Just how thin is the thin blue line?
Averaging various studies the United States has 248 law enforcement officers per 100,000 residents or the 34th lowest in the world. Those figures include anybody with the authority to arrest such as FBI agents, Immigration & Customs Enforcement and a whole slew of A to Z federal and state agencies with enforcement powers in addition to the men and women who respond when you call 9-1-1.
When you get down to officers that work for local law enforcement — the ones we rely on to keep our neighborhoods and streets safe — there are roughly 100 per 100,000 residents.
Simply put, there isn’t a lot of cavalry.
No one is going to argue that there aren’t officers who have no business being in law enforcement. The same can be said for other professions from teaching and medicine to driving cabs.
Nor should officers get a pass from following rules due to the type of job they have.
But the thought that an extremely small but growing handful of protestors are pursuing that somehow we live in a police state therefore it’s open season on officers is just as a dangerous threat to the republic as were the terrorists that hijacked three planes and slammed them into targets on American soil on 9-11.
Civilization exists only when there is order.
Although the political correct extremists are trying to make speech or action that they don’t like illegal, those who wear the badge aren’t thought police.
They are defending our communities against crime whether it is violence, stealing, wanton destruction, or irresponsible driving.
They encounter people every day suspected of undermining civilization who are often not predisposed to cooperating or being arrested. They will sometimes make threatening moves toward police officers. That may include moving to pull something from their pocket while advancing, lunging at an officer to try and cause them great bodily harm or grab a weapon, or to plunge some sharp object into them.
If someone raises a realistic looking toy gun against them they can’t tell the difference in a split second it would take that person to pull the trigger. Few of us would be crazy enough if we had a way of defending ourselves with our own weapon to simply stand there and play Russian roulette. Officers have a right to still be alive when their shift ends.
Nor can they tell if a gun being raised and pointed at them is empty or loaded or if the person has no real intention of shooting. They aren’t psychics.
And in those cases when someone is violently resisting they do not know if they have a weapon they can pull, are on PCP, or can overpower them.
That’s why they are trained to use chokeholds and such to control a situation before it results in serious injury or death to themselves, a bystander or the suspect.
Officers can’t tell whether someone attacking them has a heart condition or other serious hidden health ailments. So if they opt to use less than lethal force — a Taser — and the person later dies of a heart attack how much of that blame, if any, should fall on a police officer?
Again, there are instances of officers exceeding their authority and reasonable restraint. The full Rodney King video underscores that point. For perhaps the first 50 second or so, officers were in a violent struggle to control King, but for the final minute of the video it is clear they were beating him mercilessly.
If you post threats on line, why are you surprised that you get arrested? Give your child a replica automatic weapon to play with, why are you incensed that an officer shoots them when he aggressively points it at them? Take a swing at an officer when they are trying to arrest you, how can you be incensed they used force?
Yes, less than lethal force can lead to death if all of the circumstances are right. Would you prefer officers not use Tasers, chokeholds, and other less-than-lethal weapons and go right to firing their guns?
Would you rather not have an officer draw a gun when they determine they have no other choice and embolden the lawless?
You don’t call a protestor in Oakland when there is a drive-by shooting in your neighborhood, a gunman walking down your street, your home is being burglarized or you see someone being beaten up or robbed.
That isn’t to say police don’t cross the line.
But let’s also make it clear protestors also cross the line.
Advocating violence against police officers is the same as declaring it an open season on all law-abiding citizens.
The men and women or law enforcement are the only ones stopping American streets from turning into a domestic Kabul. But instead of ideological terrorists the people no longer being kept in check would be the domestic terrorists who rape, rob, steal, plunder, maim and kill.
Just think what your world would be like without police officers.
Everyday would be like the world depicted in the movie “Purge” where all laws are suspended and officers would never respond.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.