The past few years have made many people wake up to the reality of police brutality in our society. Too many innocent lives have been lost to institutionalized racism, including Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and countless others.
This article is not being written to say police brutality doesn’t exist, or it isn’t as bad as people say it is- It’s just as bad as it sounds. I am completely on the side of Black Lives Matter, and am proud to call myself a social activist for their cause.
However, during a Drivers Ed class the other day, I listened to someone speak that opened my mind to another aspect of this issue that the mainstream media and other social activists don’t really focus on. A police officer that came to speak to my class opened up about how police brutality affects him and his men on the force.
Being a police officer is scary. This police officer, who was a very kind, open man, told us quite a few stories about having guns pulled on him (even being shot at a few times) and being beat up by suspected criminals. He told us how every time he leaves his house he is a little afraid for his life, and wonders if he will make it home that day. So, if a police officer believes his life is in danger, he’s going to shoot first and ask questions later.
While I don’t necessarily agree with that, and it certainly doesn’t excuse the mindless killing of many young black civilians, there is an element of truth to his statement. Police officers are people, just like us- and in their line of work, they’re constantly wondering if they will make it home to their families. Hearing a police officer talk about how he is constantly worried about leaving his wife without a husband and his two daughters without a dad did a lot to humanize people officers in my eyes.
Lastly, this police officer didn’t have anything positive to say about his fellow officers on the force who have shot and killed people, especially those who killed unarmed black civilians. In his mind, killing a person is a crime and he regrets every time he has used his gun. But his take on the issue was as such: We should focus on ending the institutionalized racism in our country, which is the true crux of the issue, and working to educate those on the police force about police brutality. I appreciated his view on the issue, as a police officer, and it was an educational experience.