If you watch the news with any regularity, it would not be hard to come to the conclusion that our nation is in the midst of a killing spree… with police being the ones doing the killing.
This narrative has given rise to numerous “social justice” movements and led to violence and riots in some American cities. In most cases, it fosters distrust between police and the public, and in virtually every case it makes law enforcement’s job much harder than it already is. Recently a city councilman (in another state) encouraged citizens to “throw bricks” at officers that they see chasing criminals! Throw bricks at the men and women trying to catch a robber, burglar or murderer? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that type of thinking.
When the Washington Post recently published a study of police shootings, the results were not what many expected to see. Of the millions of police contacts with the public in 2015, as of December 24th there were 965 police shootings. Those statistics are amazing when you break them down. If you are among the 318,000,000+ people in the United States, statistically you have a much higher probability of being killed in a violent storm or being killed from a fall in your bathtub than by being killed by police, regardless of what color you are.
To add to that, of the 965 killed last year, 875 of them were using a weapon in the commission of a crime at the time they were shot. Of the 90 others, many were imminent threats to the public, with officers being cleared by Grand Juries.
If we look at the racial component of last year’s police shootings, only 4% of them involved a white officer shooting an African-American suspect. While these stats shed the light of fact in waters that are often muddied by opinion and innuendo, do not misunderstand them to in any way serve as an excuse for genuine police misconduct. Police who step outside the boundaries of what is legal and what is ethical should, and almost always are investigated and often removed from the ranks of those who wear a badge.
I do however hope that as we start 2016, we as a nation can pause and take a breath, reanalyze what our goals are and how to effectively reach them. Our law enforcement community needs to have the public working side by side with us to be able to effectively deter crime, protect property and improve the quality of life in our cities and counties.
Here in Jourdanton, Pleasanton, Poteet and all of Atascosa County we are truly fortunate to have leaders who seek to improve the circumstances of their respective citizens. Fortunately for us I haven’t yet run across an elected official that encouraged folks to throw bricks at us as we tried to catch criminals! No officer should have to deal with that type of scenario, regardless of where they work.
As we return from our holiday travels and get a new year started, let’s focus on keeping those ties between our citizens and those who work to protect society stronger than they have ever been. At no point in the history of modern law enforcement have we had better educated and better screened men and women on our streets. As we constantly strive to catch those who prey on the innocent, don’t ever think that we don’t appreciate and acknowledge those who have our back. You are without a doubt a critical part of our team.
Here’s to a safe and peaceful new year for all of us.
Until next time,
ERIC KAISER is the Chief of Police for the Jourdanton, Texas Police Department and a Master Texas Peace Officer.