Omdahl: Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Policemen
In 1978, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson popularized a song warning mothers not to let their kids grow up to be cowboys.
With the passing of the cowboy era, it is time to make a new search for the worst careers in our society. It appears that being a police officer outranks all others. It may be time for a rendition of “don’t let your kids grow up to be police officers.”
The shooting in Ferguson, Mo., triggered a storm of protest against law enforcement across the country. Because ethnic minorities have been involved in the most widely publicized confrontations, many actions taken by the police these days are labelled as racist.
There is little doubt that racism is a factor in some police aggressiveness, but it is not the only factor. Lawless activity is what brings the police to a scene in the first place so criminal behavior is a major contributor to explosive situations.
This constant contact with the criminal culture gives police officers a frame of mind that anticipates trouble and violence on every call. They function in an atmosphere of constant turmoil and lawlessness.
The most tragic confrontations have resulted in police officers shooting perpetrators, some of whom have turned out to be unarmed. Unfortunately, the media keep repeating the fact that the victim was unarmed, making it sound as though malice was afoot in every such case.
It is tragic when these incidents happen but the problem for officers was that they could not know at the time of the shooting that the victims were unarmed. What the officer does know is that his life is on the line when someone engaged in lawless behavior makes a threatening move.
The exploding gun culture has not helped. As they make these split second decisions, police officers are aware that everyone can get a gun these days, with or without a license. That includes criminals, idiots, chronic drunks and psychotics.
With so many weapon carriers around, the police cannot assume that a perpetrator of lawlessness is unarmed. More often than not, the only way they can anticipate living until tomorrow is to expect weapons.
We don’t pay police officers enough to require them to take the first bullet.
In recent incidents, excessive force has been used by officers who lacked good judgment and restraint. This was the case in McKinney, Texas, where a 15-year-old girl was brutally handled by an officer.
It is obvious that there are folks who are not qualified for police work by temperament or personal biases. But they may not always be bad apples just apples in the wrong barrel.
But then we also have preachers who can’t preach; managers who can’t manage; carpenters who can’t measure. They are not bad just square pegs in round holes. So it is in police departments.
Cities around the country are trying to deal with racism through sensitivity training and education. Some factors, such as personalities, may not be changed with more training and education.
The best thing police departments can do is hire more qualified minorities to enforce the law among minorities. Cities need more African-Americans and Hispanics on board. It may not change the statistics as much as we think but it would improve acceptance.
When all is said and done, policing today has become the least desirable career path so mothers should consider teaching their kids not to become policemen. There are at least 100 better choices in the present environment.
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