Yesterday, Dutch novelist and Huffington Post columnist Pia de Jong published her take on my recent blog post “My Brother Was Killed Because He Wore A Uniform.” Full disclosure, though Pia only knew Dave peripherally, she knows my parents through my dad’s work and has been touched by this tragedy for that reason. Pia’s piece marked the first time a more left-leaning outlet picked up my post (so please go comment & support the post!), and I well know this is because the author knows our family. At the same time, my piece has meanwhile been shared on various law enforcement Facebook pages (like Law Enforcement Today) and websites (like Police Daily), CBS DFW did an article on it, and the Star Telegram mentioned the post in a discussion of Dave’s killer.
Of course, the law enforcement community can easily relate to my post. It serves to humanize a man in a uniform at a time when media depictions of police officers are highly polarized. The LEO community cares because we all know that our husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and best friends are so much more than the blue they wear. Our loved ones’ job is not what defines them. Every single person in the law enforcement community can imagine and understand the fear and pain of losing their loved one. I imagine that many of the LEO readers see my post and contemplate the words they would write in tribute to their man or woman in blue, or perhaps, think about what would be written about them.
The question I’m grappling with is how the average person can be brought to see the humanity in officers. Unfortunately, the uniform is a symbol for a larger system that many people feel is problematic or even oppressive. And, you know what, support of our police does not mean that we can’t at the same time also acknowledge problematic officers or policies that inflict hardship and pain in some communities. It is not a contradiction to do so. It means we’re able to see the gray areas. It means that we have nuance.
Yet, there is a distinct separation between a problematic system and the individual officers that are sworn to uphold laws and perform the duty of protecting and serving their communities. The police officer is responsible for dealing with situations that most of the time, by definition, involve conflict, suffering and confrontation. Unless we have interacted with a police officer personally, and in a positive way, it’s difficult to look beyond the uniform to see the man or woman who is doing an important job that requires patience, bravery, and split-second decision-making.
How can we get to a place where, instead of yelling at each other from opposite sides, we face each other with tolerance, understanding and a true desire to find common ground?
I would love to hear your thoughts. Email them to the ForHofer email address, and I will post some responses anonymously.