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April 30, 2015

Time to Support Our Police

Patricia A. Kelly

We are reeling from Monday’s riot in Baltimore. The people rioting are not animals, and mostly not even thugs, although those from outside, including whoever sent high school students the “Purge” message, along with riot instigators, arsonists and looters, are despicable.

Were they really thinking of those who so need the few neighborhood stores in existence? Did they care about the senior citizens who lost housing? Did they really want to leave the city more devastated?

Simmering anger among the poor, black community, especially in a city such as Baltimore, suffering terribly from loss of jobs and emigration to the suburbs, is understandable. It is also difficult to erase the memory of hundreds of years of discrimination and mistreatment, no matter how things are today, and things today are not always good.

Some attempts at help, such as misguided federal programs that required fathers to live separately from their children, and immediate welfare elimination among people who got jobs, causing jobs to impoverish people, actually made things worse.

Poor schooling, poor parenting, and hopelessness have cycled through generation after generation, in a world where great shoes and early parenthood provide instant gratification when the deck is stacked against genuine success.

These problems must be addressed, and they are complicated. Baltimoreans deserve this, especially those whose homes I pass so frequently, where, in the midst of desolation, I see cleanliness, flowers and painted porches.

The police, of Baltimore and everywhere, most of them incredibly good, brave and giving, are now under siege. They are the first line of defense and the first protectors of order in our society. They are even targeted for attack by ISIS.

My first personal relationship with a police officer involved my attempt to find him a house inside Frederick City. At that time any decent house cost well over $100,000. He could barely stretch his income enough to qualify for a derelict house in the $60,000 range, a house which would not even pass loan inspection.

Later, I spent time with police in my work as an emergency nurse. Older police officers were incredibly good at de-escalation and at professional behavior in the face of abuse. Younger officers had a harder time not “accidentally” being a little rough, so I often stood by to help them remain professional, in my role as charge nurse. In virtually every encounter, I found them to be amazing-funny, caring, and invariably willing to risk their lives to protect and care for others.

Police risk exposure to deadly disease, as some of their “friends” from the streets are all too willing to share their body fluids with them, spitting, biting and, Tuesday in Baltimore, tossing a bottle full of urine at them. In addition, they face the possibility of being attacked and killed at any moment.

Prepared and coached, required to behave professionally, they face stress we can only imagine.

Thirty-eight U.S. police officers have been killed in the line of duty in 2015.  Statistics are not clear, but it appears just over 350 civilians of all races have also been killed during this time. Many shootings were justified, and every death should be examined and accounted for by an independent examiner.

Forty-nine percent of people killed by police this year were Caucasian. Thirty percent were black, nineteen percent Hispanic, and two percent Asian. Black men are more likely than Caucasians to be killed, due to population percentage differences and higher numbers of police encounters. Police encounters number in the many tens of thousands per year. Deaths are rare, and every life counts.

There are bad cops, and cops who crack under pressure. In the case of Freddie Gray, it appears quite possible he was killed without justification by a police officer. If so, whoever did it must take the consequences.

Even our president doesn’t get it about the police. He jumps to criticize, never complaining about Caucasian deaths, and completely fails to recognize the overall exemplary performance of these guardians of law and order, or how essential they are to our society.

War on police is not only unfair, but dangerous to us all, and feeds right into the jihadi wish for chaos in the Western world.

It’s past time to support our police, and provide them with all they need to do their jobs well.

Thank a police officer today.


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