Thursday, July 23, 2009

To Protect and Serve

Scott and I received an email to the Wynn and Wilson Morning Show recently. It was from a loyal listener, who was also a police officer, and he was troubled by what he perceived to be "pot shots" that had been taken at police officers on our show. The subjects of the incidents he was referring to were controversial news stories involving police officers pulling people over and/or making a controversial arrests that we ended up talking about on the air.

3 of the incidents were recorded on dash cam videos which were up on You Tube and had received thousands and thousands of views by the time we talked about them. One was of a Grandma who got tasered. Another was of an officer pulling over an ambulance with a patient in the back of the car. The third was of a man pulled over for speeding while trying to get to his dying mother-in-law's bedside. And the final incident involved a Sandusky man arrested for mowing a city park that had become overgrown.

All of the situations had tensions flaring on both sides. The Grandma was a jerk, no doubt. She kept "daring" the officer to taser her. The Sandusky man was argumentative and in these 2 situations people could at least understand the officer's frustration. The other 2 were a little more dicey and after several views of the video, most people not siding with the officers.

We felt that these were pretty good morning show topics. They were major news stories that people were talking about. And so, after the news, we opened the phone lines and let people express their opinions. We aired both sides of the story. In my explanation to the police officer who wrote in, I did tell him that we said on the air that more than once that we believe these situations to be the exception and not the rule. We know that the majority of police officers are on the job to protect and serve. We can only imagine how difficult their job is each and every day. One of my good friend's husband is a police officer, and I know the worry and fear every time he goes to work. Still, even with that disclaimer, the calls that came in leaned against the police officers in these situations, and I understand how any police officer listening might feel a bit defensive.

I put a lot of time and thought into my email response back to him. And in the end, I apologized and meant it. We may not mean to offend or hurt others with our words, or even in giving the forum to others to share their opinions. So when that happens, I feel badly. I tried to explain that I think it stinks when a few bad apples reflect poorly on the whole bunch, but also that just because they are only a few doesn't mean they shouldn't be called out. When people are in positions of authority, they should be held to a higher standard, and when they screw up, it should be brought out big time.

This isn't true of just police officers. There are several professions where a select few tarnished the overall image of a profession. The same can be said for of any position where power and authority preside: from policemen to teachers, to politicians, judges or Catholic priests. If anyone in a position of authority is caught doing something that abuses that authority and trust; shouldn't we be able to see it if there's video? Debate it? Get mad abut it... and if they are found to be wrong, expect the repercussions to be heavy?

That police officer did get me thinking. These men and women take their lives in their hands every time they go to work. How scary it must be to know that a routine traffic stop could end up taking your life. How difficult it must be to go to work and know the majority of the people you will come in contact with are doing something illegal, immoral or worse. You Tube videos like that being played over and over again can have people mistrusting police officers more than is fair, because certainly we never see the heroic things they do every day played over and over again. That's just not news, I guess. But I would be proud to share any stories like that I hear...I'd love to give the other side now.

I know the majority of our police officers are there to protect and serve and I know they would be there for me and my family if we needed them.

And for that I thank and salute them.