Since early August, the United States has seen an increasing amount of aggression towards law enforcement. To name off just a few, we have seen the actions in Ferguson and other parts of Missouri, several attacks on police officers in the state of New York, and attacks on law enforcement in Pennsylvania and California. These examples also do not include the everyday stories we do not hear that come from smaller cities or towns across the country.
While there isn’t one direct link to this rise in violence, there are a few contributing factors. The first we saw in New York City last week when a man attacked four police officers with a hatchet on the streets. We now know that the man was a self-radicalized Islamic extremist who was likely motivated by groups like ISIS who have been calling for “lone wolf” attacks on law enforcement across the country. There were also two attacks in Canada earlier that week that were by radicalized lone wolf Islamic extremists. These attacks were rightfully declared acts of terror. This shows that unfortunately the rhetoric of groups like ISIS really is working to turn extremists against law enforcement and society itself, which should raise a significant amount of concerns.
The other kind is far more difficult to describe. We have seen other random acts of violence against law enforcement across the country in the past few weeks, starting specifically with the attack on state troopers in Pennsylvania, and most recently an attack on sheriff’s deputies in California. At this point, no one understands the motives of the shooters, as is the case in many of these incidents.
Not only have we seen direct violence against law enforcement lately, we have also seen a rising amount of rhetoric against law enforcement. The most obvious example is the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri. Many across the country had Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson convicted in their minds of killing Brown in cold blood before any of the facts in the case came out. At this point we still don’t know many of the facts of the case, and protestors are calling for Officer Wilson to be arrested. Some have even threatened to riot if Wilson is not convicted of murder.
So we have to ask, why are there all of these negative feelings against law enforcement lately? The rise of influence of groups like ISIS explains only a smart part of it, but what explains the rest? I don’t think that there really are one or two good examples. Part of it could be ignorance. There are people in society who are easily convinced one way or another. When someone like Reverend Al Sharpton goes to Ferguson and claims that Officer Wilson wrongly shot and killed Michael Brown, there are many that are going to believe them. Another could be misleading by our leaders. When Attorney General Eric Holder got involved in the Ferguson situation and opened up a civil rights investigation, many believed the federal government thought that Officer Wilson was in the wrong. For some of the random acts of violence, there isn’t a clear answer as to why some in society have seemed to turn on those who are protecting us on a daily basis.
So we have laid out the problem, but how do we solve the problem? Everyday citizens understand that the violence, aggression and negativity have been from a small minority in society. Do a majority of Americans really believe that Officer Darren Wilson intended to kill Michael Brown due to his skin color? Of course not. Many believe Officer Wilson was acting in self-defense, but those voices are not as loud as those attempting to vilify him. The voices who do believe in Officer Wilson’s innocence need to stand up and make their voices heard as well.
On a less specific level, Americans should remember that police officers are still everyday citizens. These same officers that some believe are looking to get someone in trouble will go home that night and have dinner with their family just a few blocks away from where they saw them. These are not politicians who are in it for themselves and just want power. They are not criminals who are attempting to make a living from breaking the law. These are everyday people who are trying to protect and serve the people. Young children in schools often times look up to police officers and hope to be like them, I hope that we can get back to times where many respected law enforcement and the work they do to protect their respective communities. We must also look at the random acts of violence and the acts of those inspired by groups like ISIS and realize these officers are in danger each day, and that they take a chance each day they wear the uniform. We should all thank law enforcement for their hard work and hope that each day they can stay safe and keep their communities safe as well.
This is an issue that has become highly politicized lately, evident in the case in Ferguson. Hopefully soon we can get back to the days where law enforcement was not politicized and was respected by all across the board.
To hear more on issues like this and news and politics, tune into “Your News Perception with Pat OBrien” on WNEK The Voice on Sundays from 4-6 PM!