This month has been a bad one for law enforcement. The Derek Chauvin murder trial is live streamed for the world to watch. Then there was the incident where the police in Windsor, Virginia pepper sprayed a black and Latino U.S. Army Lieutenant, in uniform, and clearly were out of line with the stop and treatment of the Lieutenant. In addition, there is the shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota by officer Kim Potter. She had been on the force 26 years. This shooting, a mix up between her grabbing her taser and her firearm resulted in the victim’s death.
The city of Brooklyn Center has fired the city manager and replaced the Chief of Police in an attempt to appease the public. Sacrificial lambs to the slaughter who had nothing to do with the shooting of Mr. Wright.
In the first instance, Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder. The officer involved in the Windsor, Virginia incident has been fired and is under investigation by the state, and Kim Potter has resigned and has been charged with 2nd degree manslaughter.
In all three cases, the public resorted to riots, demonstrations, and looting to show their outrage. For some, it is a time to take advantage of a bad situation to commit crime and protest for their own reasons that have little to do with the incidents at hand.
In addition, in all these incidents, the criminal justice system worked and is working. The protestors scream for justice, but the justice system IS working. They just have to wait for it to run its course, the same as it would if they were the defendant.
So, the media is running these bad police stories all the time, twenty-four hours a day and it appears that the police are just out on the street waiting for someone, mainly a black someone, to murder. That is the narrative, but it is far from the truth.
The news media constantly pushes these reports in the most sensational way possible but what you never hear of are the police encounters that did not go the way of the news reports.
What you do not see are the routine day-to-day police actions and encounters that do not end up on the 10 o’clock news.
So, what are the numbers? According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, the U.S. Department of Justice Report from 2018 numbers are as follows:
Of the 223.3 million U.S. drivers, 8.6% experienced a stop as the driver of a motor vehicle. A greater percentage of stopped drivers were male (10.2%) than female (7.0%). Blacks (9.8%) were more likely than Whites (8.6%) and Hispanics (7.6%) to be the driver in a traffic stop. Overall, 1.0% of persons experienced one or more street stops while in a public place or parked vehicle. A higher percentage of Blacks (1.5%) experienced street stops than Whites (0.9%) and Hispanics (0.9%).
Non-fatal threat or use of force by police – 2% of U.S. residents who had contact with police experienced threats or use of force. Among those whose most recent contact was police-initiated, Blacks (5.2%) and Hispanics (5.1%) were more likely than Whites (2.4%), and males (4.4%) were more likely than females (1.8%), to experience the threat or use of physical force by police.
That is 223 million traffic stops a year. Break that down against how many that go the way of the three mentioned at the top of this article, and it is a minuscule number by comparison of the amount of police encounters each year.
My own background gives me, what I think, is a special perspective on the situation of police violence and the reaction the public is having to it.
I served as a law enforcement officer for close to three decades. This would lead some to think my views would be strictly behind the police, and they are for the most part. I strongly support those officers that go out every day and do the job right. Those officers that use common sense and proper discretion. I do not support the bullies, and there are some. I do not support the officers the treat people poorly, that lie, or make up facts. I have known a few and ironically, I have arrested a few and worked those cases all the way to conviction – of the officer, that is.
On the other side, in my new profession, I study and apply the law. I defend those that have been exposed to the police and had encounters that resulted in them being charged with a crime. In those, as in all cases, even those including where the police officer is the one charged, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
That is something that is hard for many to understand. How can a former cop now be a defense attorney, and not just any defense attorney, I am a public defender. I am never going to get rich, drive a luxury car, fly in private jets or anything else like that. I work to make sure everyone has a fair shot in the justice system.
So, when I hear so many calling for the heads of the police, their supervisors, the city managers, and more, all before the investigation has even begun, I just shake my head and wonder. What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if you were charged with a crime, right or wrong, and the whole public was threatening to burn down the city if you were not found guilty? And all of this, this lack of due process, something that is guaranteed by the Constitution, was disregarded. The mob demanded a guilty verdict even before you have had a trial.
That is the state that we are in now in America. Innocent before proven guilty seems not to matter anymore. The fairness of our system, a system that is the envy of the world, has been thrown out the window and the mobs, the uninformed public, those with an agenda of their own, are at the gates with torches and pitchforks.
It really hurts me to see what has happened to our country. We have lost so much.
I have a signature at the bottom of my official email. It says exactly how I feel and what I believe.
It goes like this:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31: 8-9
Defending those rights not only goes for you and for me, but for the police as well.