Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thinner Blue Line, Part II

I did not intend for this to be a two-part post. Sadly, Monday’s story of a police officer being executed, in a week when 7 officers had been killed nationwide, was not the end.
Fox Lake honor Lt. Gliniewicz
image by Brian Hill, Daily Herald, via AP, found here

Tuesday, there was an officer killed in Chicago. A manhunt continues for three men, two white and one black. According to news reports,

[Veteran police office Lt. Charles Joseph ] Gliniewicz was patrolling in an industrial area in the suburb of Fox Lake shortly before 8 a.m. The officer radioed dispatch to say he was going to check on suspicious activity he had spotted. He requested backup about three minutes after initially spotting the men, and the responding officers got to the area six minutes later, according to police. The responding officers found Gliniewicz's body lying in a marshy area.
Lt. Charles Joseph Glineiwicz
image from Fox Lake Police Dept., via AP, found here
Gliniewicz was the father of four boys, and known as a positive force in the community. He had been an officer for more than 30 years. While details of the altercation are unknown, stopping to question three people who appear out of place in an area of open fields and abandoned industrial buildings would be considered basic police procedure. He was killed for just doing his job.

And in Abilene, Texas, 27-year-old Officer Don Allen was killed in his home in nearby Clyde. It appears to be a premeditated murder, possibly only because he was a police officer. He was found by family members. He leaves behind parents and siblings, and his fiancée. Texas Rangers are leading the investigation, with help from local police and the FBI. They have leads, but so far have not captured the killer(s).
Officer Don Allen
image found here

Chief Stan Stanridge said Officer Allen was a great man and a great officer, who loved his job and always did it with a smile. He had been part of the Abilene force for about a year and a half, after serving elsewhere. When he moved to this force, he went through the entire six-month course, rather than an abbreviated one, to be fully integrated into the force in Abilene. He went above and beyond expectations.

Eventually the president, back from renaming a mountain in Alaska, took a moment to make a phonecall to the family of slain Deputy Goforth here in northwest Houston. And he made a statement, or rather, he sent out a paragraph to the media.

Wednesday evening there was an additional attack, in Pennsylvania. A female officer, Sergeant Melissa Ruch, stopped to offer aid at a car that was pulled over on Route 309 of West Penn Township. She was slashed with a knife (apparently only got her shirt) and then was thrown over the guardrail. She was airlifted to the hospital, and at last report is in critical condition. Trooper David Boehm, reports, “The person that we’re looking for is a Hispanic male, 6’2″ to 6’4″, 240 to 260 pounds. He was wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans, the kind that go way down below your knees and possibly in a dark colored Nissan Maxima.” An earlier news report said the perpetrator was a black man, but probably the trooper’s report is more accurate.

Is there a war on police officers? That’s a question I didn’t expect to ever ask.

Going back a bit further than the last ten days, CNN lists the 24 officers across the US that have been killed this year. If you add in the officers who have died from other causes, such as traffic accidents, the number goes up to 85.

When I was growing up, and there were riots in various cities (not mine), there were certain elements who referred to police officers derogatorily as fuzz and pigs. I never understood it. But that seemed to go away, at least from my general awareness. Now it’s back, with viler language.

A young woman in Houston tweeted that she thought Deputy Goforth deserved to die—because he had “perv eyes,” whatever that means. She doesn’t like his looks, and that’s a capital offense? Karma worked in her case: because of her tweet going viral, her location was revealed to police, and they arrested her on an outstanding warrant of causing bodily harm.

Further away, there were anti-police-brutality protestors at the Minnesota State Fair who shouted “Pigs in a Blanket, Fry ‘em like bacon,” a chant that has been used at various protests across the country. But this was the day after the shooting of Deputy Goforth. Ironically their invective “free speech” was protected by local police.  

Calling for violence is savage. Acting violently is even worse. The people who do these things are so full of hate, they may not even recognize how savage their behavior is. They are essentially a new version of the KKK. How was that defeated? It was shamed. That meant some of it went hidden, but it’s so wrong that you can’t find anyone today who is accepted in polite society. Overwhelming majorities cringe at the very idea of a group that hides their faces and goes out terrorizing and even killing people because of their race. There’s no part of society, beyond a few marginal wingnuts who consider the KKK a legitimate segment of society.

We used to have the Black Panthers, who, unlike Martin Luther King, Jr., used violence to express their hatred of the larger society. Martin Luther King’s way won. The Black Panthers disappeared. Until they reappeared a few years ago as the New Black Panthers, claiming to be wanting positive movement in society, but in the process using intimidation, such as at polling places. It may be that BlackLivesMatter is an offshoot of the hatred of that other group. I don’t know. But this version seems to be particularly hateful toward peace officers.

How do we overcome this ugly, violent hate? We’ve done it before. By being better people. By standing up for what is right. By supporting those the haters target.

I thought my community’s response to Deputy Goforth’s death was appropriate. All people came together, in honor of Deputy Goforth’s memory, in support of his family, and in support of the police. No one protested at the perpetrator’s home; it is satisfying enough that he was apprehended and will go through the legal process.

Glenn Beck called for a time of prayer for our peace officers, and in our state Governor Abbott has called for prayer and support at the same time. Tomorrow at 11:00 (CDT), we ring bells, turn on flashing lights if we’re in our cars, and otherwise stop what we’re doing and pray. Beck suggests a prayer adapted from the 1700s:

Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you with humble hearts. We pray for your protection over all law enforcement as they faithfully serve our communities. We lift up to you the family of Deputy Darren Goforth and all the families of first responders in our military who have lost loved ones. Comfort them and provide them with your peace that surpasses understanding in the midst of unimaginable grief. God, we ask for your healing over our communities. Let us come together and unite in peace and prayer. In your name we pray. Amen.
If we do have a significant segment of society that thinks it’s all right to kill whomever they hate, we are in dire trouble. As Beck says, go to police stations and “pray for safety of all of the people there, pray for vision, pray for sight beyond their own eyes, and safety and protection for those protectors who protect us.” And he adds, “I’m out of political solutions. I’m out of financial solutions. I’m out of business solutions. We have passed all of the exits. What will save this country is us standing.”

I stand with the police. For our nephew who recently graduated from the Police Academy in New York, where he will now serve as an officer. And for our neighbor, who grew up in our church, who recently graduated from the Police Academy in Austin and will serve there. And the many many I don’t know but nevertheless care about and trust and support. I pray for their safety in these difficult times. And I pray for better times, if that is God’s will.

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