As the dust settles in Ferguson, there is no doubt that politicians and lawyers are scrambling to prevent any dust from being kicked up again. And who better to rely on than brave politicians and virtuous lawyers to do the right thing? Am I right?
Yeah, I'm being sarcastic.
Police officers across America have their ears to the ground right now, listening to hear if a train is going to come their way. I think there is no doubt that after years of obsessive, undefended scrutiny of the police, change is on the horizon.
It is my belief that the direction we ultimately take will not be determined by the media, politicians, courts, police administrators, or even by police officers themselves. Our course will ultimately be guided by the victors of the battle in the court of public opinion between the citizens that support law enforcement and the citizens that condemn law enforcement.
Right now, politicians and lawyers are not scrambling for a solution to the problems in Ferguson on the premise of truth or justice. They are scrambling out of fear—fear of the citizens that are making the most noise. The days of strong, virtuous leadership in public office that could stand up to some heat are gone and the same goes for many police administrators as well. A lack of true leadership and conviction has abandoned law enforcement to the whim of public opinion and left us subject to whomever can put the most pressure on our leaders who are completely addicted to comfort.
Examine your police administrators for example. Are they cops who sought promotion to lead you into battle when that train comes? Or are they just risk management in a uniform? Will they defend the integrity of the current generation of policing before they retire, or will they sacrifice it to maintain smooth sailing toward their pensions amid a gentle sea, tranquilized by concessions and de-policing? Will they then reflect back on the good old days that they let slip away, pretending not to know what happened?
Do your city leaders value the law and order you keep? Do they assume that your sacrifice and dedication is immune to their cold shoulder whenever it shall turn?
I think we are seeing the answers to these questions play out more and more every year. So we have to ask ourselves: Who has the power to influence our leaders? And the answer is: the citizens.
Citizens determine how hot the kitchen gets, and if we can’t expect leaders to stand up to the heat, then our citizen supporters need to cool down the temperature—or heat up a different kitchen. Our leaders either need to feel more comfortable supporting law enforcement or more risk in condemning it, and only the citizens can help achieve this.
In a matter of days after the shooting of Michael Brown, protestors in Ferguson had a police captain apologize for wearing his uniform and a governor calling for the swift prosecution of a police officer without providing any evidence that he acted unlawfully. Today, in these days of soft leadership, the noise that citizens make is directly related to the decisions that our public leaders make.
Critics of law enforcement are very loud and can be violent, but our supporters still outnumber our critics. Not only that, the civic influence of our supporters greatly outweighs the anger and violence of our critics. Our supporters are law-abiding taxpayers and business owners, and our active critics are not for the most part.
Our supporters need to know that we are not afraid of the violence or the lies of our critics, but we are afraid of going to prison for doing our jobs. If Officer Darren Wilson is indicted for shooting Mike Brown without any facts that would prove his actions were not in accordance with the law or with his training, there is going to be a big shake up in American law enforcement. The public can expect to see the beginning of a sincere exodus of good cops from policing. The risk of injury or death to a police officer comes from defined, identified sources: the solid mass of a powerful fist, the velocity of a bullet, the metal edge of a blade, the speed of a car, etc. But the risk of arrest and imprisonment is becoming less defined, almost abstract and apparently subject to the whim of pressure from special interest groups. This makes the job unacceptable, and it is why cops have a close eye on Ferguson.
We need our supporters to balance the scale of public pressure by making their own noise. We need unapologetic police leaders and politicians that won't cower to violence. But since we can’t rely on their courage, we must have supporters that will help control the climate to accommodate such sensitive leadership.
We must also be careful not to estrange our supporters. Law enforcement is like an immune system tasked with fighting disease in the body of society like the white blood cells in the human body. However, our police white blood cells are sometimes attacking healthy cells, making enemies and weakening the system. We need to be fair and impartial, of course. But as cops we must also recognize who our citizen partners are when maintaining the way of life we enjoy while off duty and use discretion so as not to be an autoimmune disease with a badge.
Today, for the most part, the best and the brightest in law enforcement still run directly toward the violence and the trouble when it erupts. But if special interest groups continue to go unchallenged in setting the rules for how we work and how we defend ourselves, society will be left with mediocre and desperate officers shuffling toward the trouble and perhaps even running away. The best and the brightest will have moved on, shrugging off the weight of the world that they were not permitted to hold up with two hands.
Share this message with your families and friends. Let them know that supporting the police supports their way of life, and that they may have a duty to help control the climate in a nation of flammable leadership.
Anonymous Cop is a veteran police officer in a big city police department within America's Midwest.