Everyone should know that not all officers at the recent NYPD officer funerals engaged in disrespectful and unprofessional actions while in full uniform and while representing their communities. Everyone should also realize that the act of a madman does not mean that every police officer in America is in danger. I expect that many mourners come from police departments that are highly respected and work in communities where they have strong support and don’t fear going to work.
So what is ‘phony’ indignation? When the police want to seize an opportunity and defiantly band together demanding (rather than earning back) the trust and confidence of their communities, and when they obstruct and oppose necessary changes, then this may be classified as ‘phony’ indignation. Phony indignation is when the police demand
immediate compliance but publicly demonstrate defiance. Phony indignation is pouting and withdrawing from service to the public (de-policing) because you are mad at the politicians or your supervisors. Phony indignation is acting like things are worse than they really are. The public still supports the police but they won’t if the police claim that all protestors or activists are ‘anti-police’ without recognizing that some have legitimate concerns. All protestors are not looters and rioters just like all police officers are not ‘bad apples.’ Since when was it ‘anti-police’ to ask for the police to get better?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used the term phony indignation in a recent Time Magazine column that he authored
He discussed there are times to complain and times “to shut the hell up.” He went on to explain, “The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and
dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.”
He explained, “This phony and logically baffling indignation (in New York) is similar to that expressed by the St. Louis County Police Association when it demanded an apology from the NFL when several Rams players entered the field with their hands held high in the iconic Michael Brown gesture of surrender. Or when LeBron James and W.R. Allen wore his “I Can’t Breathe” shirts echoing Eric Garner’s final plea before dying. Such outrage by police unions and politicians
implies that there is no problem, which is the erroneous perception that the protestors are trying to change.” I personally disagree with Abdul-Jabbar that any ‘gesture of surrender’ was acceptable because the facts show that it simply did not happen. Brown was ‘charging’ at the officer and his buddy is the one who started the lie. Eric Garner was heard saying he could not breathe on the video and nobody seems to be doing a whole lot to help him…but he could have also died if he
had started to run when he saw police in the area or struggled with a competitor (just like the street peddlers do on the Strip in Las Vegas).
Abdul-Jabbar was concerned that the tragic deaths of the two officers were being used as bargaining chips in whatever contract negotiations or political aspirations the ‘actors’ have. He also referred to a Dec. 21, 2014 article about that shooting in the Los Angeles Times. The New York City protests were referred to as, “anti-police marches,” but
were they? Would things have been better if the two NYPD officers had not been ambushed? Of course! They would still be alive and their families and friends would not be grieving. But, what if some people are cynically seeking ‘advantage’ from these types of recent tragedies. They see the massive media attention given to the protestors and then want to get equal time and attention when an opportunity presents itself.
Abdul-Jabbar suggests, “Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should
want to eliminate them, too.” Now that is a powerful statement — citizens can no longer allow problem police officers to be protected!
This is a stain on the profession and reduces the respect and safety of the good officers.
A story in today’s Washington Post indicated, “The frustration and defiance of the nation’s police officers were on display again Sunday in New York City, where tens of thousands of them gathered for the funeral of the second of two officers who were slain at the height of the ongoing protests and scrutiny after several high-profile deaths of unarmed black males.” The story continued, “A large number of the officers who stood under gray skies in their formal blue uniforms to
honor Officer Wenjian Liu staged their own protest, turning their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio rose to speak at the funeral. Even some out-of-town officers joined NYPD members in the show of disrespect toward de Blasio, an outspoken critic of some policing tactics who has come to represent what many in law enforcement see as a lack of support, if not outright hostility, for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the streets safe.”
Law enforcement officials claim ‘morale’ has been destroyed among the rank-and-file. Oh really? Thousands of potential ‘recruits’ are watching the phenomenal honors and ceremonies given to the fallen officers (far more that I have ever seen given to a soldier) and have set their career goal to be a guardian of their communities. There was nothing that made me more proud than to experience the honor and reverence that went along with a police funeral. Children waving American flags along the roadway. Parents and veterans saluting as we passed in our procession. This has not ended just because of some negative publicity and it will never end. Let’s be realistic!
The NYPD officers were recognized as heroes and not just because they died! They received recognition for how they lived and what they represented to their community. All will make some sacrifices in their careers but some will give ‘all’ (their lives). I believe the public still does recognize police officers for being brave enough to hit the streets shift after shift. I believe that the public still does appreciate the work done by the police agencies which allows them to safely participate in events like New Year’s Eve at Times Square.
I don’t accept the argument that simply being a police officer makes you a hero. Heroes are defined as persons of distinguished courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. Dakota Meyer recently spoke out strongly supporting the police. His performance in battle as a U.S. Marine was incredibly heroic but I believe he also disregarded the orders he had been given to not risk the rescue attempt. Doing the ‘right’ thing (it was his decision)
earned him the highest honors. Police leaders can do the right thing and fix (not hide) problems.
