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The Importance of Authority

The Importance of Authority

It has been a tough couple of years for police departments and their officers. A record number of law enforcement officers (458) were killed in the line of duty in 2021, with many losing their lives to COVID-19.  There is also a widespread consensus among city and rural police news agencies that officers are fleeing the job in record numbers. Anti-police groups could not be happier to see a mass exodus of the city’s finest. 

But not all is dire. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of local police department loss was just under 1 percent of employees after a decade of steady expansion compared to all other industries that lost at least 6 percent of their workforce. Although this is promising news, there are still warranted concerns on what we may see once the 2021 end-of-the-year calculations are released. 

Many of the local news outlets report that law enforcement officers are fed up and leaving the job in record numbers. In the department I worked for the numbers are staggering, but to put it in context, most of them were eligible for retirement. Sure, most left because they were fed up, but officers who don’t have the required age or years to retire have a different story. 

Let’s think about how conducive it would be to quit or leave not only a police career but any other type of professional occupation. How many jobs provide their employees with a decent employment package that consists of a respectable salary alongside health benefits and a coveted pension plan? 

Many people with career jobs are financially locked into their employment. Deciding to just quit is unrealistic to many who work in career-type professions. People have mortgages to pay, children to be sent to universities, car notes, etc. Sure, an individual can transfer to another department, but that is not leaving law enforcement. That is just looking for greener pastures. 

It is no secret that police morale is low, but this is nothing new. Police officers have always had a somewhat indifferent relationship with their administration and certain segments of the public, particularly the criminal element and their supporters. Granted, that morale is probably at an all-time low, but police officers have always been the resilient type. 

What is certain is that many officers that I have recently spoken to seem to all share similar sentiments of how they have been perceived. They believe that they have been thrown under the bus by unfair and false rhetoric by certain progressive members of society, including politicians. I have been saying for months that making friends with criminals will only have one outcome and that is chaos. 

As we closed the year, many violent crime stats in our country are staggering. This is no surprise to law enforcement officers, law-and-order citizens and police advocates. The rise on attacks of police officers is also on the rise. It is also no revelation that recent policies implemented by politicians fueled by anti-police advocates have contributed to this rise by emboldening criminals. This unwarranted progressive overreach has created lawlessness in which law enforcement officers are targeted like never before. There are some that dismiss this account and instead are pushing the narrative that the crime surge is due to the pandemic. 

In major cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., carjackings have skyrocketed with an 81 percent, 44 percent, and 45 percent increase respectively.  And this rise is not limited to major cities, as suburbs across the nation have also been seeing an escalation. Homicides have surged rapidly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the 2020 Uniform Crime Report (UCR) from the FBI, homicides rose 30 percent in one year (2019-2020). This is prior to the COVID-19 shut down of cities that occurred in March/April 2020. 

Baltimore police commissioner Michael Harrison, who is also the president of the board of the Police Executive Research Forum, said that chiefs across the country have been saying that the “lack of consequences and the lack of fear of any consequences is a significant factor in the increase in violence,” as well as “two-thirds of the criminal justice system are not operating at full capacity like policing was and when you put that all together, here we are again seeing a rise in crime.” 

When there is no law enforcement, it does not take an expert to proclaim that there will be an increase in crime. The offender is an opportunist who thrives on exploiting weaknesses, particularly within laws. When progressive movements try to stifle law and circumvent policies, it is no surprise that offenders join in with their support. The opportunist offender, much to their delight, has been flourishing during the pandemic. They get to walk around in broad daylight with masks. 

There used to be a time when seeing someone in a store with a mask would raise suspicion. Now, the criminals can just blend in the crowd and when they are ready, they can just all rush into high-end stores and rob the place of its merchandise. They can walk up to a citizen at an ATM or wait for them to leave their homes to rob them, with the confidence that they will get away with the crime. 

When they are apprehended, some state prosecutors all of a sudden have decided that not charging them and releasing them is a better option. It seems like it is a good time to be a criminal because for some unfathomable reason some prosecutors have decided that prosecuting is not their job anymore.  

