To Errr is Human

In my last post we talked about police use of force and the standard by which it is to judged from a legal standpoint. In my posts throughout the week I have talked about the fact that police officers sometimes make mistakes, sometimes get caught up in the moment and even sometimes become emotionally invested in the situation. Law enforcement is a profession where you are required to deal with a myriad of situations and emotions and often times make split second decisions, some of them life changing. Sometimes, in the course of making these decisions, officers get it wrong. To err is human and police officers are not exempt.

Law enforcement professionals are bound by several sources. They are required to uphold the United States Constitution, state constitution, state law and any departmental procedures. That is a lot of sources and materials to adhere to, yet it is part of the job so we do what we have to. We do the best that we can with this profession that constantly looms with uncertainty, an unfortunate byproduct of the profession.

It’s no secret that police are not a perfect people. The media is not at all shy about pointing out that there are officers who do not flawlessly carry out the execution of their oath of office and some that seem to disregard it all together. The first group will always exist, mostly unintentionally and/or unknowingly, in my opinion. It is my opinion that in their moment of error, they ought to be extended grace, learn their lessons and be allowed to move on to become better officers. This approach would be much more productive and saves them the character bludgeoning from the court of public opinion. Not every officer who uses poor judgment or makes an earnest mistake deserves to be shamed and/or fired. We have all received the favor of grace at some point in our lives.

The latter, however, tends to lend a black eye to the entire profession. When an officer recklessly or worse, maliciously, encroaches upon the rights and freedoms of others they ought to be disciplined appropriately. The discipline though, must be proportionate to the offense.

Law enforcement is a noble profession; a profession which must be maintained at the highest degree of standards and integrity. Failure to maintain high standards and integrity amongst the ranks reflects poorly amongst officers everywhere. It makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a reputation of service and character when there are officers who willfully break the law and engage in other flagrant behaviors. There is no room for this mistrust in law enforcement. A failure to recognize and act upon legitimate instances further places a wedge between law enforcement and the communities that it serves.

At the same time, these law enforcement professionals need the opportunity to do their jobs. This overwhelming urge to bait officers into confrontation is nothing short of provocation. These acts of sensationalism are trending like popular hash tags on social media. Really, it’s short of an attempt to place officers in a lose/lose situation when they are already on edge from the increased social violence and unwarranted ambushes. It’s impossible to truly determine someone’s intent and in the end there are never any winners or happy endings.

Police officers are people, people are humans and to err is human. Mistakes will be made and judgment will sometimes be flawed. We must remember, though, that one incident does not denote an entire profession. The moment we lump an entire group by the actions a few we effectively engage in bigotry. This holds true on both sides of the line. Knowledge breeds open mindedness, open mindedness breeds tolerance and a little tolerance goes a very long way.