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Those aren’t the police I know

Those aren’t the police I know Those aren’t the police I know

– Column –

This past Memorial Day, May 25, some Americans attended services, honoring those who served their country. Others gathered together for barbecues, picnics and backyard games. Still others hit the road for trips to scenic parks or hikes on nature trails.

But this year, for 46-year-old George Floyd, his Memorial Day experience was not what anyone expected. Floyd ended his day – his life – face down on Minneapolis, Minn., pavement, with a police officer’s knee on his neck.

The officer was in the middle of arresting Floyd, when the prisoner sank to the ground and the officer placed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the ground. Floyd called out he couldn’t breathe, but the officer and fellow law enforcement, continued to hold down the man in custody.

According to multiple publications, autopsies revealed the cause of death as asphyxia, while toxicology reports revealed Floyd was under the influence of fentanyl and had recently used methamphetamines.

Having watched the videos taken of Floyd’s arrest, it doesn’t appear he was putting up a fight, which indicates the excessive force used was unnecessary. However, playing devil’s advocate, I also don’t know how I would have reacted if I suspected he was “on something,” as someone “using” is nothing to fool around with.

Perhaps the biggest issue that has been made, is that Floyd was African American, while the officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, is Caucasian. Since his death, outrage over what people are calling murder, has sparked a chain reaction of protests, calling for an end to racism and justice for the fallen.

Riots, lootings, shootings and more, are taking place across the country and even globally. Stores have been torched, monuments have been defaced and streets are blocked as protesters stand, with linked arms, daring officers to be the “bad guys” and arrest them. This, I think, is wrong.

I think that the Minnesota officer was in the wrong and should be punished within the full extent of the law. I, too, want justice and racial equality.

But, I think the hate people are displaying against police officers is wrong. Without a police presence, there would be no order, no protection, no sense of security. In many cases, the police are the first on scene, when 911 receives a call that someone is having a heart attack or other health emergency.

How many lives have those officers saved before EMS arrived, because the officer(s) started CPR and carried a defibrillator? How quickly we forget that important part of their job, when one officer makes a deadly mistake.

There are probably many corrupt or cruel police officers, I won’t deny that. In fact, I’d dare anyone to find someone in authority, somewhere, some time, who doesn’t fit that description and abuse what power they are given.

But, when people are bad-mouthing all law enforcement, openly breaking laws they know officers are duty-bound to uphold, shooting at police or starting acts of violence against them, that’s where this cause loses credibility to me.

The monsters people speak of – those aren’t the police I know.

See, I know some cops are probably not nice or law-abiding, having their own agenda. It’s just, for me, police mean a very different thing; perhaps it all comes from living in such a rural area, perhaps it’s just that I know them personally, but I admire, appreciate and care for our local law enforcement.

When I think of the police, I don’t shudder in fear or feel myself grow angry. Instead, I smile.

I smile, because I think of Officer Abbate, who stopped in the office one night, when we had fallen behind and had to work late to get the weekly paper out, concerned something may be wrong, because we’re never here this late.

I smile, because I think of Officer Maurice, who stopped on his walking rounds one July 4 celebration, to play hopscotch with some kids. I smile when I think of Office Pries, who referees high school basketball and carries a pocketful of candy to hand out to little kids in the bleachers.

I smile, when I think of retired Officer Close, who doesn’t like dogs, but purchased a reflective vest for a couple’s dog, so the canine could be clearly seen when out walking. I smile when I think of Chief Eslinger’s personal-use car, that randomly starts honking, making us all laugh and how proud he is to lead parades in his patrol car.

I smile, when I think of retired Chief Barnier, who loved handing out “official” badge stickers to kids touring the station and sharing interesting tidbits with me about forest toadstools. I smile, when I think of the state patrol officer who pulled over the time I stopped to help someone with car trouble and how the officer thanked me warmly for caring enough to render assistance.

I smile, when I think of Sheriff Kowalczyk’s laugh at ballgames and chicken dinners, when we chat as I take photos of our communities. I smile, when I think of Officer Donnelly, who took the time to help unload and carry kayaks/canoes, at a Floatilla event at our park.

And I smile, when I think of Chief Hurt, who got down on his hands and knees, on blistering cold pavement, laying his hand gently on the shoulder of an elderly lady who was involved in an accident, reassuring her everything was going to be OK.

Those are the police I know. And they don’t seem like the cold, insensitive monsters people make them out to be.