Forrest Gump’s notable words are “stupid is as stupid does.”

Gump hit the nail on the head, because a lot of people, especially some police officers, are doing a whole lot of stupid right now. 

Notable are the rioters and looters, who destroy what some small business owners spent a lifetime building. And bully police officers who can’t keep their guns holstered, even when it seems there is no actual threat of imminent danger.

At the top of the “dumb and dumber” list, it seems, are many public officials who we depend on to maintain law and order. To them, law and order is viewed as “my law and my order.” They mistakenly think they control the law or are above the law.

Hopefully, the latest public protests of another killing, this time in nearby Atlanta, by a police officer will slow down, or halt, the shootings for a while.  

The motto of the police is “to serve and protect.” But it seems another motto may have taken its place lately: “to attack and injure.” Don’t get me wrong. I am speaking only of the worst-case offenders, who think the law is to be ignored at their discretion. 

They portend to follow the law but make vigilante justice their actual law. Let us remember, though, that for every bad cop there are 10,000 good cops. The rogues, those who see themselves as the almighty, are fewer in number but enough to make the headlines that sway public opinion.

The stated purpose of our municipal police is to protect people and to maintain civil order, not civil disorder. Their job is to control disruption when it threatens the rights of law-abiding citizens. 

Yet, the streets of many U.S. towns have gone from peaceful calm to violent rage in the past couple of months, following the disheartening death of several black men. It’s like the Wild West has come to Main Street America.

Let’s remember, though, that the overwhelming majority of police officers in the U.S. are respectful of the people they serve. They are good officers who strive each day to do their best.

The officers who show no respect, who step outside the law, who attack, assault and who shoot, need to go. Right this minute. All of us who wish for a civil society want the bad cops out. Let them find other professions, like maybe night-club bouncers, bodyguards or mercenaries — jobs that allow violence.

Sometimes in the confusion of civil disobedience things go awry. We know this. But our police officers are the very people we turn to, to restore civil obedience when it goes out of bounds.

If police departments cannot clean out their precinct stations, perhaps we can help by taking away the money that pays for their guns and assault weapons. Some officers would not want to be out on the streets at night without their guns, so they would have a reason to shape up or to seek other lines of employment.

For those officers who stay, we can issue them strong, solid night sticks, which can be just as effective as bullets in controlling rebellious crowds. The British constables are a good example of this. 

We know one thing for certain. Sensitivity training and counseling doesn’t appear to work for police officers. In fact, such training may be counter-productive and contribute to this increase in violence.

The vast majority of officers are not racists. While the recent deaths involve black men and white officers, I don’t think it’s about racial targeting or revenge. It involves officers who cannot control their fears, tempers or emotions. This is where more training is absolutely necessary.

When officers try to reason with some individuals, then attempt to put them in handcuffs, those situations appear to spin quickly out of control. That’s what happened in Atlanta. That’s what led to the officer pulling his weapon and killing a very frightened man.

Police officers are the people’s representatives to maintain this social order. They somehow must understand they, too, can end up in jail if they step outside the law they are sworn to enforce. 

They seem to need special training in how to control their own tempers and emotions. Arresting someone for a non-violent offense should never escalate into a shooting.

Our police officers take a sacred oath. They should repeat that oath before they begin their work shifts each day or night. We know their job is not easy by far. It’s among the toughest positions on earth. But if we cannot trust our police officers, then our system has cracks that can cause it to split apart. 

All of us possess a touch of rebellion. It comes as part of our freewill. Yet, we know that one bad apple can spoil the batch. If we cannot get our police officers to understand this, then we have a house divided, like Lincoln said, that cannot stand.

 

Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email address is r.morris@ctvea.net.

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