Police lives matter too
By JOHN WOOD
As a citizen who happens to be Black, let me be very clear: “Police Lives Matter.” The lives of the five officers murdered in Dallas, as well as those injured, mattered. Those law enforcement officers’ lives mattered as much as those lives lost for which the Dallas march was held, under the banner “Black Lives Matter.”
The actions of the Dallas shooter were irrevocable acts of a cowardly murderer, and should be seen as terrorism. Any similar action or even support of what happened goes contrary to basic citizenship. We have a system and regardless of how broken it may seem, terrorism does not accomplish change. If anything, the Dallas shooter increases the likelihood that more citizens, (of all colors), are likely to be injured or killed by law enforcement during routine traffic stops.
I hear some folks quietly thinking, “Shut the hell up, what do you know?” For those who know that I have family and friends who wear badges, those thoughts might not be so quiet. “Police Lives Matter” might even seem contrary to recent posts I have made in social media suggesting we need a change in our law enforcement culture.
I have lived the reason that “Black Lives Matter” exists.
In the mid ’90s, while parked in front of my grandfather’s house in north St. Louis, my girlfriend slipped on ice as she was getting into my truck. In the process of slipping, she let out a “yelp.” Her timing could not have been worse as two detectives in an unmarked car were passing by. They stopped, one jumped out, immediately drew his gun and started questioning me. Despite my advising him my girlfriend just slipped, he raised his gun to my face, aggressively moving forward, while refusing to identify himself as a law enforcement officer.
What I did next should have got me killed. Since my truck was idling, I gassed it and swung around to the other side of the unmarked Monte Carlo. Due to snow and icy conditions, my truck was in low range four-wheel drive. The tight U-turn I made on an icy street was a noisy, jerky affair that could have been mistaken and then justified as attempted murder of a police officer. From my perspective, it was about survival and getting a gun pointed somewhere else. The detective driving then pulled a badge out from under his vest and identified himself as was required by law.
The officers drove off, but three blocks later, turned around and arrested me for “Felony Assault On A Police Officer.” They also added a “Reckless and Imprudent Driving” ticket.
Let me refresh the reason the police stopped: My girlfriend slipped on ice and yelped. She didn’t scream, there was no domestic argument, or anything that suggested the police needed to intervene, much less jump out with a gun drawn and eventually stuffed into my face.
Those two detectives and later St. Louis police officers — at what is referred to as the “North Patrol” facility — didn’t do much to inspire confidence I’d not be harmed while in custody. While en route to the jail, the detectives repeatedly threatened to detour up an alley and “beat me senseless.”
Once I was “safely” in a cell at the North Patrol facility, the St. Louis PD denied to family members that I was in custody. It took an influential family member several hours and one of her long-time friends — the local Alderman — to find out where I was and that I was safe.
When I was released the next morning, I went home, showered, retrieved my vehicle from police impound, returned to the St. Louis PD headquarters and filed a complaint with Internal Affairs. My girlfriend, an attorney who witnessed the incident, accompanied me and sat at the table with a St. Louis Police Department IAD officer. It was clear that he was focused on justifying every action by the two detectives. Subsequent attempts to follow up on the official complaint were never responded to. The report was “under investigation” and not available.
So I get “Black Lives Matter,” but it is time to get real about the big picture and in that world, everyone matters. “All Lives Matter” is what “Black Lives Matter” is trying to say, so why not get to the point and start thinking beyond what are extraordinary cases.
Statistics suggest it is unfair to focus on any group as victims of police-related excessive force or even negligence or official misconduct. Sworn law enforcement officers are more likely to be killed in the line of duty than the other way around. Yet, no one protests the death of a police officer killed in the line of duty. No one protests those police officers lost who were off-duty, but stepped up to their sworn responsibility to “Serve and Protect.” Furthermore, I doubt any of the 800 of the peaceful protestors in Dallas have shown up at any of the five funerals the city has already had for its fallen law enforcement officers in 2016.
The math is simple. In 2016, approximately 533 citizens were killed by police (approximately one death per 598,300 citizens, derived from 2014 Census). In 2016, 58 sworn law enforcement officers died in the line of duty (approximately one death per 15,500 sworn officers derived on 2015 estimates). There is no contest, even if you filter out the questionable deaths or twist the numbers to focus only on people of color who have been killed by law enforcement. Police are being killed at numbers that dwarf any particular group claiming victim status.
“All Lives Matter” respects all life as well as the fundamental reason the United States exists. No disrespect to “Black Lives Matter,” but “All Lives Matter” is also a better part of the solution. Special interests only work for narrow causes.
I will settle for “Police Lives Matter” until such a day we as a species and a nation get that “All Lives Matter.”
John “Wudman” Wood is a Carmichael, California-based web designer, photographer and blogger. He is married, has a dog, enjoys writing and music, and occasionally writes on issues other than digital marketing.