By The Signal Editorial Board
It’s not in vogue these days to have kind words for police. Law enforcement has been roundly demonized in the furor over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer.
The furor is understandable. Floyd’s death was a horrific crime — unbearable to watch, frankly. And the officer who pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck, for more than eight minutes until Floyd died, faces prosecution on a second-degree murder charge.
Three officers who stood and watched, doing nothing to intervene, also face criminal charges. All four officers have been fired.
This seems entirely appropriate.
They are entitled to due process, as any criminal suspects are, but based on the video evidence it seems highly unlikely that they should be acquitted — in particular the officer who relentlessly pinned Floyd to the ground.
The case has renewed the running conversation and debate about race relations in America, and spurred a broadening consensus that black criminal suspects are disproportionately victims of excessive use of force by police. It’s a legitimate conversation, and institutional changes are warranted, not only to address excessive force against black suspects but also issues like poverty and crime.
What’s not acceptable, though, is the demonization of all law enforcement officers, everywhere.
To dismiss it as a “few bad apples” runs the risk of sounding tone-deaf. But to condemn all law enforcement officers, for the abhorrent actions of a minority of their profession, is not fair, either.
We’ve seen it here in our community the past couple of weeks.
On several occasions, protesters carrying vulgar anti-police signs — which is, of course, their First Amendment right — have confronted deputies outside the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and shouted profanity-laced tirades at them, accusing them all of being murderers, and demanding that police be defunded.
Those heated exchanges stayed a bit under the radar, because the local protests, thankfully, stayed peaceful. But sufficient credit has not been provided to our local sheriff’s deputies for managing the crowds without using force.
On several occasions, it was clear that a few protesters were trying to bait the deputies into taking action. To their credit, the deputies didn’t take the bait, and the situations didn’t escalate.
How quickly some in the community have forgotten the relationship this town has had with its law enforcement. Remember, many of these are the same cops who rushed to the scene of the Saugus High School shooting last November, with one thing in mind: To protect the kids at the school. All of them, regardless of the color of their skin.
Being a law enforcement officer means you risk your life every time you go out wearing a badge and a uniform. You enter dangerous situations to keep others safe. Eighty-nine of them were killed nationwide in the line of duty last year, according to the FBI.
Right now, it’s a thankless job. Just as excessive force by police is not right, it’s not right to paint all police with a broad brush, either.
Some of the protesters’ messaging is on point. Black lives DO matter. Everyone should recognize that. We certainly do. And steps should always be taken to weed out those officers who don’t get it, properly train police to deal with all people, without racial profiling, and prosecute those who abuse the power of the badge.
The suggestion of defunding police departments around the country, however, is the single most absurd idea we have heard. Proposals vary — some call for merely shifting a portion of police budgets to other programs, while others demand the actual elimination of police departments.
Yes, there are bad cops, but the vast majority of more than 800,000 law enforcement officers are good, decent people doing a difficult and thankless job.
There are bad teachers convicted of a variety of crimes, but we don’t hear cries to dismantle the school system.
What about the UCLA doctor charged with molesting his gymnastics patients? No one’s calling for the elimination of doctors.
Or liquor store clerks who sell booze to minors. We’re not eliminating liquor stores.
You can go down the line of every profession and job classification and find people who dishonor those professions and should be eliminated from them.
Reform police departments? Yes. Improve training methods and prohibit certain uses of force, like choke holds? Yes. Seek out racist cops and ban them from the force forever? Absolutely.
If you were frightened or upset by the civil unrest across the country the past few weeks — and the opportunistic rioting and looting that ensued, which had nothing to do with the peaceful protests — that’s just a taste of what it would be like without law enforcement, only it would be worse.
Much, much worse.