Dr. Bradley Anders
I love being a police officer. This is one of the few jobs one can hold in which you have so much control over some things, yet so little over others. Before anyone starts criticizing my use of the word “control,” let me clarify: Police officers have the ability to control how busy they are with their own personal drive. We can keep busy with traffic stops, directed patrols, and any number of pro-active activities. On the other hand, there are so many things that are out of our control such as call loads, the weather as it relates to the driving public, citizen reactions to our mere presence, and far too often whether or not we get the opportunity to go home at the end of our shifts. Over the past few months we have been hearing the boisterous minority talk about how difficult of a job police officers have, but then out of the other side of their mouths they spit misinformation and foster hatred for this great profession.
Boisterous minority… what is this you might ask? Well, it is the glorified, sensationalized, and seemingly unstoppable force that has waged a war of words against every man and woman who dons a uniform and badge. It is comprised of those political figures and community leaders/citizens that pretend to care about police lives while inciting distrust and even violence through their rhetoric. It also includes those people who outright hate the police. These are the people who get air time and unfortunately, some are in a position to make changes in a career field of which they know nothing about. However, I do not want to rant about those who are speaking out with such force about policing; that is not the point of this specific blog. What this is about is the silenced majority that is in each and every community we serve.
I have the privilege of working in a community that, as a whole, genuinely cares about the police. Almost weekly someone comes up to me and thanks me for the job that I do. I have had citizens buy my dinner, bring me bottles of water while directing traffic, and offer their homes to me for something as simple as just to get in out of the cold. More recently, I have had citizens apologize for things that are out of their hands…things of which they have no control or even any association. They apologize for news broadcasts that demonize police officers and genuinely thank me for my willingness to serve them. These are things that remind me of why I got into this line of work, and these are the people I am proud to serve. It is also a candid reminder of how our media operates and the message that is put out there for the world to interpret. These caring people are not the ones we are seeing on the news. These are not the people who take up a microphone and begin spewing filth and completely uneducated, untrue statements about the majority of police officers. These are the people who are effectively silenced by mainstream media because their message does not grab headlines. As a result, the true message, the reality of it all, gets lost in all of the negativity and is outweighed by anti-police rants and stereotypes.
My partner and I were talking in the car the other day about voices and being heard. He, like many other police officers including myself, is concerned by an apparent lack of support. “Where is my voice?” he asked. He pointed out how we as police officers are not allowed to voice our opinions in a public forum about our careers. Our policies and procedures typically keep us from jumping in front of a camera and talking about how we feel; we don’t get the luxury or publicly labeling something as BS even if we can see and smell it. We have seen a few supportive examples of late, but those are few and far between and are typically high-ranking police administrators willing to stand up and point out the inaccuracies within most news accounts attacking policing as a whole. The rest of us who have chosen to speak out have been disciplined over policy violations and have been labeled as “controversial” or “out-of-control.” It is hard to sit back and shut up; most of us are not wired that way. When challenged, we react…sitting back is not typically in our nature. Unfortunately, this is our only course of action until the silenced majority is allowed to speak, and judging from history…that is probably not going to happen. But it doesn’t matter. We can choose to ignore the minority and listen to the majority who has respect for you and/or your position. I honestly believe that most people out there understand that it is a bad idea to resist arrest. Remember, common sense does not shine amidst chaos, and chaos is what sells.
I often think about how people receive and interpret messages. With social media and corporate news outlets pumping out questionable information to listeners, viewers, internet surfers, or readers, I can’t help but question the validity of each and every word that is fed to the American public. Unfortunately, many people out there are not mentally capable of critical analysis, or they just refuse to do it, and interpret the most basic of information fed to them in such a way that results in knee-jerk reactions and baseless supposition. If we as police officers know this to be true, then why is it that we allow the boisterous minority to act as our professional thermostat? Why do we cool off and slow down when they heat up? Why are we not paying more attention to that one or two who took time to personally thank you for the job you do? These hate-filled diatribes so widely broadcast in a variety of formats are not directed at you and I personally, they are directed at a career field as a whole. They are directed at a system of which we are merely a working part. That person standing in front of you thanking you represents the community you serve and should serve as a reminder that we are fighting the good fight. That person took the time to voice their support for you individually. They are the silenced majority and are separate from that which is thrust into our world with such ire. Remember, this is the person who is going to suffer when we choose to let the loud mouths dictate our course of action. What a shame it would be if this person standing in front of us were harmed because we chose to let that boisterous minority dictate our actions. Understand this, there is a significant faction of people out there who are doing their best to keep that silenced majority silenced, and it is up to us to counter that. Don’t let the negativity guide you. You don’t have to be loud to be heard.