Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of columns intended to personalize understanding of the national storyline regarding racial tensions and discontent.
During my 35 years as a journalist, I’ve met and interviewed thousands of people, and not a single one of them ever told me a thing different about hearing sirens:
When it’s you the one they’re coming to help, there is no other sound you’d rather hear.
That includes when the call for help is to police. So why now do so many people want to fire them all?
Jerks are jerks
The answer to that question is simple: Too many bad apples have been caught on video and exposed for the arrogant, patronizing, demeaning, power-wielding and often deadly approach too many officers of the law have used in their unfair treatment of suspects or innocent citizens who become victim to police abuse.
Blacks and other minorities, especially, are too easily stereotyped and given this type of mistreatment, statistics prove, and thus the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and for plenty good reason.
Video evidence has exposed a problem that all of us know runs much deeper than just the incidents caught on camera.
Too many in the police ranks get a taste of authority and then get power drunk on it. When any little thing sets them off in a bad mood, they try to exert the authoritarianism they feel entitled to command.
Or, extreme fear added to poor training combines for a deadly mixture of incompetence and abusive reflexive action that can rob innocent lives.
It’s a problem.
A real problem.
Period; exclamation point.
If you insist it’s not, you choose for yourself ignorance, bigotry or entitlement, and thus realize it or not, you’re part of the problem.
The Black Lives Matter movement is trying to send you a message:
Rid the rot
Grandpa Ted always said, no matter how flat the pancake, it always has two sides.
The call for police reform is a pretty thick pancake, and there is plenty of room for personal touch on both sides.
Talk, for example, of eliminating police departments in most cities is utterly ridiculous.
Reform, on the other hand, is not, and one thing the new protest movement is proving effective so far in creating is discussion of bold new ideas for police departments around America.
Ideas such as redirecting funds and calls from police that should go to social services and agencies more in tune with needs such as mental health or drug-abuse problems; and ideas to ensure more diversity in training, hiring and cultural understanding.
Police reform most certainly must include a review of physical-restraint tactics, such as chokeholds and when to discharge firearms.
And for officers who remain blatantly racist?
Get rid of them.
The thin Blue Line
Now, for a bit more looking at the other side, consider this: The job of being a police officer is one of the most dangerous, underpaid and underappreciated jobs in all the land.
There are police jobs in Alabama, for instance, that start at a mere $28,000 a year. That’s not very much to put your life on the line in service to others.
One of the most common but also most deadly calls an officer can respond to is that of a domestic violence. What might start out as a simple dispute between a man-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, parent-child, too often ends with gunfire and officers down.
And then, there are the bad guys.
The drug addicts crazed and dazed while on a high who can’t be stopped with a stun gun and cannot understand a voice of reason over the voices of demons inside their head.
Violent offenders who represent evil and feel no remorse whatsoever for preying on the rights and lives of the innocent.
Gangsters who cheat and seek Easy Street glory and gain, whether in desperation or for sensation.
Thank a cop
Who has the dangerous job of handling these people when they become a dangerous threat?
Our police, God bless ‘em.
When you see an officer today or tomorrow or this week sometime, how about a random word of kindness; or maybe at the very least, two words:
Next in this series: How do local police react to BLM?
Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He can be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @troyturnernews.