Back the Blue
Following the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the nation’s mood has turned ugly, and I believe much of the ire has been directed at members of law enforcement. Floyd’s death became a rallying cry and ignited the passions of a wide coalition of groups who I believe welcomed the incident as a reason to resist and disrupt.
There’s no question the video of Floyd’s apprehension and subsequent death is hard to watch. America witnessed what appears to be blatant abuse, as a white police officer held a black man down in the street, pressing his knee on the suspect’s neck for more than eight minutes. While bystanders filmed the incident, Floyd, who autopsy results showed had a pre-existing heart condition and was under the influence of fentanyl and methamphetamine at the time, suffered cardiac arrest and died. The nation has not been the same since.
The incident in Minneapolis was universally condemned, even by those in law enforcement. The Missouri Police Chiefs Association issued a statement contrasting the everyday professionalism of its members with the behavior captured on video: “The oath of every sworn police officer, across this nation, centers upon protection of the people within their communities, including their physical safety, freedoms, liberties and constitutional rights,” the statement read. “Good and ethical law enforcement officers, who compose the vast majority of individuals within our profession, are dedicated to this commitment and willing to give their lives to defend it. It disappoints and saddens us to see some within our ranks who tarnish this, after so many of us have died trying to preserve its integrity. Our profession does not and will not tolerate this degradation of what we stand for.”
In issuing this statement, the chief’s association – which is aptly led by Rolla’s own chief of police – reflected the firm resolve of police officers everywhere. What we saw on that videotape did not reflect the way law enforcement officers conduct themselves on a daily basis. Good, honest cops don’t act that way, and should not be held accountable for the actions of a few rogue officers.
My sense is this and other statements defending professional law enforcement largely fell on deaf ears. Around the country, calls came forth to “defund the police.” National news pundits gleefully imagined a world without cops, and a few progressive city councils seriously debated disbanding police departments. Meanwhile, crowds gathered to demonstrate against perceived police abuses. I was disappointed to see these marchers, who purportedly rallied to oppose prejudice and discrimination, painting all cops with the same broad brush of racism and police brutality.
In city after city, well-organized protesters filled the streets. The demonstrations that ensued included overturned vehicles, smashed storefronts, arson, looting and violent clashes. Protesters destroyed police cars, torched a Minneapolis police station and hurled rocks and bottles at police attempting to keep order. In Seattle, a group of protesters seized another precinct house and established a six-block “autonomous zone.” During one particularly harrowing night of protests in St. Louis, four police officers were shot.
It’s been an unusually dangerous year for police nationwide. The FBI reports 28 felonious law enforcement deaths during the first six months of 2020, a 16.7 percent increase over the same period last year. Five of the officers killed were victims of premeditated ambushes. Another died after an unprovoked attack. Last week, two Kansas City area police officers were shot in separate incidents on the same day.
In my opinion, any assault on a police officer is an attack on society itself. Our law enforcement officers truly are the “thin blue line” that separates civil society from lawlessness. Somehow, we have reached a point where ever-eroding respect for authority has diminished to become total disregard for the rule of law in certain circles. This has got to stop.
Police officers have a tough, thankless job. They encounter danger every day. They see members of their communities at their worst, and in their greatest hours of need. They are witnesses to society’s cruelest acts and most heart-warming kindnesses alike. They provide a soft shoulder to cry on and a firm hand when that’s required. “Protect and serve” is not just a slogan on the side of police cars. I believe it is the overriding mission of every good cop.
Is every cop perfect? Do they always do the right thing at every moment? No, they are human beings doing a very difficult job. They are required to step forward when most of us would flee. After all, who do we call when things go badly? The police, of course. How many of us would want to trade places with the cop on the beat or the deputy on the road? Not many of us, I suspect.
Police are under a microscope right now. I believe many in our country are watching the police with the intent of finding fault in their actions. Well, I’m not buying it. I stand with the brave men and women of law enforcement. I proudly “back the blue.”
It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.