By Stephen Owsinski:
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield became famously known for his mantra “No respect. I don’t get no respect!” Millions chuckled when he uttered that line while he tugged on his necktie. Funny stuff in a comedy club, but on the streets the humor is lost.
That one virtue which all humans are innately capable of exercising—RESPECT—must be harnessed and not taken for granted. Our nation’s agents of law and order, law enforcement officers, have had their fair share of disrespect in recent years. Protesters snarled at cops. Rioters launched rocks and bottles at the police. Maniacal people stomped on and then torched police cruisers. Merchants lost everything to looters. Cities were turned upside-down. Chaos spit in the face of respect.
Yet, the police entrenched and held the line.
According to a Gallup Poll released in October 2016, respect for police is at an all-time high at 76 percent—three out of four Americans respect police service. It is reassuring to know the current figure is up from 64 percent in 2015’s survey. Moreover, in every subcategory surveyed by Gallup there is an upswing indicating people starting to pillar police.
But, as I read and re-read about the recent murders of two young Georgia cops by a gunman who somehow found it acceptable to extinguish lives, the word respect is clearly lacking in some minds. There’s nothing complex about it. There is little to no effort to provide it. It is not taxed. Earning it is really not that hard either, and it is surely uplifting when you do attain the respect of another. In reciprocal context, everyone wins with the virtue of respect.
Yet, respect from those who are selfless is sometimes snubbed by self-centeredness.
Americus police Officer Nick Smarr (25) and Georgia Southwestern State University police Officer Jody Smith (26) would have catered ample respect to their killer…had he chosen to surrender and not gone homicidal in the face of clearly identifiable policemen. Instead, the gunman caused havoc and went into hiding.
To the person who telephoned police with the exact location of where the suspected shooter was holed-up, you have my utmost respect. To the woman and child victims of the domestic violence which elicited police response, you have my respect; bearing witness to the slaying of two uniformed angels brings unimaginable sadness and irrevocable scars.
As the Gallup Poll implies, Americans are more respectful of police in light of the spate of assassinations of cops. It pains me to consider: Must dire circumstances occur before respect is extended? Policing is a non-stop public service, with casualties along the way. Five cops slain in Dallas, three cops murdered in Baton Rouge, a pair in NYPD uniforms gunned-down because of their profession. Each one deserved respect because of the courageous act of stepping up to the plate and into a police uniform, sworn to respect and preserve life. Yet evil had other plans.
As an avid researcher, I pore over reams of written and video material. I religiously view footage of Congressional Hearings. Last night, I reviewed the House Judiciary Committee questioning Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Stymied I was. No matter who on the panel was inquiring of AG Lynch, her answers were banal and unsubstantive, often prefaced with “As I indicated before…” and followed by regurgitated non-answers, nonchalantly ducking anything relevant to the questions posed. And this is our nation’s top law enforcer, the example of which exhibits disrespect for our system of governance, despite taking an oath to the contrary. The penchant to duck simple, direct questions and lie unflinchingly seems to be a shared trait among some government figureheads.
As members of congress become flustered by this and re-arrange questions, the same responses emanate from AG Lynch. Quite often, it becomes a farce. How ridiculous that government leaders and dignitaries are not only on different pages, they are not even in the same book at times. And We the People witness this barrage of counterpoints and contentiousness over and over and over. Why? One side respects the truth, and the other side fears it, nestled in dishonoring our Constitution.
When you pare it down, condescension and avoidance are as common as sand on a beach. Highly-educated and learned people appointed to coveted governmental positions can come off as carefree, disrespecting the high office by tucking tale in a foxhole. And we watch tax dollars wasted on irresponsive people culminating in unproductive hearings.
So where is the respect in our governmental dwellings? How do such learned individuals snub their noses at decorum, and deny dignity of the truth with such conscious effort? It is baffling, indeed.
Deserving of Respect
In a recent Judicial Watch consortium, former Attorney General Ed Meese had this to say: “There’s a lot to be done about the Justice Department, about the whole government. For example, the first threat to public safety that needs to be corrected is the attitude of this administration, which has been hostile to police throughout the entire eight years of [President] Obama’s reign. And, as a result, the police officers feel both threatened and also disappointed. The investigations of police officers and police departments by the so-called Civil Rights Division – I think one of the things that the president ought to do, the new attorney general is to take the investigations of police out of the Civil Rights Division entirely. That is, quite frankly, the worst cesspool of liberal lawyers in the entire government.”
Bingo! What do you think about them apples, AG Lynch?
Public safety (public service) is a clear exemplification of someone who respects life and wishes to sacrifice his/hers to preserve it. Cops can see and feel perils, but respect for duty compels them to take up the good fight, even in the face of oppositionists and misguided opportunists.
With respect to citizens, the gentleman who recently stopped his car and ran to aid a Florida deputy engaged in a ground fight deserves a hail of praise. Combating a suspect who had zero respect for law and order, the deputy sheriff was close to losing his life…until the citizen motorist, who was legally in possession of a firearm, stopped the threat by killing the assailant. That citizen could have driven by, but he instead preserved dignity of law and order by taking a life while saving another. That is a huge statement of character, and a glowing exemplification of respect for law and order.
I respect anyone who destines to embrace integrity, and align my allegiance with those fighting the good fight. Where do you stand?
The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Cops are unmistakably positioned to seek the truth. In doing so, they confront self-sacrifice, as the two Georgia policemen did a few days ago. Both were young. Together, they aspired to be law enforcement officers. Each was a pillar for the other. One responded to the call for help while the other followed as back-up. Unequivocally respectable men, both of whom perished by the hand of the same gunman.
The tremendous respect these two policemen had for each other is awe-inspiring. Their dying testimonies were not by words but by actions of mutual respect. A few good men—portrayed in everyday life. The nuances surrounding this tragedy exemplify authenticity and how two humans value each other, a brand of admiration, selflessness, and love many of us crave.
Their killer, however, bolted from the carnage he created. Bizarrely, he resorted to Facebook and posted desperate innuendo while his firearm was still warm. In short time, with SWAT officers closing in on the dwelling in which he took refuge, the murderer took his own life. Perhaps he lacked self-respect. He is now among the cabal of cowards who subvert our national uniformed icons who represent respect and the good of all.
There is valor in what cops do. The decision to don a ballistic vest and confront danger garners respect. Children who watch their parent(s) fasten a duty belt deserve respect and, in kind, pay respect to their police mom or dad. A police officer’s oath-filled foundation rests upon the U.S. Constitution, authored by respectful men who sought to blueprint the principles of common good in a Republic of abidance.
A clear representation of self-sacrifice by police and unwavering respect from citizens can be seen at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC. The landmark’s iconic sculpture has the following message etched in marble: “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.”
If that doesn’t compel thoughts and sentiments of respect, what will?
Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer.