pointed questions as to the logic and wisdom of laws permitting open carry gun laws to which people are still vehemently responding with their standard 2nd Amendment quotes that serve no purpose in driving progress.  I am not alone in wanting, no, demanding more and better both for our law enforcement officers and for the people they serve, all the people they serve.  We will continue to set high expectations, hold each other accountable even when it is an unpopular act to do so, press the loud and well-armed minority on the prudence of their votes and decisions.  We do this precisely because we do so appreciate the intensely trying and, at times, life-threatening jobs our peace officers do and wish for only the cream of the crop to represent them.  We do this not because we value only black lives or only blue lives while dismissing the lives of the other; we do this because we value lives and care most immediately about protecting those that are most in danger, most at risk. 

*  6 years working in both training and as a Sheriff's Service Specialist with the San Bernardino** County Sheriff's Department, as well as living as a child of and family member to law enforcement officers ranging in rank from deputy all the way up to sheriff of the largest county in the United States. 

** Yes, that San Bernardino.  The one that got shot up and terrorized.  The one in which my sister-in-law and four-year-old nephew were having lunch around the corner from gunshots ringing out, feeling unsure if they'd make it home alive as they fled.  The one in which a former classmate of mine lost his life.  This is personal.  It's all personal.


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