I’ve Got Your Back: Officers Need To Have Elected Officials In Their Corner
At the recent funerals for two New York City police officers tragically ambushed and killed by a protester of two civilian tragic deaths in separate altercations with police officers, a number of officers silently turned their backs on New York City Mayor, Mr. Bill de Blasio, during his remarks at the services. Mr. de Blasio took offense at that silent protest, saying that the gesture was hurtful to the families of the fallen officers and was an offense to the city at large.
Ironic that these officers, along with their slain brothers, have probably been on duty when there have been silent and violent protests and have had to attempt to keep order in those situations. In the case of peaceful protests, police officers must respect and preserve the right of the protesters to assemble and speak their peace regarding whatever issue with which they happened to have a problem. They, by their oath to serve and protect, stand at post, often times with shield in front, being in harm’s way, protecting the rights of people to protest peacefully, or to protect people and community if that protest becomes violent, yet they are criticized for exercising their same right to peacefully stand behind their First Amendment right to silently speak their mind on an issue in which they strongly believe.
The issue seems to have stemmed partly (there were other aspects too) from comments and actions made by Mr. de Blasio which may have appeared to question the performance, or possibly undermine the performance, and importance, of the police departments, even after an investigation of circumstances surrounding the deaths of both civilians (which the cop killer appeared to be avenging, one in New York City, and one in Ferguson, Missouri) whereby grand juries found no evidence that warranted the officers involved to be charged with excessive force. It appeared though, that the mayor, with his words and actions turned his back on those who’ve sworn to serve and protect and uphold the rights of those who exercise their rights. Those officers who turned around at the words of the mayor on those two occasions may just have been symbolically turning their backs on the comments of Mr. de Blasio.
In the ranks of being a law enforcement officer, every man and woman who serves must have the confidence in their fellow officers to “have their backs” in every situation where they execute their duties as a police officer. They, in turn, also must let their fellow officers know that they too, “have their backs” if they encounter a situation which needs their attention. That is part of the brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement, but if the elected officials fail to support the decisions of the court system, and act in manners which publicly give the appearance of undermining the departments which they rely on to keep peace and order in a community, who have to be specially equipped to do so, and have to put themselves in harm’s way to do it, then the job of the law enforcement person becomes that much more difficult, and the possible danger to those enforcers increases greatly.
The officers who turned their backs on the mayor’s words those days, were not (my opinion) turning their backs on their commitment to excellence, nor the people (all of them) whom they serve, but to the appearance of non-support the mayor may have been conveying to the New York City police force, and the people of New York, something that can only act as a deterrent to those officers trying to do their jobs effectively.
The families of those ambushed officers know what is the code of the department in which their loved one served, and they know the commitment each of those officers have to each other, including their loved ones tragically killed. They know that a little bit of each of those standing officers died with their deceased brothers that day, and that their action was in no way, shape or form a slap in the face to the families of the fallen.
It is said that “actions speak louder than words,” and it appeared Mayor de Blasio’s words and actions spoke far more volumes than the actions of the officers attending the funerals of their comrades in ranks.
We have a procedure in place which has been a part of justice systems for over 800 years. In our country, this procedure has been in place since the writing of the Constitution of these United States. That procedure is that of the grand jury.
Under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.” Both of the situations with which the man who killed these police officers was angry were brought before grand juries. In both cases, each grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to charge the police officers involved with any wrong doing. The courts rendered decisions, ones elected officials (elected to office by rules which were created and written in that same Constitution of the United States) should have accepted, and not made comments which may have appeared to be questioning the performance of law enforcers. If he disagreed with the decision of the grand jury, it’s still his responsibility to accept it and not incite any further protest by protesting himself. Is the justice system 100 percent foolproof? Maybe not, but the decision of the court stands. There are many who witnessed the O.J. Simpson trial and had trouble agreeing with the decision of the petit jury which rendered the decision they did, but after that trial, Mr. Simpson walked out of that courtroom a free man, until such time when he was accused of a different crime for which he was tried, found guilty, convicted and sentenced to jail time. This is an aspect that is a huge arm of the court system within the Judicial Branch of our government, and those sitting in elected offices need to support it, not question it, nor alienate those who are charged with keeping the peace and protecting others and themselves as well, if they do not agree with it.
Another point in the aftermath of the situation in New York appears to be accusations that police are now looking the other way resulting in the numbers of crimes diminishing in New York, causing the elected leaders to question the dedication of law enforcers. In some ways it might be believed the elected officials are putting their officers in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. The scary flip side of that for those officers, though, might result in “damned if you do, dead if you don’t.”
The law enforcers of this country do not only need to know that their fellow officers “have their backs,” they need to know that if they do their jobs diligently and dedicatedly (which I believe is the case in a percentage high in the 90s) that the elected officials will support them to the highest hilt, and “have their backs” as well.