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Originally posted on Dec 4, 2015,

Article written by Kenneth Kuebler –

What a week in contradictions for American law enforcement.

The week began with the forced resignation of Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy and the associated reemergence of the perpetually aggrieved anti-police crowd. Having apparently done everything that the protesters could have possibly hoped for – fully investigating and criminally charging an officer for what the protesters deemed an unjustified shooting, and releasing the unedited video of the shooting in its entirety – he was shown the door anyway. Unsatisfied with criminally charging officers for shootings the protesters find unjustified, apparently their new standard is to demand that the leaders of associated departments must be let go as well. Irrespective of the fact that the Superintendent wasn’t the one doing the shooting and irrespective of the fact that the process worked as it is supposed to, the protesters demanded the opportunity to make an example of a well-respected, hard-working and nationally-recognized leader. Being the hand-selected appointee of the President’s right-hand man wasn’t even enough to save Superintendent McCarthy.

If this is the new standard, I’m not sure how we will find good men and women willing to serve at the top of America’s largest agencies. Every self-reflective person in our profession can recognize that police officers make mistakes. Some of those mistakes may even prove fatal. Once in a great while, one of those fatal mistakes may rise to the level of criminal charges. However, the vast majority of those mistakes are honest, human mistakes which occur for reasons not very different from those made by doctors and hospitals every year. Well, there is one big difference of course. Doctor and hospital errors are responsible for an estimated 100,000+ deaths per year, at least 100 times the number of deaths attributed to police officers – the overwhelming majority of which everyone agrees are justifiable and legal. We recognize as a society, however, that making an occupational mistake that results in death and being criminally culpable are very different things. If we criminally charged doctors for mistakes that resulted in death, would anyone become a doctor? If we fired the CEOs of hospitals in which a single doctor egregiously erred, would anyone be willing to run a hospital? The national dialogue regarding police force is one that I find useful and valid. However, when it results in knee-jerk reactions and destroys the freedom or careers of men and women as the result of human errors made under high stress, it becomes terribly unproductive.

We had just barely digested what transpired in Chicago before the pendulum quickly returned to the pro-police sentiment which had become so quiet in recent months. The horrific attacks in San Bernardino reminded America of the resilience and commitment of the men and women in law enforcement. The very same tactical gear, weapons and vehicles recently demonized as being overkill suddenly looked sensible and rational. The bravery and persistence of those who located, pursued and then violently confronted the evil doers cannot be overstated. Faced with substantial gunfire and the possibility of suspects protected by explosives, the officers did not waver and did not rest until residents were again safe. Before and after the final shootout, officers brought comfort and a sense of safety to those who had been traumatized and victimized at the scene of the initial attack.

Perhaps you’ve heard the story of 24 year-old Kevin Ortiz who was shot multiple times by the attackers but survived. Knowing his family would be concerned, he called his father to assure him that we would be okay. His father reports that Kevin told him, “I’ve been shot three times, Dad. I’m in pain. Don’t worry. There’s a policeman with me.” Faced with the most terrifying moment of his life, he recognized that a policeman’s presence meant he could stop worrying. Calm was returning and help had arrived. This is the essence of our calling, and it is what dignifies and validates what we do. I’m proud to part of a profession which rises to this calling. I’m proud to work with so many talented, brave, compassionate, caring and yes, sometimes very violent men and women. The whole incident reminded me of two seemingly contradictory truths. Violence done on the behalf of the innocent is no vice. Comfort and compassion shown to the innocent is the ultimate virtue.

Let us hope and work to ensure that the pendulum of support for the men and women of law enforcement doesn’t quickly swing back.

Article Written by Kenneth Kuebler

Originally posted on Dec 4, 2015

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