Ed. Note: In keeping with our tradition of being a forum for members of the law enforcement community to share their views on the topics of the day, we present this op-ed piece written by Tim Cook, Undersheriff, Cheboygan County, Michigan Sheriffs Department.
I am not buying the rhetoric we’ve been hearing lately about law enforcement. On one hand, you have administrators in law enforcement and others who believe the answer is officers should have more training and back away if the situation gets hostile. These are simple solutions that don’t solve the problems and they weaken our duty to serve and protect.
We also hear people, including some of our own leaders, accusing officers who use deadly force as racists way before the evidence is available and we have a true understanding of the situation. Instead of finding common ground this just adds fuel to the fire. These days the blame is too often blamed on the officer, which is wrong.
Of course, law enforcement has serious issues, as does every facet of life and profession. There is good and bad in this world, but too many are rushing to judgment about the actions of law enforcement before they know the facts or have been able to view the evidence.
It sickens me to know that we have young black men killing themselves at a rate higher than those who are killed in the military fighting in a war. It sickens me that we have Al Sharptons out there who cause strife and racial tension with the sole purpose of getting on television and making money.
And what about media coverage in the black communities? Why do the reporters blame society and the police for all the problems? Why doesn’t the media focus on trying to come up with solutions rather than blaming us?
We will be researching body cameras for our department, but I will tell you this: I will not question my officers’ integrity, and I will not spy on my officers. Somehow, we have become an “entitlement society,” where people feel free to file lawsuits, blame the other guy, and not take responsibility for their own actions. This behavior has been encouraged by too many of our politicians who are looking for an easy way to ease tensions. The result? Our officers are being put through the ringer. We encourage unjust lawsuits that we settle because it costs too much to fight them, and we have way too many of our officers getting indicted for just doing their job.
The bottom line is, yes, police officers should constantly train and always strive to do our jobs with pride and professionalism. We should communicate and work together, not only with community leaders but also leaders in the neighborhoods we protect so together we can fight evil, reduce crime, and make sure everyone is safe and secure.
Instead of condemning our police forces, we need to stand behind them. We have to realize that when anyone is approached by a law enforcement officer they need to do what is asked of them. During the events of the past year, not once did I hear any reporter raise this point.
I tell all my officers they need to go home after their shift alive, not in a box, and they should not have to worry about getting indicted for doing their jobs.