There has been a lot of uproar about police officers being targeted by criminals lately. Apparently 11 officers have been killed in the last day or two. And this is troubling. Saddening. And wrong. But I want to offer a “middle ground” between two extremes that I’ve encountered.
Extreme 1: Government is evil. Cops work for the government. Therefore all cops are evil people. There’s this mentality of “well, they deserved it because they are government officials out to get my, ahem, illegal vegetation, or because I didn’t wear a seatbelt.”
Extreme 2: Government is wonderful. Cops work for the government. Therefore all cops are wonderful, angelic people. People have this idea that since police officers wear a special uniform, they are somehow better than the rest of us “proles.” As if a special position and uniform gave a police officer’s life more value than if one of “us” had been killed.
I know that I’m exaggerating these extremes a bit (they are, after all, extremes). But I’ve done this so you can see where the logic of these positions will take you.
And I’m going to offer a short rebuttal to each of these positions.
Rebuttal to Extreme 1: Although the institution of the state is immoral, those within it are not immoral. I know from personal experience that there are very good, moral people within the police force who would never think to taser a disabled child, or an elderly woman, as has happened before. Not all cops are out to beat the rest of us. Some are trying to do a good job of protecting the people. They respect our rights and take us seriously.
Rebuttal to Extreme 2: The government gives police officers more power than the rest of us have. Power corrupts. And it corrupts these cops. It is just human nature. They aren’t any better or worse than the rest of us because they have a special uniform. If I put on prison clothes, it wouldn’t make me a criminal and wouldn’t make me worse than other people. The occupation of a person doesn’t define who they are. There are bad officers and good officers. There are bad electricians and good ones. Bad dentists and good ones. No job is intrinsically “better” than others or gives people a special position. Some will say that officers are special because they have a dangerous job. I think there are many jobs that are more dangerous than being a police officer. One site lists fishermen as having the most dangerous job in America. Loggers are next. Police officers are #12. On another list fishermen are #1 and police officers are #10. I’m not picking sites that match what I’m trying to prove. I googled “what are the most dangerous jobs in America?” and clicked on the first two sites that showed up. So where’s the grief and mourning when fishermen get killed?
The question now is, what should be our response when a police officer is killed?
1) It is wrong to kill people unless in self-defense. Let me make this absolutely crystal clear. There is no place whatsoever for killing people unless they are directly threatening your life. It is wrong to kill police officers unless they’ve broken into your house and are threatening to kill you. Why? Not because they are police officers but because they are people. They have a God-given right to life, liberty, and property just as the rest of us have. It is wrong to take away their life just as it is wrong to take your neighbor’s life. It is a tragedy when any person is killed. And this brings me to…
2) How many people per year are killed by our government? Even just in America? I bet the number would surprise you. Or just, how many people are murdered every year in America? The Disaster Center says that in 2009, 1500 people were killed in the United States. Wow. Why don’t we post these numbers to our Facebook statuses too? Why don’t people mourn the number of children killed every year? This is also a deeply saddening thought. The death of police officers must be put in perspective with the deaths of others as well.
The loss of any life is a tragedy, whether they were wearing a uniform or not