By Jack Mandaville I want to make a few of my...
The Thin Blue Line
By RU Contributor Antonio Aguilar
What is the thin blue line? Until 2009, I had no clue. I had a typical view of law enforcement. Police were a necessary part of society and we needed them, but as a teen I wasn’t such a fan (I still watched Cops though). In my early twenties I saw a magazine for law enforcement gear and the cover had a picture of cops with assault rifles. Why do they need those? They’re just dealing with gang bangers who shoot sideways. Maybe our society is becoming too militaristic… Then, in 2009, I became a cop and had my eyes opened. I was so blind my entire life.
Over the last decade more than one hundred officers have died every year. Working with preliminary statistics for 2012, there have been 1,688 officers killed in the U.S. since 2002, more than two per week. Not all of those are from hostile fire, but a death is still a death. It doesn’t matter if an officer (or deputy) is gunned down by a suspect or hit by a drunk driver, it’s still an officer down.
Now will you hear this story in the media? Unlikely. It might show up as a passing statistic on the evening news but more likely you’ll hear things like the headline that was on Fox News last week, “Texas roadside body cavity search case to go to grand jury”. I like Fox News but sensationalist headlines like that can’t be excused. Every other time you turn on the news there are articles like this, highlighting alleged misconduct by Police. I say alleged because, believe it or not, police officers are still humans and American citizens and are still entitled to the same protection under the law; that they are innocent until proven guilty. I watched the video the same as the rest of the world did and didn’t see a “cavity search”. I saw a female officer check the underclothes of a female suspect. That’s not the same as a body cavity search, yet that was the headline used by the news. The news commentators went on to talk about frisks and searches, and didn’t realize that there is a difference between the two. It was all about pandering to sensationalism, to the point that they were actually lying on TV about already established case law.
A Google search for “brutality against police” turns up results for “police brutality” instead; about 13,300,000 to be exact. There are hundreds of web sites, if not more, dedicated to exposing supposed crooked cops. Apple and Android sell apps to help people record police or avoid police. Many of the cases of alleged brutality presented have turned out to be exaggerations, cases where the police were found to be justified in their actions, yet the media and society both continue to demonize them anyway. In the case mentioned above, if the troopers are found to be justified in their actions, do you think Fox News will run a headline about that and apologize for their sensationalist wording? It’s highly unlikely.
Now don’t get me wrong. Police are humans like everyone else, capable of doing wrong or making honest mistakes both. But, if we can afford other people the benefit of the doubt then why doesn’t the media and the public do the same for police (or soldiers for that matter)? Anyone who carries a gun with any level of governmental authority behind them is a target for some people. Some people, like the sovereign citizen movement, take it to the level of violence. Drug dealing thugs will gun for police without a second thought. Others, like the media, just make money off of sensational headlines: “body cavity search”, “Haditha Massacre”, and such. On a side note, even when searching YouTube for “sovereign citizen shooting”, I got results there for alleged police brutality toward sovereign citizens.
Even our politicians and celebrities get in on the hate. How many hip hop “artists” (a loosely applied term, I think) make a living off of bashing police? The term “fuck the police” comes from a song written by a guy who is now playing a cop on TV. Now if that isn’t irony I don’t know what is. Our president and a certain congressman have both express a dislike of police on the national stage. Indiana passed legislation recently giving people the “right to resist” if they believe they are being arrested unlawfully or searched illegally. The law stated that if the arrest or search was found after the fact to be lawful that there was no protection for the criminal, but how many criminals really believe they deserve to go to jail? Many will fight back no matter what. A better law would be stronger penalties for law enforcement who make unlawful arrests but in the eyes of the Indiana legislature they needed to instead empower criminals and give them some legal grounds to stand on against resisting charges. If they “reasonably” believed they were being arrested or search unlawfully, even if it was indeed lawful, a jury could easily acquit them. In Colorado police have pushed for a “legal limit” with marijuana DWIs but politicians have refused to create one, pandering to the popular sentiment that legalized marijuana in that state while tying the hands of those tasked to keep the roads clear of impaired drivers.
The thin blue line is the idea that police form a thin blue line between social order and chaos. Every time an officer dies that line gets a little thinner. I’ve seen countless incidents of courage by officers, over and over again, risking themselves for others, for people they do not even know. They range from running into a smoke filled house to facing down violent criminals. Not a singe one of these incidents that I have seen has ever made it on TV. The military at least gets a small amount of recognition for their courage. Most people in America now recognize soldiers as heroic figures, though there are some left over hippies and politicians out there still who voice their hate of the military every chance they get. When it comes to police though, our society hasn’t come that far yet. On any given weekend there is an act of extraordinary courage by police in every state, every major city. Even smaller cities and towns have it happen all the time but you will almost never, ever see a story about a hero cop. And yet, in spite of that, police will still get up every day, put on their uniforms, and the vast majority of them will go out there and do their jobs over and over again with honor and courage.
The reason for that dedication is simple; it’s very similar to the same reason that soldiers put on their uniforms and show up to formation to deploy to a nasty part of the world. Most who choose to put on uniforms do so for a higher purpose, for a higher calling. Not all government employees are greedy leaches living off the tax payer dollar. Some do it out of a recognition that there are evil people in the world and that someone has to stand against them. They feel a calling to be that person who stands up, George Orwell’s “rough” man so to speak. They are a deterrent to crime (yes, even when writing tickets in speed zones created out of citizen complaints), they are the ones who hunt the things that go bump in the night, the ones who check your back yard in the dark for that odd sound you heard or the ones who face off with an armed robber as well. They run into bar fights to stop the violence and walk into blood crime scenes with a strong stomach. They face the things that no one else wants to, knowing full well that they will be second guessed nonstop afterward by the media, the politicians, and the public. There is a fine line between order and chaos, and just as the military is that line between peace and America and the violence in the rest of the world, law enforcement is that line between the evil in our own society and the rest of us who want to live peaceful lives in our own country.