There is a plague in the land that is terminating police careers in a heartbeat, a phenomenon we have talked about, worried about, and tried to get everyone to understand, all to no avail. Given the continuing rise of social justice warriors and their political, media, and law enforcement sycophants, a simple Facebook post, a funny Instagram meme, or an innocuous Tweet can be the newest form of "You Bet Your Badge!"
You Bet Your Badge is an unfunny game where the crime fighter takes a certain unnecessary risk and then holds his or her breath to see where the wheel stops spinning. You do it when you drive outside of policy, make a snarky comment to a violator and then head back to your vehicle saying, "What the heck was I thinking?" or generally do something that seems right at the time but then turns sour in retrospect. Today's Social Justice Chief and Mayor have made playing this game even scarier than it was in the past, and the rise of cameras, cameras everywhere is making every stop, every call, every contact a new opportunity to play another terrifying round of YBYB.
To make matters worse, you can now play this dangerous game from the comfort of your own recliner. Just go to your favorite pro-police forum and post something about terrorists, gang bangers, a specific dirtbag, or something political. Whatever you post becomes your entry into the world of "getta badge!" There is now a series of groups whose sole function seems to be to prove how racist, sexist, homophobic, and brutal American law enforcement is. Common terms and actions are now redefined according to some academic left-wing dictionary, and expressions that may once have been patriotic, pro-police, masculine, or benignly political in nature cause readers and researchers to run to the public forum to condemn the offending crime fighter.
Pittsburgh, Phoenix, St. Louis, and wherever is next have all felt the wrath of hypersensitive moral gatekeepers perusing law enforcement officers' posts on Facebook, Instagram, and who knows where else to try to find "offensive" content. Once identified, the offense is an unforgiveable sin, the destruction of the sinner must be absolute, and the idea that "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is replaced by the notion that the First Amendment is an aberration; words must be properly monitored and ideas crushed. George Orwell would be stunned at the degree of his own prescience.
While we all know that part of coping with the stress of crime fighting is exercising our cynical humor, dark jokes, and over-the-top comments, the public sits in judgment as framed by humorless, "smartest person in the room" types who sit in mom's basement reading the various social media sites looking for offenses or things that, taken out of context, could be offensive, and then ramp it up.
To further aggravate this situation, the media and politicians have found that their constant agitation of communities against the police produces a power accentuating effect that benefits them, regardless of how devastating it is for the unity of the public in a free society. Trust holds our nation together, and the demagogues of today who are undermining this trust are playing with fire. Plato described how democracies descend into tyrannies as demagogues—literally "mob speakers"—use their skills to sway the masses. The masses then surrender their freedom to the demagogues, who eventually become despots. Our Founding Fathers were careful to establish a government that avoids such an outcome, but today's social justice warriors and their enabling cadre seem to be heading in this direction.
All of this gives me apocalyptic nightmares about where we are headed and, until we regain our social stability, I have the following advice for you crime fighters out there:
1) Monitor your social media more than ever before. 2) Double-check your agency's policies for posting on social media. 3) Make sure your friends and loved ones are careful about their own posts if you are "tagged" in any of them. 4) Do not like, retweet, or share anything that allows anyone to use it as ammunition against you. Finally, 5) "When in doubt, leave it out." If you have any inkling that your post or meme may place your badge in the mouth of the monster, don't do it!
Just a few short years ago we were able to keep our work life and our personal, social media life separate; but I'm afraid those days are gone. Because what is considered "offensive" seems to change on a daily basis, try to limit your social media posts to family photos, fun vacations, and, yes, pro-police memes; and look forward to the day you retire when you can post anything you damn well please.
Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.