by U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom
A policeman’s life was never easy – and it’s harder now.
Time magazine described it well recently in an article called “What It’s Like Being a Cop Now.” The article said: “There are some 680,000 sworn police officers in the U.S. And in the past 12 months every one of them has had to answer in one way or another for the actions of colleagues they will never meet except on the screens running the latest viral incident.”
Law enforcement officers don’t have the luxury of being like everybody else.
Nobody pulls out a cell phone and posts a video on the Internet of you and me turning in anything less than perfect performance at our jobs. We aren’t responsible for life and death decisions. We don’t have to respond to every call for help, and nobody holds a news conference to demand we explain why we used the stun gun, the hand cuffs or the service revolver we carry on our belts.
Most of us would quit a job that routinely required us to chase a burglar down a dark alley, stop an angry husband from beating his wife or put up with a stranger’s drunken tirade.
In recent months, we’ve seen a series of tragedies in cities across the country that has turned our attention to the devastating consequences when police are not trusted and respected in the communities they serve. Those of us in law enforcement have a lot of work to do to restore that trust. I hope that is clear to every one of us, from the rookies on the streets to the chiefs behind their desks.
At the same time, I want everyone to remember that there is no question we need the police in our communities. They ensure our safety by patrolling our neighborhoods, defending the rights of victims and deterring crimes. They are our first responders in many emergency situations. They are role models for our young people. The overwhelming majority of women and men who police our streets do their jobs with honor, pride and distinction.
We have every right to hold our law enforcement officers to the highest standards of conduct, of course. At the same time, I hope we remember to give them credit when they are brave, honest and patient while performing a difficult job in even more difficult circumstances.
Barry Grissom is the U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas.