There's no debate about the wrongness of his death. If you tried to engage me in a debate about it, I would break the habit of a lifetime and walk away, chiefly to protect you from my instinctive reaction to such disgusting nonsense. I don't, however, expect any of you to be that kind of fool (or any kind of fool, for that matter) - but they are out there. Trust me, they are out there in their droves, and all too frequently they have the loudest voices, and access to a story-hungry media willing to print anything in order to stir up copy-selling controversy. People such as those won't have got themselves past the photo, so it is the reasonable minds that I am addressing.
The thing is: I've been there - in more ways than one. I know the road upon which this man died: it is straight and the view of the point at which he died is clear and unobstructed. The road is a dual carriageway: two double lane roadways separated by a central median strip. There was no need for anyone to be hurt that night - the 'accident' was entirely avoidable. But a man was killed. I've also been 'there' in another sense: I've deployed the same device for the same reasons, and I've felt the momentary "What if he...?" worry about the driver doing something irrational and mowing me down. It's not Hollywood. It's real, and it's going on all around you, every day.
Think about that if your first response to bad news about the police might be "Huh- typical!", or similar, or worse. What's your job? How well does anyone else understand it? And:
- How would you feel if a stranger decided that you were an asshole, simply because the last time they met someone with the same job, they had a bad experience?
- How would you feel if you were out for an evening with friends, and someone you didn't know started a fight with you because they discovered what you did for a living?
- How would you feel if almost everyone you met was of the opinion that they could do your job better than you?
- How would you feel if even the people you tried to help tried to hurt you, spat on you, or insulted you in the most vile ways possible?
- How would you feel if people ignored the fact that - in unglamorous, yet very real ways - you put your life on the line for complete strangers, because that is what you promised to do?
- How would you feel if you lost a colleague in the line of duty, and were taunted about it by a crowd at a sporting event, because that was considered funny?
- How would you reflect on your profession if a solitary '"Thank you!" was the only golden ray of sunshine on an otherwise dreary, grey and depressing day?
These are truths - just some of them - that police officers face each and every day. Because they do so, we can go about our lives blissfully unaware that we have just walked past a wanted criminal who will be arrested around the corner and found to be in possession of a large knife. We can blithely watch TV in our homes while across town a cop is performing CPR on a drug overdose victim. We can eat our spaghetti and meatballs and bitch at length about the mess we just made on our shirts because out of sight and sound, someone in uniform is standing behind a halted train, looking down at the remains of what was once a human being. We can get on with our peaceful meal and grumble about how long it took the cops to get there to drag the obnoxious drunk out of the bar, because the cops DID get there and drag the obnoxious drunk out of the bar. In other words, we can get on with out lives and be upset about our petty issues because the police are out there taking care of so much of the other stuff on our behalf.
I doubt that there is any other profession which takes as much open criticism as does the police service. Having left the job many years ago, I've been able to see it from the outside, and I am perfectly willing to accept that no police service is perfect - and neither can it be. I'm prepared to criticize the actions of cops, but my criticism is based upon having been in similar situations, having made countless risk assessments, and having made decisions in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, on almost every occasion, I made it home unhurt. Some did not - and the losses continue.
Yes, there are bad cops: too many bad cops, but then even one bad cop is one too many. The bad cops are, however, a tiny minority, and their appalling behaviour gives society the excuse to be 'cool' and bad-mouth every police officer based upon YouTube videos and salacious news headlines. All police officers may be considered to be as bad as one another, or so it seems.
It's cool to hate ALL police - apparently. Yep it's cool: right up until the moment you find yourself upside down in your car, in a ditch and with water creeping in. Right up until you hear strange noises in the house in the middle of the night. Right up until your neighbour starts throwing dog shit into your garden and at your front door and challenges you to do something about it...Then who do you want? I bet you don't call your dentist.
No, you'd call the police and hope that the person who turns up is the kind of person that the overwhelming majority of my colleagues undoubtedly were: good, honest people with your interests at heart, and willing to put themselves in harm's way on your behalf. The kind of person lying in the casket in the photograph above.
That's what real police officers tend to be: exactly the type of person you would want to come and help you. Think about that the next time you hear someone claiming that they know what all cops are like...how many other people do you know who go to work in the knowledge that because of what they do at work, there is a real chance that they won't come home?