OPINION – In my now growing tenure as writer for this community, I often hear it said that unless I have walked a mile in the shoes of someone or some entity, I couldn’t possibly grasp their plight.
Can we please dismiss this logical fallacy for the heap of emotional drivel it is?
Last week, the community at large reacted rather loudly to the St. George Police Department’s well-equipped capabilities when it responded to a domestic disturbance with a showing of overwhelming force that was questionably appropriate for the situation.
Note that I say questionably.
I have immense faith in our law enforcement here locally and if they maintain that this response was necessary, I take them at their word.
But it was taken a little bit farther still by someone responding to a published Letter to the Editor of St. George News. In the comments section, one person commented with such articulation that I could reasonably infer he was either an officer himself, or was closely related to one in some way. He gave a great explanation of the response and implored people to just let the police do their jobs.
In other words, don’t question them?
The very hint of a situation in which the general public and press alike are implored to not question the police gives not only grave pause but also a reason to question them even more.
In this country the privilege of police power carries inherent accountability and anyone who says otherwise should definitely not be wearing a badge.
Furthermore, in this particular scenario, anyone who says that the incident and its subsequent public outcry was much ado about nothing has a limited understanding of history and implications that reasonably came to mind; i.e. when one recalls the showing of military force in public settings over history past, images of emerging totalitarian regimes are remembered, no?
There is simply no way around the fact that this appeared on all fronts to be less a police operation and more a military one.
And that scares people.
The safety of police officers being of supreme priority notwithstanding, they should understand that what the general public is weary of is even the hint of a police state.
In fact, believe it or not, most cops agree.
So why do we have an “us versus them” vibe here?
I would assert that it is mostly misunderstanding.
The police rightly feel themselves in a no-win situation here. If they do not respond well enough they get hammered. If they over respond, they get hammered.
But here is something you may not understand: Most of them can take it and understand it as part of their job.
And to those of them who can, I have this question: Are the lines between our uniformed police and our military becoming a little blurred?
Because if they are, we are heading in a very bad direction and I expect those of you who swore your oaths to step up and keep it from happening.
Are we heading down a road where it becomes eventual and matter-of-fact that a legislator sees that money can be saved by combining the operations of military and police – thereby dismantling yet another staple of our checks and balances as a free people by disavowing the Posse Comitatus Act? *
Those of us in the press corps and the broader citizenry are counting on you, our police force, and we stand at the ready to do our jobs; which is to support you in your most difficult jobs and hold you accountable to the supreme privilege of power you hold.
Spare me the “you can’t understand” argument and suck it up. Liberty requires a cohesive relationship between citizens and police. Autonomy is not a commodity the police are allowed or can afford.
And, neither is a hysterical and reactionary public that assumes the worst of our men and women in the line of duty.
I heard a caller on the Perspectives morning radio show suggest a citizens review board, much like cities across the nation have, be implemented in St. George; our growth appears to appreciate it.
If we are in an era here where situations mandate paramilitary police operations, then we are in an era where more accountability to the people needs to be in place.
See you out there.
*18 USC § 1385: Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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