Furthermore, so-called crime experts have been spewing in various news platforms that the root cause of crime was exacerbated during the pandemic because of soaring unemployment rates, which led to economic hardship. In addition, heightened stress and uncertainty pushed more people to purchase firearms.   

These self-professed crime experts will have a difficult time finding a criminal in a penitentiary, let alone providing facts to substantiate their absurd claims. It is improbable that community connections are strained due to economic hardship from a lack of employment because it seems that posted in many businesses are numerous “hiring” signs.

Another unbelievable explanation for the increase in crime is the purchasing of firearms. The last time I checked, firearms can be pretty expensive, especially for an unemployed person. Maybe citizens are buying firearms not because they are stressed from the pandemic, but because the police are being prevented from going after offenders. Maybe citizens are afraid that no one will come to their aid and their only option to prevent them and their loved ones from being attacked or killed is to be armed themselves.   

Citizens are not going to wait until police departments are defunded or wait until police attrition rates return to a normal level. They are going to protect themselves. Last year saw the highest number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011. There is also an increase in unprovoked attacks on law enforcement officers. This comes as no surprise since offenders get bolder when they feel that they have support. 

There used to be a time when resisting arrest was a crime that needed no explanation. Today if a person resists arrest, the onus is on the police officer to find an alternative way to bring the altercation to a peaceful conclusion or face scrutiny about why they couldn’t calm down an irate, combative individual. This way of thinking enables and encourages individuals to ignore law enforcement’s mandated authority and opens the door for situations that should be ended peacefully to get out of hand. 

We see this in many police-offender-involved shootings in which an officer gives clear directions to an individual, only to be ignored or aggressively approached, which most likely will guarantee that a volatile confrontation will ensue. Aggressively confronting a peace officer will immediately place the officer in a defensive posture that may end up with a forceful response. It is like when a bully provokes another and is clobbered, then cries foul and is comforted as a victim by those in charge. This response would be abhorred in any school or work setting, but somehow it has become acceptable in police and offender confrontation. 

Allowing and supporting individuals who flagrantly disregard authority figures, opens the door for more blatant behavior. If persons arrested are aggregately released from penal institutions or excessively issued recognizance bonds, then they are emboldened to believe that crime does indeed pay. Why not fight with the police and commit crimes when the punishment is minimal? Or that the police will be seen as the aggressor? 

The problem with allowing criminals to snub authority is that when given an inch, the criminal, being an opportunist, will take a mile. The criminal will have no qualms of attacking any person of authority. If now the norm is that the police are bad and the criminals are victims, then how can we be surprised that criminals are now going after law enforcement officers? It also won’t be too long when some in the public will also believe that they too can disregard authority.  

Shane Bartek, a 25-year-old Cleveland police officer, was off-duty when murdered on New Year’s Eve in a carjacking. His attack took place in a neighborhood where many current and retired police officers live. Bartek was shot and murdered in front of his home by an 18-year-old female with an outstanding warrant for armed robbery. Her accomplice was a 28-year-old career criminal who has been convicted seven times in the last four years of criminal offenses. 

There used to be a time that criminals would not dare to commit crimes in neighborhoods police reside, let alone attack them. This was not because they were afraid to commit crimes there, but because they knew that if they did the public would not tolerate the disregard for authority and the disregard for a person’s place of residency — a clear example of creating a new norm. 

According to social psychologists, respect and authority are human instinctive traits. “People often feel respect, awe and admiration toward legitimate authorities, and many cultures have constructed virtues related to good leadership, which is often thought to involve magnanimity, fatherliness, and wisdom. Societies may also value virtues related to subordination: respect, duty, and obedience.” 

A study by the CATO Institute revealed that there is a strong connection between respect for authority and favorability toward the police. People with high respect for authority are also far more likely to support stop-and-frisk-like policies, which includes stopping individuals who look suspicious or seemed out of place. 

