Who’s to blame for NYPD officers’ deaths?
The sickening, cowardly murders of New York Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos have stunned the nation. It comes at a time of increased scrutiny of some police tactics in the aftermath of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. Already the finger pointing has begun. The blame game is in full, nauseating swing.
But what if I were to tell you that you could want justice in the Eric Garner chokehold death case and be heartbroken and angry over the ambush murders of New York police officers? What if the false choice between wanting police misconduct addressed and supporting honorable officers were revealed to be what it is – complete bullshit?
Always eager to stir the pot, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News Sunday and said, “We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police. I don’t care how you want to describe it – that’s what those protests are all about.” Really? It wouldn’t surprise me if some radio and TV hosts took this message and ran with it.
First, if Giuliani thinks someone had to stir up discontent with the police in minority communities, then he’s woefully out of touch. To even say that shows an ignorance of the long history of strained relations between police and minority communities in this country. Sheriffs and police were the de facto enforcers of Jim Crow. The Watts riots of 1965 were set off by an altercation with police. Cedric Alexander, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), recently said tensions between blacks and police were “much more strained or as strained” as today when he first joined police back in the 70s. Remember, NWA’s anthem “Fuck tha Police” came out in 1988, so there’s been mistrust for a long while. It’s often rooted in one’s own experiences when confronted by police.
This isn’t to say that the police are racist or that blacks hate police. This is a conversation that requires nuance. It requires serious thought, specification and perspective. To reduce it to an either you support police all the time in everything they do or you want police shot in their squad cars is simpleton logic that should be soundly rejected by anyone with a functioning brain.
It’s not surprising to me that the same people who usually blame gun violence on criminals or mentally ill people (usually to deflect attacks from gun control groups) suddenly feel that it’s people exercising their First Amendment rights that drove this criminal to kill these officers. Never mind he shot his former girlfriend before heading for New York. Never mind the killer was an ex-con with gun violations in his past. Never mind his own mother said he had a troubled upbringing and was often violent. Just forget the talk that the killer may have been involved with the notorious anti-police prison gang, the Black Guerilla Family. Never mind that in a previous case, when the killer was asked by a judge whether he’d spent time in a mental institution or had been under the care of a psychiatrist, he answered yes.
It’s easier to use the cold blooded murder of police for political points than respecting the slain officers and working to reduce the likelihood of these things happening.
What is undeniable is that we live in a country that has a First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and the ability to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances – and we have a Second Amendment protecting citizens’ rights to own firearms. And secondly, we live in a society where the disturbed and the criminally minded are adept at acquiring weapons and using them on citizens, police and government officials. Unfortunately, that grim reality of criminal violence will continue.
The more one looks into the past of the gunman (and I won’t dignify this cowardly prick by mentioning his name), the more it seems this was a person headed for a bad end. The Baltimore police’s warning to the NYPD unfortunately came too late to prevent this horrible act. It’s a bitter pill to swallow that when someone has no regard for their own safety and plans to take their life, there’s often little that can be done to prevent them from doing something abhorrent. This guy knew he was going to commit suicide, so he chose to kill officers so his pathetic life would have some relevance. He committed this horrible act. He is to blame.
But for some, it’s easier to blame the President. Blame protestors. Blame Eric Holder and the mayor of New York. Blame guns. The sickening part is that it’s using blood for points. There was this same talk when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at an appearance in Tucson in 2011. A gunman killed six people and wounded thirteen others in the shooting. Many scolded conservatives like Sarah Palin and others for their violent rhetoric. But pundits said they were blameless and that the blame should fall on the demented man that pulled the trigger.
Well, same thing here, right? Right?
Yes, police lives matter. We should all be able to agree that the police are the thin blue line that helps hold our society together. If you’ve been active at all on social media in the past few months, along with some of the controversial incidents involving police, there have been many stories of police going above and beyond the call of duty to help with citizens. I think most people understand that the overwhelming majority of police officers are dedicated professionals working in difficult and dangerous conditions.
But no group is above reproach. I’ll never apologize for questioning authority. There are some questionable cases involving particular officers that should, in my opinion, be looked at. And the twisted loser who cowardly murdered two officers in Bed-Stuy should rot in hell. They’re not mutually exclusive. I can hold those two thoughts in my head.