Irresponsible NLV Police Union Billboards

I support the police.  I and my family have written letters of support to local law enforcement before, I’ve had letters in the newspaper showing support for them, and I’ve written about it here more than once.  When negative publicity comes to the police, I give them the benefit of the doubt. 

That’s why the North Las Vegas Police Union’s new billboard campaign upsets me so much.  It’s illogical, cheap, and incendiary–the opposite of how they usually operate.

The billboards, put up all around town this week, say things like, “Due to recent police layoffs we can no longer guarantee your safety.”  The union is trying to get the public to call in to the city council and voice outrage over budget cuts.  Read the union’s web site for this campaign here.

These billboards, and the web site, raise some difficult questions:

  • You can no longer guarantee our safety?  When did you ever?  Is such a thing possible in a free country? 
  • Your web site lists scary crime statistics in our city–are these the result of a recent spike, or are they the normal pattern for North Las Vegas?  If the latter (which it is), how do you explain your failure to live up to the previous guarantee of safety that you’ve implied?
  • Aren’t signs like this basically an advertisement to criminals that they’re more likely to get away with crime, so we can expect more crime to be committed?  If crime does go up, how can you know that it is due to the cuts in staff, and not your public campaign telling criminals that you expect crime to go up? 
  • If crime does not go up, and if the police department successfully repels any attempted increases in crime in North Las Vegas, will this union apologize to the city council and, indeed, to the city of North Las Vegas for using such underhanded scare tactics?

Honestly, in the long run, I can’t see these signs gaining the local police department much support.  It’s things like this that turn people off from unions.

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Telling Reactions to Shooting Tragedy

Tragedy struck Las Vegas—as usual—on Tuesday night when police were forced to shoot a mentally disturbed and drug-addled teenager who was threatening his mother with a knife.  I say “forced” because I understand that the police had no real choice to bring about the best possible resolution here—they had to act on what they knew in order to save an innocent woman’s life, even though the mother says they were wrong and now she’s suing them (of course), and even though the mother herself admits that her son was rampaging, high, violent, and uncooperative at the time.
 
I’ve brought this story up as a brief introductory topic in my classes for the last two days, and have ended with a quick show of hands for who they think carries the burden of most responsibility here.  The results are stark and significant.  My regular classes—which include kids who perform at grade level as well as remedial and mainstreamed SpEd kids—had sizable portions who blamed the mother (but not the kid);  the vast majority of them blamed the police.  Many of them openly bragged that they feel every such a situation is always the fault of the police.  They laughed as they asserted this.  
 
My honors classes, however, saw things exactly the opposite.  Most of them still blamed the mom, many blamed the young man, but only four people blamed the police.  
 

Sad, Sadder, Saddest

Sad:

A Las Vegas police officer was struck and killed by a suspected drunken driver while responding to a domestic violence call in the southwest valley early this morning.

 

The officer, 28-year-old James Manor, was trapped in his patrol car for several minutes before emergency responders were able to extricate him and take him to University Medical Center.

 

Sadder:

 

The call that police received was that the girl had been beaten by her father who had left, according to police. Twenty minutes later the girl called police back, claiming that he was coming home and that she was bleeding from her arm and had a black eye.

 

Police dispatchers summoned 28-year-old officer James Manor and another unit.

 

Manor wouldn’t make it.

 

Karen said neither she nor her husband were home when their daughter made the calls. She was at the hospital being treated for kidney failure. Her husband had gone to pick her up. When they arrived home, Karen took the phone away from her daughter and explained to dispatchers that the situation wasn’t what she had made it out to be.

 

Her daughter didn’t have any marks on her face and wasn’t hurt.

 

Her daughter had trashed the apartment while her parents were gone, however. The mirrors were smashed. Karen’s perfume bottles were in pieces.

 

Karen didn’t find out until later through news reports that an officer responding to her daughter’s call had died.

 

Saddest:

 

“I had no idea who he was, but I heard he was a very good man,” she said. “I’m very sorry for his family and for everything else.”

