SAN DIEGO – You can bet that many law enforcement officers had a “blue” Christmas. The air is heavy with the haunting sound of bagpipes as police officers pay respects to fallen brothers.
For me – the son of a retired law enforcement officer – the issue of dead cops can’t be discussed in the abstract. It’s personal.
I remember the day my dad took me aside and told me that he might not come home because someone had been going around town threatening his life. I was 10.
The thousands of men and women who do this thankless job are like family. And my friends on the force tell me there is, among the rank and file, a combustible mixture of anxiety and anger over a rash of cop killings.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
It’s not just about New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were murdered on Dec. 20 as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.
It’s about Florida officer Charles Kondek of the Tarpon Springs Police Department. The father of six was responding to a noise complaint on Dec. 21 when he was killed by a fugitive.
And it’s about Arizona police officer Tyler Stewart, a 24-year-old rookie of the Flagstaff Police Department who was shot to death on Saturday by a domestic violence suspect.
A few days ago, the Los Angeles Police Department went on tactical alert after two men fired on officers in a patrol car.
What in the world is happening?
The epicenter of the storm is New York, where Pat Lynch, president of the city’s largest police union, has said that Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood” on his hands.
Earlier this month, de Blasio – in a lame attempt to relate to an African American audience – made an inappropriate comment about how he taught his multiracial son to be leery of police officers. Being on guard against the police isn’t easy to do when the security detail guarding you is made up of police officers.
During the unrest several weeks ago in Ferguson, Mo., liberal sympathizers in the media turned rioting and looting into a form of free speech. Now some police officers are exercising their free speech by turning their backs on de Blasio at public events.
Bravo for them. The cops have the right to be upset at the mayor, and they also have the right to show it.
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems intent on not upsetting anyone.
“The mayor has my full support,” Cuomo said during a recent interview. “The union leaders have my full support. The community activists have my full support.”
Thank you, governor. That was helpful. Once protests become “anti-police,” as many now have, you can’t support both protesters and police.
Protesting excessive force by police officers is not like protesting for equal pay, or trade embargoes, or immigration reform. In this narrative, there’s a villain and he wears a uniform. Should we be surprised that cops would take exception?
It’s not new for those who protect and serve to feel unappreciated. But what they can do without is feeling unsafe.
As I imagine officers getting ready for their shifts by strapping on their bulletproof vests and checking their guns, I hear my father’s voice, saying how – in a phrase well-known to cops – he’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.
There might be people out there who are so outraged by the killing – by police – of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and others that they’re eager to retaliate.
At a recent protest in New York, someone called out, “What do we want?” And someone else answered, “Dead cops!”
When someone kills police officers, they’re threatening the social order. Back in frontier days, when lawmen had names like Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok, killing a sheriff or marshal would get someone a quick hanging. Murdering lawmen was tantamount to anarchy. After all, if you killed enough of them, you could take over a town.
To this day, in what is supposed to be a deterrent, killing a law enforcement officer is a “special circumstance” crime that will usually get an assailant the death penalty.
I would imagine that most 10-year-olds don’t know that, but I did. And it gave me comfort.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.