Should it be illegal to harass an LEO's family?
Officers around the country are experiencing the pain their decision to be a cop is now causing their loved ones
This article was first published on the Calibre Press website.
By Jim Glennon
Politicians purposely step into the limelight. It’s a conscious decision. In most cases, it’s also a calculated decision. They do it for a variety of reasons: power, authority, a desire to enact change, fame, money. Some do it for reasons known only to them. Some are noble; some, well…not so much.
Once engaged in the political arena, they expose their entire lives to public scrutiny. Nothing is private anymore. Not their finances, not their past personal indiscretions, not their day-to-day lives – not even their families.
It is a conscious decision to engage in politics. Hopefully, those who choose to make that decision make it with their loved ones in mind, as they are most certainly dragging them also, into the arena. Either way, they know the game, the risks, and the exposure they bring upon themselves and their families when they join the political class.
Not so for those who want to be the police.
They don’t sign up seeking fame and notoriety. They don’t want to be public figures. And they certainly don’t want to put their families in a position that may cause them unwanted attention, emotional torment and especially physical harm.
Welcome to the insanity that is the year 2020.
I draw the line at my family
Officers around the country are experiencing something many have never even thought about before: the pain their decision to be a cop is now causing their loved ones.
One officer told me his kids aren’t even back to school yet and the harassment has already started. Acquaintances and friends of his kids are suddenly demeaning a man who they respected and were on friendly terms with just months ago. Vile social media posts about him are directed toward his children. And it is all because his kids’ classmates are seeing nothing but hate-filled vitriol about the police across the media landscape – the characterization that all cops (including their father) are violent, heartless, murdering racists.
Just last week in Georgetown, Texas, a police sergeant woke up to find graffiti painted all over his squad car. The car was in the driveway of his home – the home, of course, where his family lives.
After the discovery, the sergeant went inside and told his wife. She was beyond disheartened; she was devastated. This was her home, a place of safety, in a town that she loves. But she also felt something else: fear. The crime took place mere feet from her children’s bedroom.
The sergeant was overtaken by anger: “After everything I have given to this community! Screw this! I’ll do something else, even if it’s just mowing lawns!”
Like scores of other officers across the country, he’s currently reconsidering the profession. The primary reason is that he signed up prepared for the abuse, but his family certainly didn’t. He can take the nastiness and hate-filled venom, but his family? No way. In four years he will have his 20, and then he’s done. Retired – or at least that’s how he’s feeling right now. He won’t give any more of his time, sweat, and soul to a job and community he loves. Not if it puts his family at risk.
As for the city of Georgetown? Well, if something doesn’t change, they will lose a dedicated and highly experienced servant – a servant who, by the way, saved a drowning man at one of the city parks just a few weeks ago. He literally saved a life because he was willing to risk his own. Think about that.
But today, this man has to explain to his children why, suddenly, their hero father is being seen as evil because of the uniform he wears. Thanks to his unwavering dedication to what is a noble profession and his own community, he is somehow a monster. He will do his best to alleviate their fears. He’ll try to make them feel safe.
He will explain cowardice and ignorance to his kids. He’ll tell them the truth about those who sneak up to squad cars in the middle of the night. I hope he accurately describes them as spineless halfwits who don’t have even the slightest idea of what courage is or as reactionary miscreants who don’t have the wherewithal to see through the nonsense and think critically.
But his family will still be shaken. Explaining that the boogeyman is an idiot doesn’t eliminate the monster lurking in the dark.
So now he has to be aware like never before. When he is out with his loved ones off duty, will someone hurl abuse their way? Will someone disrupt their family time and frighten his children?
Officers around the country are having these conversations with their kids right now. They are also weighing whether or not this job is worth that type of lifestyle.
Every cop knows the risks. They willingly run toward the danger. They sacrifice themselves to save others, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is not hyperbole – it is a damned fact. But to risk their families? That’s another thing altogether.
I’ve talked to countless media types, relatives, and friends who have implicitly or explicitly demeaned the entire police profession over the last month or so. It sickens me that their myopic appraisal of hundreds of thousands of officers is that they are a collective group of thugs, racists, traitors and murderers. The vast majority of people who hold that viewpoint (many of whom I care about in my personal life) simply don’t have the courage to do what the police do. They haven’t the faintest idea of what officers deal with regularly and what it would be like if the police just disappeared.
Make no mistake about it, and this is not an overstatement: Going after the families of cops will make that disappearance a reality.
It should be criminal
I’m proposing that each state commits to protecting the police and their families. Make it illegal – a hate crime, if you will – to step on the property of an officer and his/her family and threaten, cause harm, or do any damage.
If someone approaches an off-duty officer and commits what would otherwise be a crime if it was done to a regular citizen, such as purposely and excessively alarming the officer or his/her family in an intentional attempt to intimidate, frighten, or cause emotional harm, then charge them. Why shouldn’t off-duty officers and their families have special protection?
The question is, do any politicians have the temerity to provide that legal protection to officers and their families, step up for them, and show that they support them? I don’t know.
There’s always a slippery slope. When it comes to the future of law enforcement, we are sliding. Politicians (as well as the general public) better start thinking about what is happening around them. A very small but vocal percentage of people in this country are advocating for the abolishment of the police. Most everyone I talk to outside of law enforcement thinks that it’s going to blow over, but it won’t. Major cities are making serious missteps to quell the angry throngs. They are slashing budgets, which means less training, less overtime, fewer cops, and, therefore, less protection for citizens.
Some political leaders are literally surrendering to the angry anarchist mobs by refusing to address their criminal behavior and allowing them to damage property or injure police officers. Others are unrealistically limiting the ability of cops to physically control offenders by criminalizing sound and necessary control tactics.
The poll Calibre Press conducted two weeks ago revealed that only 7% of police officers would recommend the profession. If off-duty cops and their families continue being harassed and injured with impunity, then that number will go down to zero. Then what? As Sir Robert Peel said back in the early 1800s, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” Mark my words, if the public won’t support their officers and protect their families, there won’t be any police for that public.
In Georgetown, Texas, the sergeant and his family have been getting overwhelming support from the citizenry. That support is buoying their resolve to overcome this event. But what about next time? What will the community leaders be prepared to do?
It is now time for the politicians to step up to the pulpit and show their support. Propose and enact a law to protect officers and their families. Make it known. Shout it from the rooftops. Let anyone who opposes such a law come forward so supporters can see them and hear why exactly they would oppose it.
If not, well, then it’ll no longer be a slippery slope – it’ll be an abyss. A criminally controlled cavern.
Think about living in that reality.
About the author
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration and is the author of the book "Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement."