Slightly Right

There’s an effort before our very eyes to redefine law enforcement as inherently bad

Paw Patrol is under the gun.

The children’s cartoon series — which features dogs in a variety of roles, including Chase, the police officer pup — is now in critics’ crosshairs for removal from TV. The show’s transgression? It depicts “good cops.”

As backlash continues to mount in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers who have since been charged and jailed, a not-insignificant segment of the American population want to carry the outrage beyond the mere exposure of police brutality. They want to build a narrative that there’s no such thing as “good cops.”

And they’re winning.

The past two weeks have seen a growing chorus of calls to “defund police” on a broad scale. The Minneapolis city council has already voted to defund and dismantle its police department, announcing a veto-proof majority that cannot be overridden by the mayor. Other high-profile politicians are jumping aboard the movement, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who said she supports the “spirit” of the calls to defund police.

But the growing effort to defund law enforcement cannot work as long as there is a perception that police officers are inherently good people performing an inherently noble task. So, those who support the movement have turned their sites on cultural depictions of law enforcement.

Already this week, we’ve seen COPS — the original law enforcement reality show — canceled after 32 seasons. A&E announced Wednesday that it is ending its highest-rated show, Live PD. And Lego has announced that it will stop selling its popular police-themed toy sets.

You almost expect The Andy Griffith Show reruns to be pulled from TV soon. (In fact, Netflix announced May 31 that it will drop the popular TAGS from its streaming service at the end of this month, but that is a move related to CBS’s decision to pull back its original programming as it attempts to build its own streaming service.)

The notion that all cops are bad people, or that law enforcement is an inherently bad profession, is so incredibly ignorant that it’s almost shocking that it’s taken root so quickly. But it is made possible because of the support of the mainstream media. The New York Times presented a story on Thursday that was deeply sympathetic to the anti-cop movement, ending with the phrase, “The good-cop act is wearing thin.”

Less than two decades ago, when law enforcement officers were killed en masse in their efforts to save New Yorkers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks (71 NYPD officers were killed when the World Trade Center collapsed, and dozens more died in the years after from illness that was a direct result of their work at Ground Zero), America rightly hailed police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders as “heroes.” In fact, in traditional American society, there are no greater heroes, and no nobler cause, than this: Those who take up arms in defense of America in times of war, and those who take up arms to preserve peace on our streets.

Yet, in 2020, we find ourselves mired in a battle against people whose end-game is to completely nullify the mindset of cops as heroes. Take it from Color of Change, an organization that has a stated mission of working for racial justice, which recently asserted that police shows on TV “make heroes out of people who violate our rights.”

And Tom Scharpling, an executive producer of the show “Monk,” tweeted last week that he and everyone else who has worked on a TV show or movie in which “police are portrayed as lovable goofballs” has “contributed to the larger acceptance that cops are implicitly the good guys” — as if that’s a bad thing, or untrue.

As the NYT story put it today, “The effort to publicize police brutality also means banishing the good-cop archetype…”

Common-sense Americans know that there are bad actors in law enforcement. There are police officers who see the badge as a shield for their wanton lust for power, for their prejudices and for other ill-intent. This is manifested in bad cops like Derek Chauvin, and in incidents like we saw play out in Minneapolis last month.

But common-sense Americans also know that the overwhelming majority of police are good cops, in it for the right reasons — to protect and to serve.

This is reality for a law enforcement officer: trudging off to work for 12-hour shifts, never knowing what they’re going to encounter when they’re dispatched to a call for help, fearing deep down that they might not see their spouses or kids again. And doing it for ridiculously poor pay and benefits.

In my home town, a law enforcement officer makes less than $30,000 per year. That’s less than the minimum wage ($15/hour) that some politicians are advocating for positions like fast-food. Earlier this week, I talked to a former sheriff’s deputy in suburban Chattanooga who spent a decade and a half in law enforcement, topping out at $37,000 a year, before he got fed up with the politics and quit the force to sell cars for a living.

The thing is, most cops never complain about the pitiful pay. If they’re in the profession, they’re driven by something more than money. “It was never about the pay for me, and that’s not the reason I left,” the Chattanooga-area ex-cop told me. “If you are in law enforcement, you’re doing it because you want to help people. That’s it. You aren’t doing it to get rich.”

But the fact that we’re paying cops so ridiculously little and asking them to do so much is a call for us to support them — not castigate them and demand that their role as heroes of American society be recast.

No wonder morale is so low in law enforcement agencies across America. One of this nation’s low points of the past 60 years was our treatment of the U.S. military — many of them drafted and cast into war without choice — as they returned from Vietnam. If you talk to many Vietnam veterans, you’ll find stories of men and women who were haunted for years by images of being spit upon and jeered, called “babykillers” and other demeaning terms, as they returned home. We are now perilously close to the same morale for America’s men and women in law enforcement. You would have never gotten Americans to volunteer to go back to Vietnam after our treatment of veterans as they returned home, and good luck getting Americans to volunteer to be law enforcement officers in the aftermath of this effort to brand all of them as antiheroes and enemies of the people.

That’s perfectly okay with the critics behind this movement, and their media allies, because that’s exactly what they want. But to the vast majority of Americans who realize that no profession is inherently bad just because a few bad actors within the profession is under the spotlight, and to the vast majority of us who realize what a world without trained and equipped law enforcement would truly look like, this is insanity that we’re perpetrating with our silence.

Since Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly 10 minutes, white people have been told that their silence on police mistreatment of black Americans makes them complicit. I get that argument.

But let me say to those who see the way American law enforcement are being demonized and shrug it off, your silence likewise speaks volumes.

This is a fight that has been a long time coming. In 2015, when police brutality was in the news and cops were being castigated, the left-leaning published an article entitled “the myth of the hero cop,” in which it argued that cops are well-paid and that the perception of cops as “heroic public figures valiantly trying to protect us” is false.

Now, though, the point of view is being thrust into the mainstream. We saw dozens of cops injured or killed in 2015, and we’ve already seen dozens injured or killed in the aftermath of Minneapolis. As the news media and celebrities continue to stir anger at law enforcement in general, other cops’ lives are being placed in danger. We’re seeing brazen assassination attempts against police officers in New York City and other areas of the country, and instead of taking a moment to condemn the perpetrators and call attention to the plight of police, the media and celebrities “egg it on,” as we say in the South, even if unintentionally, in their efforts to fan the flames of anger and recast cops’ image in society.

There are no golden caskets, horse-drawn hearses or televised funerals for police officers who are killed in the line of duty, or off-duty simply because they were police. I certainly have no problem with the fanfare around George Floyd’s funeral, because he became a symbol of oppression and racism. It’s okay to recognize that. It’s not about making him a “martyr.” It’s about him being the face of something that shouldn’t have happened, but happens far too often.

But calling out wrongdoing within the ranks of law enforcement while also supporting the profession are not mutually exclusive positions. And it’s nonsensical to think that they are.

American society should be a place where everyone is treated as equal, regardless of their race or gender or nationality, socioeconomic status, age, or any other factor. Period. Until we’ve achieved that, this society of ours is no utopia.

But our silence and meekness in the face of “woke” activists who want to fundamentally change our society under the pretense of equality are going to cost us dearly. Tomorrow it will be a different subject, a different target. Today it’s law enforcement, a profession that has a few bad policies and a few bad people that need to be weeded out, but a profession that’s filled with good guys — men and women — who are sometimes the only wall between order and chaos. We stay silent at our own peril.

Ben Garrett

Ben Garrett is a journalist from East Tennessee. He is publisher of the Independent Herald, a weekly newspaper serving the Big South Fork region of the Cumberland Plateau, with a sideline in website development and digital marketing. He is also an erstwhile blogger.

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Ben Garrett

Ben Garrett is a journalist from East Tennessee. He is publisher of the Independent Herald, a weekly newspaper serving the Big South Fork region of the Cumberland Plateau, with a sideline in website development and digital marketing. He is also an erstwhile blogger.

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