Back in August, when Ferguson was first blowing up, I thought surely that this would be another thing that Americans care passionately about…for about two weeks.
We Americans are a passionate, caring bunch of people. We care enough to change our social media avatars to reflect our cause of the week. We vehemently express our opinions and send text messages to donate a few bucks when a natural disaster strikes part of the country.
But it is clear every now and then that with the steady drip of conversation, the relationship of race and authorities is still in the hearts and minds of America, as it should be. The issue of police brutality recently even found a place in Franklin Graham’s Facebook feed, which as of this writing has been shared over 80,000 times.
I have to call us out however, because most of what we have written and said has fallen into two categories. On the one hand, we have the narrative of police brutalizing minorities. And on the other, we have the argument that “most cops are good and don’t deserve this bad rap!”
It’s that second argument that I am done with.
I can’t stand to read it one more time.
If you post something like that, I just might unfollow you for a while on Facebook.
Not because it’s not true.
But because it is – most cops are probably good.
And if most cops are good, then they should embrace all of the scrutiny, all of protestations, no matter how unfair they are.
Don’t Worry, Big Brother Is Here To Help You
Graham’s Facebook post reflects a great deal of one side of the thinking on race and the state of American police forces today. That is, just obey.
Just do what the cops say, and you won’t get shot.
And I have to say, I agree.
In many cases, if we just did what the cops say, we probably won’t get shot.
The irony of what Graham (and many other Americans) are saying is that the just obey mantra is not only kind of chillingly Orwellian, but it does nothing to defend the rationality of the cop who has to decide whether or not to pull the trigger.
Are we not all a little bit worried that we have to teach our kids (some of us more than others, I admit) that if you just do what a cop says, he might not kill you?
When we say obey the police, we know that’s all we can do to possibly avoid an untimely death. We can’t say anything like if you obey, then the police will be reasonable. Or if you do what they say, the cops are here to help you.
No, we have to tell people just follow directions and they might not shoot you or strangle you.
Oh, and don’t be mentally disabled.
A Cop, a Priest and a Boy Scout Leader Walk Into a Bar
Like an impulsive trigger finger, whenever a new story comes up of a suspect dying in police custody, some people just can’t help but defend the police. The automatic deference to police, like military personnel has reached levels of cultish worship in parts of our culture.
They say, they put their lives on the line for us.
They defend our freedom and safety.
Most cops are good.
And that may all well be true. But let me make a comparison:
The last decade and a half has not been great for the Catholic church, as revelations of widespread sexual abuse came to light.
It was a painful thing to see. I imagine that practically every priest suddenly came under suspicion, or at least had their reputations called into question. What an awful thing to have hanging over your head – the suspicion of your parishioners that you are actually a predator.
And you know what?
Most priests didn’t deserve that. Most priests are not deviants, not predators.
And that’s exactly why most priests should have welcomed the scrutiny. They should have wanted to remove the predators from their ranks. I don’t know how the average Catholic priest responded to all of this, but I imagine that the ones who have truly spent their lives trying to lead others to Jesus were appalled and furious that their profession had been so marked.
But they welcomed every bit of unfair scrutiny and suspicion because it meant removing the predators.
The same is true for any of us who hold a profession that is besmirched by a notorious predator, be we teachers, counselors, Boy Scout leaders or whatever. The vast majority of us who are good actually want the bad guys to get caught.
Good Cops and Bad Cops Don’t Mix
The same should be true of every “good” cop in America.
Every good cop should go to work knowing they are under suspicion. They should go to work knowing that it isn’t fair, that they don’t deserve the bad name they are receiving. They should hold their heads up and serve their communities humbly, wearing the scrutiny as their own badges.
Any cop who is truly “good” doesn’t want murderers in the ranks. He doesn’t want hot heads or itchy trigger fingers. He doesn’t want military washouts who just want to shoot bad guys.
A good cop who is truly at work to defend justice and protect the innocent will welcome every angry protest, no matter how unfair it feels. He will tell people to stop defending him as a “good” cop. He won’t tell people to just “obey” and they might not get shot.
Because a “good” cop can’t stand to work with “bad” cops.