I am the daughter and granddaughter of police officers. I was raised to believe that the police had our best interests in mind. The police were the good guys.
And mostly they are.
Police officers are the first to put themselves between the people and danger. For that they should be honored and rewarded.
But they are not above the law. They do not get to have their behaviors dismissed because they carry a badge and a gun.
That badge is not a get out of jail free card.
My father was a southern cop during the Civil Rights movement. He saw sides of people that some of us will never see. He watched people stand up for what they believed was right. He saw men and women cross lines that they knew would lead them (and him) into dangerous circumstances. He believed in equality. He believed in the law. He believed that everyone deserved fair access to the system he served.
I think he would be appalled by what this country is experiencing today as we watch one police officer after another get absolved for their sins, for breaking the laws they vowed to uphold, without so much as a slap on the wrist.
My father always told me a police officer uses force only as a last resort. You treat people like human beings first. You give them a chance, a pause, a moment to think about their choices. You hope for the best. You never draw your gun unless there is genuine danger. You never pull the trigger unless you are in a kill-or-be-killed situation.
My father told me that taking a life should bring you pain. It should hurt you to do it. You should do all you can to do something else. The badge is not a license to kill. It is a license to protect.
My father was a cop. He was in actual dangerous situations with tangible violence, vicious criminals, and people with a history of terrorist aggression and access to dangerous weapons.
Real crime. Real danger.
A man selling illegal cigarettes on a New York City sidewalk or a misguided juvenile delinquent with time to change his ways or a boy playing with a toy gun in a park deserve a better end than the ones they received at the hands of police officers with too much power and not enough compassion.
We should expect better. We can do better.