The message is worded several different ways, but its spirit is clear. It is very possible to condemn the actions of one police officer while still appreciating and supporting the daily actions of thousands of law enforcement agents across the country.
Given the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the arrest of police officer Derek Chauvin on a charge of third-degree murder, law enforcement agents across the nation will be under a microscope, potentially to a negative degree. People will be observing how police, sheriff’s deputies and troopers work in their communities. Some of those watchers won’t be doing their watching from a place of neutral observation, but with the motive of catching a police officer in the act of doing something wrong.
Some will be determined to extract their pound of flesh, and then some. That thirst for vengeance may impede what could be some dramatic changes for good.
Police officers will be watched, there is simply no getting around it. If the police officers are following their procedures and are honoring the spirit of their profession, they shouldn’t have any issues with being observed.
That’s why it is troubling to read reports of journalists being shot with projectiles, sprayed with gas, or as we saw in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered to stay off the streets in what is a clear violation of one of the very freedoms our nation was founded upon.
“No media is allowed downtown unless they are inside their place of business. Period,” was a message from Cleveland police to reporters on May 31.
I’m not a constitutional lawyer, but you can’t do that.
Some of the protestors in cities across the country have also treated journalists poorly, breaking windows on their cars and threatening them with violent acts. The whole point of conducting a protest is to attract attention to your cause. Don’t stage a protest if you don’t expect to be observed.
In Christian County, many of our law enforcement agencies do their best to foster positive relationships with the people they serve through all sorts of outreach programs. If you’re an adult, you can attend a citizens police academy in Ozark, Nixa or through the Christian County Sheriff’s Office.
These academies are good because they allow people who are interested to put in the time and effort to observe firsthand the work that the police officers in their communities do. For many, it’s an eye-opening experience about just what sorts of trouble exist in their seemingly quiet and peaceful suburb. Moreover, it’s a great way to offer some civilian oversight and accountability for the police officers.
You can also take part in one of several single-day community events that involve law enforcement groups reaching out to the public in a positive way.
I’m a runner. One of my favorite events that I took part in in 2019 with the Ozark Run With the Cops. The event had an inauspicious start in 2018, when its name was hastily changed from the “Run From the Cops” to the “Run With the Cops,” leaving event organizers and then-Ozark Police Chief Tim Clothier with a little bit of explaining to do. They moved past the stumble at the starting line and put on great events in 2018 and in 2019.
I enjoy taking part in 5K events because it provides me the chance to stoke up my competitive fires a little bit. There is nothing like the rush of pushing yourself to compete, but it gets especially fun when you’re trying to outrun a police officer or Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper doing his/her best to outrun you on the uphill portion of the Finley River Bridge. We all exchanged fist bumps at the finish line, and traded thank-you’s. Runners thanked the law enforcement officers for their service, and officers thanked the runners for supporting the Fraternal Order of Police’s cause. Win-win.
I want to go back to that.
I hope that the Run With the Cops comes back when it’s safe to hold such an event again. We need that kind of event in Ozark. We need that kind of event in Christian County. We need that kind of event in any city in the United States of America.