Have a thought for the good cops

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The call arrived around noon on Thursday. A woman called 911 from a neighbor’s house saying her husband was threatening to kill her.

Odgen, Utah, Constable Nate Lyday and an adult probation and parole officer who were in the area responded to the address. They found the 53-year-old suspect on his porch. He refused to cooperate, retreated into the house and slammed the door.

The police apparently never saw a weapon, but as they rushed to follow the man, he shot through the door. The parole officer was hit and injured. Lyday, Badge 1069, was killed. A second-generation officer, the 24-year-old had only been in the service for 15 months. He and his wife were preparing to celebrate his graduation from Weber State University.

“He was very proud to be a police officer. It’s a big city. He loved the citizens of the city, ”said Ogden Police Lt. Brian Eynon. “He liked to come to work. I ran into him every day in the hallway during his shift, and he was smiling before I smiled. And that’s what I remember.

“He’s a hero” said the lieutenant.

Lyday’s ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty does nothing to balance the scales of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis four days earlier on a report of a fake $ 20 bill, the tragedy – and now third degree murder and manslaughter – which sparked protests across the country. Nothing in the death of an officer while protecting the public compensates for the misconduct of law enforcement or the abuse of lethal force.

There are few acts as heroic as dying to save someone else; few acts as reprehensible as inflicting undue hardship on a person under cover of the law. The public has the right to expect the first from their policy and to be protected against the second.

It is worth appreciating – as much as important questions have to be raised again about police culture, leadership and integrity – that among the ranks are hundreds of thousands of honorable men and women. The future of policing depends not only on responding to the concerns of minority communities and continuing reforms in the way services are run and managed, but also on relying on the best officers in the field. within each force to ensure that the change on paper translates into what is happening on the streets. It starts by acknowledging that good cops are on duty and their jobs have gotten considerably more difficult over the past week.

I started my career as a journalist covering “The Cops and the Courts”, first in Ogden and later in Salt Lake City. As an independent but briefly naive observer, several aspects of the work struck me.

It’s not glamorous. Shift work can be exhausting. The pay is okay, but you can earn more elsewhere with much less stress, sleep deprivation, and danger. There is exceptional camaraderie, but with a push so that you don’t break ranks, even when you witness abuse.

Sometimes it’s boring, like standing for hours on end directing traffic. And then, without warning, all hell can break loose. The lieutenant in charge of Ogden’s homicide and robbery detectives told me one afternoon as we were sweating profusely in a van outside a bank which, on the basis of a tip, was going to be burgled: moments of pure (expletive) terror.

It is not a thankless job; about eight in ten officers said in a comprehensive study Pew Research Center Study 2017 they had been thanked by a member of the public the previous month. But the uniform is also an anger magnet; two-thirds said they were verbally reprimanded at work. Some may have earned it; many probably did not.

Perhaps most profoundly, the job of the police is to go to the worst things that will happen that day or that night in your city and try to remedy them. A teenager speeds up around a bend in the canyon and rolls his car, ejecting and killing himself and his girlfriend. You are going. A guy shoots himself in the chest. You will support the paramedics, watch him take his last breath and write the report.

A drunk man passes out in the park. By going. Child sexual abuse report. By going. The family house is on fire. I’ll handle the traffic for the firefighters. A toddler falls into a swimming pool with no one looking and drowns. By going. The husband threatens to kill his wife. By going.

Through it all, an officer is supposed to preserve – indeed, above all, must preserve – his humanity. It is not easy. Fifty-six percent of the agents in the Pew Research study said they had become more unresponsive since taking the job.

I remember sitting outside the Ogden Town Hall with an officer of Lyday’s age. We were talking unofficially in his patrol vehicle. He had only been a cop for a few years. He was married and had a good support system, he said, and he felt lucky because he needed that support. Nothing had prepared him for the suffering he was seeing. Work bothered him.

I noticed that the veteran officers developed a certain unwavering cynicism about things. They were sometimes serious at fault. They seemed like they couldn’t turn it off, maybe because they were conditioned that the minute they let their guard down, something bad would happen. Many people who protest say they feel this way.

None of this is an excuse for the police to treat people differently based on their race or neighborhood, or for not following the procedures taught to each officer in order to subdue and arrest suspects with a minimum. of injuries. In fact, it seemed to me that good cops would follow the book even more when the pressure was on – that even though they sometimes wanted to go after them, they held back, because that’s the job. Or it’s supposed to be anyway.

Orders last week in major cities across the United States were to don riot gear, get into formation, and try to prevent the destruction of stores, the burning of buildings, or injury or the death of people. And to face demonstrators, some of whom hate the police – all police officers – because of the troubled state of the profession. That it goes with the territory doesn’t make it any less hard on good cops.

“The 480,000 cops who have no trouble are stuck in the middle and millions of citizens are stuck in the middle,” said Loyola University criminology professor Dr Ronal Serpas, former head of Big Three. police departments at a press conference. Thursday interview on Minnesota Public Radio.

“Bad apples are not unique to law enforcement,” he said. “Every profession on earth has a group of people who are bad apples in their profession – lawyers, doctors, dentists, nurses. The police wield a power that these people do not have. You can choose your lawyer or your doctor. don’t choose your cop. Police officers should therefore be held to a higher standard than other professions. “

The proportion of good and bad cops is a matter of debate, but no reliable figures. A friend and former colleague of mine who has been left behind by the police says it is getting harder and harder to find the right ones. I think their numbers are large enough that if they get more support to clean up the profession and do more of what they hoped they had signed on, they would move on. Regardless of how many, once the fires are extinguished and the National Guard ordered to withdraw, the right cops will be an integral part of the eventual solution.

There was a rally in Ogden on Saturday afternoon. Before his outfit, organizer Malik Dayo wrote on the Facebook page about it that he had contacted the police.

“I prefaced the conversation by offering my condolences to our deceased officer here in Ogden,” he wrote. “I assured him that this gathering was not about them and that we are all crying together. I promised them it would be a peaceful gathering made with love. They assured me that if there are any officers present, they are there to protect our right to assemble and exercise our freedom of expression. Let’s make sure we show 100% respect to these officers today.

The gathering was great. Everyone knelt in remembrance of George Floyd on the lawn in front of the municipal building where the pole has its beaked flag in honor of Officer Lyday. The rally was peaceful.

“I want to set the tone”, Dayo announced to the crowd. “This is a peaceful protest. . . . This is not an anti-cop rally. It is a rally of solidarity. It is a rally for police reform.

The terrible event in Minneapolis was a spark that unleashed new agony. Perhaps the kind of steadfast and civil expressions seen in Ogden can channel these reactions into meaningful change.

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