It seems that the lack of respect for authority is becoming the rule rather than the exception. The police are seen by some as the Gestapo and not who they have always been — legally authorized groups of men and women trying to keep our streets safe and guiding us toward a better life. The disrespect of authority is a destructive ideology that has created a challenge to society’s breakdown of respect, civility and moral behavior. 

A traffic stop or a domestic disturbance should end peacefully if civility and respect for authority is followed. But many times, these incidents end up with officers being forced into an unwarranted escalation that results in someone getting arrested, injured or even killed. It can also result in officers ending up being ambushed by morally-lacking individuals who have never had any respect for authority. 

And the icing on the cake is that in too many incidents after an individual has caused mayhem, he or she is seen as someone in need of mental health or financial support. In contrast, the officer is viewed as an antagonist. This breakdown of civility and respect for authority is a society-breaker and a dangerous precedent to set.

Just before the end of 2021, two Bradley, Ill., police officers — Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic and Officer Tyler Bailey — responded to a dog-barking noise complaint at a hotel. Apparently, the dog was left in an unattended vehicle in the parking lot. The officers located the owner of the vehicle. They knocked on the door and were met by a male and female. The officers did not have a chance to react when the male offender shot both. The male and female offenders executed Rittmanic. Bailey sustained critical injuries and continues to fight for his life at a local hospital. 

On Dec. 23, 2021, Baltimore police Officer Keona Holley was shot and ambushed by two men as she sat in her patrol vehicle. She died a week later. She had volunteered to work overtime that night. Two hours later the offenders shot and killed another person that night. They were eventually arrested and now sit in jail. 

At the beginning of the year, NYPD officers suffered tragedy after tragedy. On Jan. 21, 2022, three officers responded to a domestic disturbance between a mother and her son about diets. The son is a vegan, and the mom is not. When the officers arrived, her son retreated to the bedroom as the mother explained the ludicrous situation. 

When two of the three officers entered the bedroom, they were both immediately struck by gunfire from a .45 caliber Glock, leaving one officer, Jason Rivera, 22, fatally wounded and the second officer, Wilbert Mora, extremely critically wounded, fighting for his life at the time of this article. The offender suffered serious wounds from exchange fire. 

This was the third NYPD police shooting in just one week following the wounding of an NYPD detective during a drug raid in which the detective suffered a bullet leg wound. Another officer days earlier was grazed while scuffling with a teen gunman in the Bronx. On New Year’s Day, an NYPD officer was shot while resting in his car between shifts in East Harlem, bringing the total of NYPD officers shot in January to five.

In October 2021, three deputies from Harris County in Texas were ambushed at a North Houston nightclub. One deputy was shot to death and the two others suffered wounds. In January 2022, also in Houston, a deputy was killed after pulling a man over for a traffic stop. The man driving the car exited the vehicle and immediately began shooting at Cpl. Charles Galloway, 47, fatally injuring him. The suspect, at the time of this writing, is still on the loose. 

When the envelope is pushed, it does not stop unless reasonable people take action. Today it is the police who are under attack, tomorrow it will be judges, then doctors and teachers, until every person in authority is at risk. What is also disturbing is that if criminals are allowed to operate in this manner without opposition, then this may become the norm. 

For example, mass shootings were unheard of prior to Columbine. They did occur before Columbine, but those were rare incidents. After the Columbine shooting, copycats came out of the woodwork and today mass shootings have become so frequent that many now just asked themselves not if there is going to be another mass shooting but when. Today mass shootings have become part of our norm. Let’s not allow police assassinations to also become part of the way of life. 

The increase in crime in the U.S. and the attacks on law enforcement has now piqued the interest of politicians who just a few months ago were leading the charge of defunding the police. The current president recently announced that he is calling for increased funding for law enforcement to help in reducing violence. 

This type of hypocrisy is not foreign to those in law enforcement. We have experienced it too many times. It won’t be long before the voices of reform and defunding the police will be demanding law-and-order tactics to return. We in law enforcement must continue to maintain our code of honor and remember that without law enforcement there is chaos. •  


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