Police officers have ‘the job’ because they want the job — nobody is forcing them to join the force. Most of them know the demands and dangers that they will face and if they are not willing to live with the vigilance (and restraint) required then they find other careers.
We can’t lower the standards or the expectations, but we can keep searching for the right people and train them the right way.
Police are still being recognized and respected by the vast majority of law-abiding citizens across the country, so who really cares about morale being low because of statements by the President and the Attorney General? The man operating the corner store is more likely to come help an officer in a fistfight than a politician in Washington
D.C. Policing needs to remain local and the police are going to have to take steps to make improvements where it is needed — in their towns, not in the media and not from a national soapbox.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has said, “We might be reaching a tipping point with the mindset of officers, who are beginning to wonder if the risks they take to keep communities safe are even worth
it anymore… In New York and other places, we’re seeing a natural recoil from law enforcement officers who don’t feel like certain people who need to have their backs have their backs.” I expected my
fellow officers to defend my life but I never expected anyone to ‘have my back’ if I failed to follow policy or training, or screwed up when it could have been prevented. I expected to be held accountable but only after a fair and objective review. I expected to have due process which would ensure that I was able to defend myself. I didn’t expect a
union or an entire organization to circle the wagons and deflect, distract, and deny errors. I sure hope that new officers don’t believe they are untouchable or watch Metro’s shooting of the armed robbery suspect at the Rio and believe that it was completely acceptable to run up to a man believed to be armed with a gun and possibly explosives in an area with numerous people present. I’m just glad he didn’t have a real grenade because we would probably be having funerals for the two detectives as well as some tourists!
Morale is defined as, “emotional or mental condition with respect to cheerfulness, confidence, zeal, etc., especially in the face of opposition, hardship, etc.; also the degree of mental or moral confidence of a person or group; spirit of optimism.” Some will have you believe that the ‘be all end all’ of policing is to achieve and maintain high morale. We can pat each other on the back when it is actually deserved but when officers in Cleveland fire 137 shots at a vehicle and kill two unarmed occupants, as happened in 2012, we should expect some scrutiny. When we see a squad car (also in Cleveland)
pulled up almost into the lap of a 12-year-old boy and see him shot within a few seconds, we should expect some scrutiny. When we see obvious problems that need to be corrected in Las Vegas, ‘having our backs’ means dealing with the problem officers — not making excuses for them! Just ask the high quality officers how they feel about some
of their ‘cowboy’ peers.
Many jobs are known to be more dangerous than being a police officer.
Many people go to work and do their jobs whether their morale is high or not. I’ve worked in factories and was once seriously injured. I was wearing all of my required safety equipment and was struck in the head by an object that penetrated the front part of my skull into my sinus area. The work could be dangerous and it was hot and exhausting. None of us had high ‘morale’ but we were making good money to go to college. We learned lessons from the tough times that we could look back on during the comparatively good times. Morale comes and goes, but I would think that the $10,000 per month retirement check (for some retired police supervisors) should make the bad memories more
If anyone thinks that there is NO need for any change in New York, Cleveland, Ferguson or Las Vegas then they need a wake-up call. Every situation should be studied as it occurs and there should be legitimate discussions about how to modify the police response, minimize the use of force, and save lives. What I personally hate the most is the DEFIANT attitudes of many who call themselves professional police officers. Some of them are in serious denial and there is a
danger that without improved leadership it will worsen.
In sheriff Gillespie’s ‘going away story’ on Channel 8 he said, “I’m very proud of the way we handled a very emotional aspect of what it is we do and that’s the use of force and the focus on deadly force. What we’re seeing across the nation now. We’re being looked upon as the model agency.” Are you kidding me? Under Gillespie’s leadership the DOJ has visited because of the frequency of deadly force (he claims he invited them). Under Gillespie’s leadership an extensive review of DEADLY FORCE was done by the local newspaper — NOT the police department. Under Gillespie’s leadership officers started refusing to testify at Coroner’s Inquests and, ultimately, they were discontinued.
Under Gillespie’s leadership, an officer who fires his weapon and takes a life merely needs to give a Public Safety Statement to his supervisor at the scene. Sure, Gillespie created an Office of Internal Oversight, but what are they doing? There is a large backlog of shootings waiting for review and I have not heard from one person that they are resulting in the necessary assessment and improvements. One of the greatest failures of the LVMPD over the last decade (or more)
is to proclaim that we are the ‘finest’ in the nation based on the leaders developed at the Sahara Saloon! The good news is that Metro still has plenty of brilliant thinkers and innovative police leaders that can keep the ship from sinking at the helm of Sheriff Joe-Lo.
Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.