Public and Police on Edge After Cop Killings

Tension between communities and police have never been so high

Posted Jul 18, 2016

After the second shooting of police officers in as few weeks, police departments around the country are on edge. And so are many citizens.

Police officers’ deaths from gunshots are up this year from the same point as last year: 28 compared to 18. The long-term picture, though, is that the annual number of police deaths is down dramatically over the last forty years. In the 1970s, 127 officers were shot each year.

What’s more, death of cops while on duty is more likely the result of illness, heat exhaustion and accidents than gunfire.

It's one thing to engage in a dangerous profession. But it very different from believing that you are a walking target for a potential assassin.

Some cops blame Black Lives Matter rhetoric for creating a hostile environment for the police. “They are just trying to tarnish our credibility,” said a Black Lives Matter activist. “Yet we can attribute scores and scores of deaths of black people to the hands of law enforcement.”

“A badge shouldn’t be a bulls eye,” said Chris Southwood, the president of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police.

 The assassination of police officers has made the work of better community policing more difficult but also more critical. All communities need good and fair police officers; police officers need to feel if not supported, at least understood by the public.

Community policing is one key to better public-cop relations. As Jim Bueerman, president of the Police Foundation says, “We want police officers walking around, to be seen, and this puts them in a position where they can be assaulted.”

A social media effort by the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island is an attempt to build a bridge between communities and police. It is a website where the public and the police can talk to one another, offer criticism and compliments, exchange ideas and propose ideas for better policing.   

 I hope that will be more than simply a forum but will be part of a bridge that makes the public safer by making the police better. It is a way bringing a community voice into policing.