A Seattle police officer punched a woman in the face during a jaywalking stop.
The officer tried to detain the jaywalker, but she pulled away and started yelling, which agitated the hostile crowd that began to circle the officer.
A second woman entered the scene. She pushed the officer to help her resisting friend escape.
The officer immediately punched the second woman in the face, removing her from the picture as he continued struggling with the first woman.
The crowd got angry and so did Bill O’Reilly who is often pro police.
These incidents often provoke more complaints then do more serious incidents like police shootings.
There are rare officers who abuse their power, but there are also those who have made good decisions, but have been persecuted only because of pressure from an informed, but emotional public.
I’ve been a police use of force trainer for over a decade. I’ve reviewed a lot of the controversial cases.
More often than not, the controversy is caused by the public not understanding police procedure and/or insufficient police training.
Rarely is the cause racism or bad officer intentions as the media portrays.
Part of growing is learning to step back from our narrow point of view and looking at things from a much bigger perspective.
It’s often easy to forget the bigger picture of what police officer’s role is within the community.
A Different perspective
When the Founding Fathers created our government, they tried to balance the inherent compromise between tyranny and anarchy.
Any government with too much power will drift toward tyranny, while too little government control may lead to anarchy.
The U.S. constitution empowers the government with as little power possible to prevent anarchy, while leaving the people with the freedom we Americans are so proud of.
Freedom is the one thing American’s value more than life itself.
Look at our history and what American’s have sacrificed for freedom. Consider the wars we’ve fought and even the events within our own borders like the civil rights movement.
There is no denying it, Americans value our freedom.
Now consider the role of law enforcement. Today’s police officers have evolved into so many roles that it’s hard to keep track what their job really is.
They are traffic enforcement, social workers, marriage counselors, and surrogate parents, just to name a few, but what is their real purpose?
Their primary role of the cop is to protect your freedoms from people within our borders who may want to take them away.
Taking your freedom
Police officers protect your physical safety and also your personal property.
In order to do that, police officers are empowered to take away some of your constitutionally guaranteed liberties.
You are free to walk or drive as you desire throughout the U.S., and no one can stop you except a police officer in the form of a detention.
A legal detention by a police officer momentarily waives some of your constitutional rights.
When you are stopped for running a red light, the police officer has temporally overridden your constitutional rights. This is serious stuff.
When an officer escalates that detention to an arrest, now he is empowered to not only make you stay put, but to take you away; a legal kidnapping.
Finally, if you resist the arrest, he may use violence to force you to comply.
That violence may include punching you in the face killing you depending on the severity of the situation.
No one else in the United States has such power to immediately bypass some of your constitutionally guaranteed rights.
With so much power, it is obvious why law enforcement gets so much scrutiny. Law enforcement walks a fine line between preserving freedom and taking it away.
Checks and balances
How is all of this power kept in check to prevent police officers from running a muck and creating tyranny?
Within our country there are some obvious lines that everyone agrees. Very few people would contest a police officer who shoots and kills a mad man on a shooting rampage at an elementary school.
But if that same officer shoots a teenager in the back for stealing bubble gum our society would not approve.
What if an elderly, minority woman with a mental handicap runs away from the police with a gun in her hand?
What if the officer shoots her in the back?
That’s a bit more difficult to assess.
Some would say shooting her in the back is excessive, others would say she is a risk because she has the gun.
What if that same woman was running toward a school playground full of children?
Perhaps the new information change your mind.
I am not proposing right or wrong answers, just complicated decisions cops must make in seconds every day.
There are always extremes on each end of the spectrum. It is the gray middle ground that makes life difficult, interesting, and the topic of this article.
As cops serve their community, at times they have to use force.
They often walk a fine line, but it’s not a straight line.
They straddle the weaving line of what is legal and acceptable to our society.
Rarely do cops intentionally cross the line with excessive force. Most cops have good intentions and do their best to work within the law in the split seconds they have to make decisions.
The controversy is that the line between acceptable and unacceptable is fuzzy and unclear.
Rarely do judges, juries, the media or the public agree.
This lack of consensus is what makes these decisions so difficult for officers to make in split seconds.
Cops have to rapidly decide what is reasonable under the pressure of going to prison or being killed.
This conflict is what creates stress and frustration for the officers.
The media and public do not understand it from their perspective.
On the flip side, cops often lose sight of the fact that they are the “Government” that the constitution was created to protect the people from.
The message of this article is twofold.
To the Public
The majority of cops are honest, law abiding people just like you.
They have a very tough job.
They have to make impossible decisions in record setting time. Then have to perform as Olympians within unclear and always changing rules.
To the Cops
There are casualties in this business by way of good cops being disciplined, fired, or criminally prosecuted for perhaps unjust political or poor judicial decisions.
I wish this weren’t true, but it is.
If you enter the business of law enforcement, you cannot that you are the government and the Constitution was created to protect the people from you.
You will remain under intense and sometimes unjust scrutiny as long as you are a cop.
The rules are always changing.
The wandering line between right and wrong, and the intense public criticism is part of the necessary checks and balances our founding fathers created to maintain the balance between tyranny and anarchy.