Having spent most of my life in law enforcement, I have developed a few non-scientific theories regarding perceptions of the police service in our society.
One of those is that the average person interacts with a cop twice in their lifetime. Maybe.
Most of us have received a speeding ticket, been in an automobile accident, or the victim of a minor crime that we reported to the police. Beyond that, we are only acutely aware of a police presence when we are driving along and suddenly see a patrol car – screech, “Oh shit! There’s a cop!” – then slam on brakes to slow our excessive speed.
Admit it. Hell, I do it all the time.
Law enforcement deals with a very small percentage of the population – perhaps 2%. The “frequent flyers” – career criminals, drunks, addicts, predators, street hustlers, thieves, the homeless, mentally ill and the violent – the dregs and wolves of society.
My other notion is that on the rare occasion when we actually need a cop, if he or she shows up two minutes early, or two minutes late (based on our time schedule), then the officer is either overzealous or a slacker – you know, the whole, “there’s never a cop around when you need one” thing.
Most of what we think we know about law enforcement officers is derived from television programs, movies and the media – all of which, for increasingly similar reasons, are inherently incorrect.
The entertainment industry produces a product to amuse and provide a brief distraction for the majority of the public – it’s how they stay in business.
On the other hand, rather than report the news, the “mainstream” media now produces a product that they think represents what the majority of American’s want to hear – it’s how they stay in business.
I’m convinced it’s an advertising/demographic thing – just feeding the machine – because reporting fact-based “news” rarely matters anymore.
Since the terrible summer of 2016, despite all evidence to the contrary, everything we see or read in the “news” has a subtle – but noticeable – anti-police bent.
They think it’s what people want to hear.
I love the Daytona Beach News-Journal. In my view, they do a great job, under difficult circumstances, and a few of their reporters are personal heroes of mine. They put out a good newspaper most days, and work hard under the crippling financial constraints that plague what remains of print media in this country.
However, a recent editorial touting changes to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office body-worn camera protocols, well, rubbed me the wrong way.
The piece began, “John Braman is Exhibit A on the value of outfitting law enforcement officers with body cameras.”
As most of you know, John Braman is a former Volusia County Sheriff’s Deputy who was apparently exposed as a common thief when several DUI suspects complained that he removed cash from their wallets. Additional evidence supporting these serious allegations was captured by Braman’s body-worn camera during an arrest last August.
To correct the record, John Braman is an aberration.
He is a rarity in a profession that derives its moral authority to enforce the law from the public’s fragile trust.
What he represents is a grotesque monster that rarely shows itself, but that many are convinced exists. The proverbial “bad cop” who confirms latent suspicions about everyone who ever pinned on a badge and took an oath to serve and protect.
The News-Journal’s editorial relies on these fears and myths for its substance.
Look, it appears John Braman crossed a very clear line – and if his suspected crimes are proven true, he deserves everything he gets – and more.
No one despises a bad cop more than a good cop.
But let’s not overlook the fact that the clear majority of law enforcement officers do a dangerous job with honor and incredible dedication to protecting life and property.
Our lives and property.
In their horribly skewed op/ed, the News-Journal evokes the specter of widespread corruption, writing “Without video evidence from the Aug. 1 stop in Ormond Beach, who knows how that investigation would have proceeded. . .”
Who knows? I know.
The case would have proceeded the way thousands of other criminal cases are conducted – even in the absence of “tell-all” video footage:
An investigator – acting without bias or pre-conceived assumptions – would develop facts to support or contradict the allegations, establish probable cause that a crime has been committed, swear to the accuracy of his or her work, then submit those findings to the State Attorney for independent review and prosecution.
And the News-Journal’s editorial board damn well knows it.
As a former law enforcement executive, I agree that body-worn cameras are a good idea. In the vast majority of cases, these devices exonerate officers of baseless allegations by criminal suspects and false witnesses.
Invariably, the grainy footage exposes people at their worst – displays in living color the result of man’s inhumanity to man – and captures the dangers, insults and degradations our officers face in the line of duty.
That is “Exhibit A” in the case for police cameras – a fact rarely reported – and one the News-Journal’s editorial barely touched upon.
In my professional experience, I can count on one hand the number of police corruption cases that have occurred in Volusia County over the past thirty-years. Incredibly few and far between – with actual police misconduct almost universally rooted in bad decisions, off-duty stupidity, or toxic personal relationships.
Not graft, bribery or organized criminal conduct – but common human frailties.
To add insult, the News-Journal’s editorial surmises that, “If officers know all their activity is being recorded (without any “police tactics” loopholes), they have disincentive to take any shortcuts — and the confidence that their lawful actions will be proved justifiable.”
What a crock of shit.
What a disservice to those who take an oath to trade their lives for ours, to put our safety above their own self-interests, to protect the weak and vulnerable and stand the line against crime, anarchy and victimization.
Put a camera on Volusia County’s elected and appointed officials and watch the mechanism of government grind to a steaming halt. . .
The fact is, the precision and expertise required to get a good case from crime scene to courtroom leaves no room for “shortcuts” – and no police officer worth his or her salt needs a camera tacked to their shirt to show pride and dedication in their work.
Look, I still love our friends at the News-Journal, but perhaps it’s time the editorial board realizes that the silent majority of American’s – people of all colors and creeds – are beginning to ignore the jabbering of the radical fringe and are standing in strong support of our nations law enforcement officers.
And rightly so.
Each week, we mourn slain police officers and pray for the wounded – and our brave men and women of law enforcement continue to selflessly lace-up their boots, pin on the badge, and go in harm’s way to protect us. All of us.
The thin blue line. United, as always.
Our police officers deserve our respect and admiration.
Unlike many other pillars of our free society, these incredible men and women earn it every day.