Chief's message: Ending the negative public perception of police

If the message and the mission is to pursue peace, justice and tolerance for all, isn’t it hypocritical to lump 800,000+ American cops into a single, negative identity?

I’m chief of police in a bedroom community near Boston. The demographics of our town have changed a lot since I was first hired in the early 1990s. However, we enjoy a very good relationship with all members of our community, because well before anti-police protests spread nationwide, we worked hard to not only promote diversity and understanding within our police force, but also in our entire community.

Throughout my career and during the past 10 years as chief of police, I have worked tirelessly to diversify our department. It has undergone anti-bias trainings and I have been active in various local and national civil rights organizations. This past spring and summer, we held community meetings entitled “Black and Blue: All Lives Matter” and “Black and Blue: Teen Lives Matter Too.” We’ve done a good job here.

Recently, I stopped to speak with one of our officers working a road detail when an African-American motorist drove by, looked at us and put both his hands up. Seeing that I was startled, the officer said: “Since Ferguson, I get that a couple of times a week.”

1 in 100,000
The stark reality is that when an isolated incident occurs — even if it is halfway across the country — it affects us all. We now live in an age where there is instantaneous access to news through 24-hour TV outlets and a multitude of social media sites.  

The vast majority of the time, police officers make the right decision under unbelievably stressful conditions. The good men and women representing law enforcement process thousands of arrests and have millions of interactions every day with citizens across the United States. The only ones we hear about in the media are the one in 100,000.

That’s also the reason why they are newsworthy.

Working Hard for Peace and Justice
This article is aimed — in part, at least — at someone who will never read it: the motorist who felt compelled to paint me, to paint us, with a broad brush.

If the message and the mission is to pursue peace, justice and tolerance for all, isn’t it hypocritical to lump 800,000+ American police officers into a single, negative identity?  

Instead of projecting biased protest towards me, I ask that people first look inside themselves and ask, “Am I doing everything I can to make the world a better, safer, more tolerant place for all people?”

I know that when I ask myself that question, I can honestly say I have worked hard to do that, as have the men and women I have worked with throughout my 23-year law enforcement career.

To that motorist I would like to say, “Next time, please remember to look beyond our blue uniform and badge and realize that we are people too, just like you, and please don’t paint us all with a broad brush.”

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