Ever since Memorial Day 2020, law enforcement officers have been publicly castigated and vilified more than any time in recent history. In response to this criticism, many law enforcement leaders have been noticeably contrite and at times sheepish as the politicians, zealots and the media pummeled the profession with allegations of impropriety and bigotry. In some instances, certain police leaders actually got on their knees and begged for forgiveness. This was seen as a tacit admission of wrongdoing with a conciliatory tone. The police critics were thrilled with this submissiveness, yet many others cringed and remained silent for fear of rebuke. Millions have watched as protestors taunted officers and tried to goad them into physical confrontations. Officers were expected to take the abuse and leaders were silent. In the past few months however, there appears to be an emerging trend of vocal support and defense for law enforcement. The articles referenced herein are reflective of this changing landscape.
In the infamous 1976 movie Network, a frustrated TV news anchor named Howard Beale explodes with an on-air rant against broadcast journalism and the state of affairs. The crescendo of the movie has the emotional Beale telling his viewers to run to their windows and proclaim: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” In response to Beale, people are shown opening their windows and repeating Beale’s condemnation. Viewers also take to the streets to show their frustration echoing Beale’s position. Recent accounts from across the country suggest that the law enforcement profession, and some elected officials, appear to be mimicking the Howard Beale moment. In short: life is imitating art and the tide appears to be turning.
In my opinion, there appears to be the “Beale Effect” (not a bona fide theory; I just invented it) taking place in real time. Politicians, law enforcement leaders, families of cops and others are stepping out from behind the curtain to voice opposition and support. Candidly speaking, it’s refreshing to see actual dissenting voices rather than the muffled “head in the sand” lack of response.
It remains to be seen whether individuals and groups will continue to speak out moving forward. There have been a few law enforcement advocacy groups who have been on the forefront of defending the profession against criticism and defamation since the onset. The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Police Association and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) have been diligent in providing balance and truthful context to lopsided stories about police overreach and abuse of power. There are also others across the nation who are not hesitant to step out front and provide solid leadership in the face of criticism. As a person who has invested a lifetime in upholding the ethics of policing, I am always critical of wrongdoing yet supportive of those who are falsely accused without due process. As I have opined previously, the rule of law must be applied equally which includes ensuring that the rights of police officers are upheld with equal fervor as the public at large. I hope this vociferous trend continues so that ALL voices can be heard. Many have worked long and hard to uphold the ethical tenets of the profession, and these efforts must not be undone for the sake of political expediency and virtue signaling. Hopefully more people will now be inspired to run to the window and be heard!
As always, be well and be safe!