Right, left, center, young, old, male or female, you can't take an "informed" position on a subject unless you know the facts. That's called, pragmatism. Sadly, it seems that many people base their positions or decisions solely on emotion. While having empathy for the plight of others is, or should be, an essential part of life, without pragmatism empathy may only prolong the struggle that needs to be overcome.
Today, the nation struggles as people label police departments as racists, and chant, black lives matter. The protests against the police have been orchestrated from coast to coast. In some of those protests, the marchers blatantly call for the killing of police. And, since those marches, we have seen a number of policemen ambushed and murdered in cold blood.
We have also seen mayors of major cities turn their backs on their minority white police forces . . . one mayor even going so far as to tell the department to stand down and give the protesters the "freedom to destroy". And, as we view on television the protests in cities across the countries, we can't help but notice the protesters carrying professionally made signs. That simple fact indicating the protests were not spontaneous, but funded, planned, and orchestrated.
The Justice Department and the FBI provide statistics on violent crimes committed in cities across the country, and provide a ranking of the worst offenders. The reports provide a breakdown of burglaries, rapes, murders, break-ins, etc. However, the reports do not necessarily provide the context, the background that fostered the crimes. For example, there may be a high murder rate in a major city but the statistics don't show that the high murder rate was the result of drug gangs fighting each other over "turf", or if the person(s) murdered were members of drug gangs or innocent bystanders who were caught in the crossfire.
Interestingly, we could not find a government website that provided statistical information on the killing of police officers. There is a website, that does keep track of police deaths they classify as in the line of duty: Officer Down Memorial Page. (http://www.odmp.org/search/year?year=2014) For the last five years, this site claims that 742 officers have died "in the line of duty", an average of slightly more than 148 per year. Of that number, a yearly average of 52.4 have been either shot or stabbed, and another 8.2 officers have died as a result of injuries or illnesses caused in the 911 terrorist attacks. The remaining average annual 87.8 deaths were the result of a number of other conditions . . . hit by an automobile, a motorcycle or automobile accident, or an on the job related illness, etc.
In order to truly define the problems in need of a solution, not only do we need statistical information, we need information on "context". For example, just recently in Houston, Texas, a policeman shot and killed two men. Statistically, that is what happened and, in a statistical report you could not tell if the shooting was justified or not. However, if we provide some context to that statistic, here is what we would know: Just recently, in Houston, Texas, a policeman shot and killed two men who were armed with assault rifles. The two had shot and wounded another police officer and had the intent to kill a number of people attending a cartoon drawing event that was offensive to Muslims.
Not only are we short on statistics, we are short on context. People, even, or especially, our elected leaders have become too impatient to wait for the facts . . . to acquire the information necessary to make a pragmatic, informed decision. That results in not only scapegoating the police departments, it gives license to citizens to riot and destroy, and creates a mob rule mentality.
Take a moment and think about our life, limb, and property if there were no police force here to keep the peace. Who would come to your rescue if you were threatened? Who would seek out and arrest the person who torched and burned your automobile? Who would bother to see who threw a brick through your window? Who would answer the alarm when your house was broken into? And who would be first on the scene when you were in an accident? And who would . . . ? And who would . . . ? And who would . . . ?
Life is a series of bell curves. In every profession or chosen field of endeavor, there are some who are exceptional. Most do a solid and decent job. At at the other end of that curve are some who just don't measure up to an acceptable level. We shouldn't make emotional decisions and decide to use a broad brush to paint an entire department or an entire profession based on what may well be a contextual void, or one unacceptable act by one individual. What company, or what individual could survive if they were to be judged only as worthy as the worst of them?
Patience! Context! Pragmatism! They make for a better life.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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