It was quite a sight. Parker residents lined the streets Oct. 14 to pay their respects to Sgt. Michael Rudd, the first La Paz County Sheriff’s Deputy killed in the line of duty. A procession of vehicles from law enforcement agencies around the area brought him home to Parker for the last time. It was a parade that stretched out for some distance.
Looking at this procession, and listening to the people as they watched, one could sense the high regard the residents have for law officers. They appreciated the work they do, and thanked them for their service to the community.
Police officers and first responders in general have a tough, difficult and dangerous job. They see things most human beings would never want to see. They see the very worst of humanity and what human beings can do to each other. They are there when people are grieving, injured, in pain, and dying.
They do it because they care about people.
I think of this as I think of all the bad things being said about the police these days from the so-called “activists.” They say the police are racist and are enforcers of white supremacy. They oppress and openly murder Blacks and other “people of color.” The system is so racist and unjust that it cannot be reformed. It must be defunded or abolished.
The trouble is, there’s some truth to this. We know, for example, that one of the major causes for the Detroit riots of 1967 was racist attitudes on the part of the Detroit Police Department. Law enforcement, particularly in the South, was used to enforce unjust laws against Blacks and Jim Crow laws.
It’s been said that seeing the police as protectors is an example of “white privilege.” Yet, I can tell you there were people of many different colors who came out to honor Sgt. Rudd.
I’m convinced the difference is one of perception and attitude. If you have a police department that acts more like an occupying army, of course people are going to be hostile. On the other hand, if the police are involved in the community and are seen as helping people, the residents will think much more highly of them.
That’s the way it is here in La Paz County. We know our police officers, and they know us. They’re involved in the community. We know their families. We can see them doing things every day to help people. We feel like they’re part of us. For the most part, we don’t feel that they are here to give us a hard time.
When police are involved in the community and people see them as helping others, you don’t see riots or hostility to the police.
The idea of defunding the police and using the money on social programs is based on the great myth of socialism: there’s plenty to go around, but some mean, nasty, rotten rich people are hogging it all. The fact is, eliminating the police completely wouldn’t provide nearly enough money for all the social programs the activists want.
There are those who want to abolish the police. This assumes the police are the problem. In fact, the police are often responding to problems already existing in the community that they didn’t make or cause.
NBA great Charles Barkley was mocked by the activists when he pointed out the absurdity of calls to defund or abolish the police. He said wealthy white neighborhoods would always be protected. He then asked what would Blacks do if there’s trouble in their neighborhoods.
“Who are we supposed to call?” he asked. “Ghostbusters?”
Barkley was being humorous, but he made a good point. We will always have a need for law enforcement. We don’t need police who act like an occupying army. We need police who are involved in their communities and know the residents and who the residents will know.
Yes, we need to spend money on social programs, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of law enforcement. Police departments need to recognize the greatest asset they have are the residents of their community. Community outreach and community relations should be more than just a sign on an office door. They should be on the minds of each and every police officer every day.
Maybe Parker and La Paz County can provide some examples of what to do.