 

A few minutes later, Karen’s daughter came bounding up the stairs, a petite blonde with a ponytail in black jeans and a black T-shirt.

 

Karen stopped her and put a hand on her shoulder.

 

“I’m going to tell you something,” Karen said. “You know that night, with you and your father? That night that you had called is the night that police officer died because he was coming to your phone call. But we’re going to stop at that.”

 

Her daughter blinked.

 

“I’m hungry. Did you eat my doughnut?”

 

Nothing New Under The Sun: Public Reaction To Police Shootings

 

Earlier this week, the shooting of a woman by a Henderson police officer was ruled justifiable.  http://www.lvrj.com/news/17575599.html  Before this decision, public opinion here in Las Vegas heavily targeted the officer as a murderer, and the police department as a bunch of rampaging thugs; after the decision, those critics automatically labeled the ruling a “whitewash.” 

Why are people so eager to always say cops are wrong?  It couldn’t be that they’ve absorbed the counter-culture media’s shallow anti-authoritarian agenda, with its putrid caricature of police as pigs, could it?

Well, if that were the case, wouldn’t it sound exactly the way the critics’ stream of callous insults sounds now?  Doesn’t it send up any red flags that the thought process behind hating cops–“All cops are trigger-happy goons and they’re all bad”–is the same as that behind racism? 

It boggles my mind that anyone can assume something so unabashedly awful about anyone else.  Do these critics really want us to believe that this officer saw an unbalanced woman waving a knife at ther own children and thought, “Oh boy!  Here’s my chance to kill an innocent woman!”?  Do they think that police officers go around looking for “opportunities” like this one? 

Was this officer so blind to reality by his allegedly-homicidal bloodlust that he disregarded the obvious fact that his shooting would come under intense scrutiny, and that the rest of his career would be under a shadow, just so he could have the “thrill” of killing a civilian?  Not only is that a monstrous thing to think about a fellow human being, it presents gaps in logic that make universal health care sound reasonable.  Whatever happened to giving people the benefit of the doubt?

Worse yet, this mindset shows up every time an officer is forced to fire on someone.  Will these anti-cop protesters ever admit that a shooting was justified?  If some voices of malcontent in our communities would agree that sometimes lethal force is necessary, then their only-occasional criticisms would carry more weight.

But is there any conceivable circumstance in which a cop could shoot someone NOT because he’s a secret psycho, according to the kind of people who are giving the Henderson police such a hard time now?  Apparently not.

Consider the case of Billy Finks.  In the Spring of 2001, Finks, a student at Western High School, skipped school, got high, drove a stolen car to another school, waved a gun at students, nearly ran over a bicyclist, ran from a police car that tried to pull him over, and, when he hit a dead end and did stop, got out of the car against orders, pulled a gun on the cop, and refused to drop it when ordered to do that. 

He was shot and killed.  The gun turned out to be a toy.  An outcry went up against the young officer.  http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2001/Mar-31-Sat-2001/news/15772393.html

I worked at an inner city middle school that year, and this boy’s cousin was in one of my classes.  The entire class, and every student at that school that talked about it, blamed the cop.  Apparently brainwashed by action movies in their assessment of motor skills as well as in their uncritical adherence to anti-authoritarian stereotypes, the consensus was that the cop should have shot Finks in the hand, forcing him to drop the gun. 

As Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making this up.  In fact, as I’ve brought up this case to other classes at other schools in the seven years since then, any students who identifies with any segment of the youth-oriented counter-culture has voiced the same immediate judgment: the cop was a cold-blooded killer, and the kid was murdered.

I bring it up in class because it’s a great illustration of the logical gap between the facts and people’s conditioned reaction.  If I’d wanted to invent a scenario where the officer was more justified and the victim more responsible, I couldn’t have done better than Billy Finks.  And yet, year after year, people defend him.

Meanwhile, another young officer who signed up to put his life on the line every day to keep other people safe, lives the rest of his life knowing that he had to kill a civilian, and knowing that many of the people he serves so bravely are blaming him for it. 

Heroes deserve better.