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Through the Eyes of His Child
I've been getting death threats since I was born.
When my father arrests someone, it's not an unlikely response that an aggravated person will utter the words, "I'm gonna kill you for this, I'll kill your whole family!" So when my parent's told me and my brother to never open the door for someone we didn't know- a common warning against strangers- they were also trying to protect us from people who would want to hurt a police officer's family.
That notion confused me for a while, because in my eyes my father was a hero. I guess other people don't see him that way, but how could they not?
Each school year, I would be the most liked child at show-and-tell when my father pulled up in his police cruiser, lights flashing, a crisp blue uniform, and an award winning smile; he was superman.
As I grew up, I found myself a little more aware than the normal person. I notice when someone reaches for the side of their hip to pull out their wallet, I expect a gun. I notice when people's eyes shift around a room before getting up; I expect a robbery, only for them to use the restroom. I notice when someone seems to be following me and I try to out maneuver them, when it turns out we're only going the same way.
That is the life I grew up in. My family talk at the dinner table always has a story of who my father arrested the previous night. My dad carries a gun on his hip everywhere we go, and while others may see it as a threat; I know it's for our protection.
I know most of the officers in his department by name. The officers there have seen me grow, bought my Girl Scout cookies, and commented on my Facebook posts. At each car show and city event, I would wander up to the police tents; and while my friends would be guarded and cautious, a room full of cops was normal to me.
So, it wasn't until I was late in high school and early in my college years that I began to hear a different perspective of police officers.
It is such a tragedy that each morning we are alerted by the media of all the violence and wrongdoings that had taken place in the days beforehand. Gang violence, domestic abuse, child abuse, arson, homicide, suicide, drug overdoses and so many other terrible things affect our society each day.
Police brutality, potentially being the most discussed topic, covers every social media site and news outlet.
I was appalled. How could people write such terrible things about the people my father works with? And then I realized something, that the view of police I had always had was not the reality people faced every day.
There is a race issue in America.
There is a violence issue in America.
There are police officers who use their power for evil things. There are police officers who should not police officers because it takes a certain kind of patience, control, and bravery to be one and not all of us can be faced with violence every day and not be affected by it.
There are police officers who have mental illness and PTSD. There are police officers who are racist, sexist, ageist, who look at someone and think the worst.
There are police officers who should not have a badge. There are police officers…
Then there are people like my father; a police officer who has never killed anyone in his entire life. My father is a police officer who would rather spend his time helping people rather than hurting them.
He is a police officer who arrests more drunken people than anyone else because he works in a lively bar city. He delivers water, blankets, food, and money to a large homeless population who reside in the train station. My father is a man who taught me to stand up for what I believe in even if I stand alone.
He looks for the best in people, regardless of color or gender or age or status.
Racism is an epidemic in America. It is no secret than most people affected by police brutality are black males. It is absolutely terrible that what we see of police in the media and in our lives, are violent acts of racism, misconduct, and trigger happy morons that shouldn't have been named police officers in the first place.
That, however, is not the whole population of police officers. Like any occupation, there will be people who use their title and resources to exact their personal agendas.
It's sad that good police officers who are trying their best to protect their cities and residents are looked down upon for doing their jobs.
We, as civilians, don't know the pressures of a job such as being a police officer. We will never know what it is like to put on that uniform and respond to calls, usually with a vague description of the incident.
Most of us will never know what it is like to have a gun drawn on us. Most of us will never know what it is like fighting a person to try and put them in handcuffs. Most of us will never know what it is like to enter a situation where at any moment you could be shot or attacked. Most of us will never know what it is like encountering a child who is carrying a gun and in a moment must decide if they are a child playing with a toy or a child who intends to shoot people.
I am not in any way trying to downplay the issue of police brutality, because while some biased family members, friends, and outsiders will demand justice for police officers, I demand justice for all people. It is absolutely tragic that some police officers were given a gun and a title and get away with the terrible things they do because the law system in America favors police over civilians.
If a civilian shoots a police officer, they go to jail.
If a police officer shoots a civilian, for any other reason than to protect themselves or others against a threat, they deserve to go to jail as well.
Almost all civilians who injure or kill a police officer are sent to prison; so few police officers who use excessive force are given the same sentence. That is a flaw in our system. There has to be repercussions for police officers who violate other's rights, because unlike other jobs where that means not serving a customer, it means that people could be seriously hurt or killed.
My father is an awarded, terrific, police officer, who is now plagued with the stereotype that he is racist and became a police officer so he could be in a position of power.
I think it is fair that if we demand police officers to view civilians with an unbiased eye, we should demand the same thing from our civilians.
Not every black person is violent.
Not every white person is crimeless.
Not every man on a domestic abuse call is the abuser.
Not every child is innocent.
Not every gun is a threat.
Not every police officer is honest.
Not every police officer is corrupt.
These stereotypes we try to fight seem to bring us only to different stereotypes.
We, as a society and a government, need to address the issue of racism and police brutality. We need to punish those who use their position to hurt other people without cause.
We also need to address the issue of violence in America. There are people who draw guns on police and expect them not to respond. There are police officers, who in that split second make a decision that the rest of us view as wrong, were only trying to save other people's lives as well as their own.
There is something to be said that these issues that cover our media have only been given the opportunity to speak out after an act of violence on either side.
We seem to only pay attention to social issues in our society once someone dies because of the issue.
Something has to change.
It is so easy for us to sit our social media soapboxes and spout our opinions of how the justice system in America is so screwed up to the point where we should hate every police officer for the acts of a few. I have seen so many posts and articles explaining how angelic police officers are because the issue of racism and police brutality is all a lie.
I have seen every opinion a person could possibly have on the issue, but we so rarely remember that the good police officers in our country are so affected by their experiences, their situations, their circumstances, and their job that not every act of police brutality-to or from the police, is because of racism or biases.
When I was a little girl, finally old enough to understand what my father did for a living other than showing up for my show and tells, I cried myself to sleep each night for about a year. I prayed to God that my father had a guardian angel that would protect him from all the violence he could possibly encounter. I imagined him getting into shootouts with robbers, saving children from kidnappers, dealing with drunken people who wanted to fight him.
Now that I am older, I don't cry myself to sleep anymore but I am constantly waiting for a call from my mother than my father was killed in his line of duty. My nightmare is not that he died protecting someone or saving someone.
My nightmare is that he died for wearing his uniform.
So please, do not consider me an advocate for either side of this issue, because I understand that there are wrongdoings on either side.
I only wish that you give my father, and other police officers, the courtesy of respecting the job they do and the justice for the wrongdoings that might occur in their line of action-on either side.
I ask that you give him the understanding that while you may seem him as a corrupt branch of our messed up system in America, he is still my superman and always will be.