By Chris Wagoner:
Contrary to what you hear from law enforcement political groups and talking heads (like some sheriffs and police groups, the Florida Sheriff Association for one!), the vast majority of police are not against legally armed citizens. There are a lot more for than against it. Just look at when and how most cops encounter firearms. Usually, a firearm has been used in a crime or is carried by someone they stopped on suspicion of a crime or some other illegal activity. Since cops are not in the habit of stopping legally armed citizens, they do not encounter them as much as bad guys with guns. In light of recent events—like the lawfully armed citizen in Florida who stopped and shot a criminal trying to kill a deputy on the road—officers realize that lawfully carrying citizens are not a danger to them and in fact may be just the opposite sometimes.
So it should come as no surprise that if you talk to most street cops and ask them if citizens who carry legally are a problem, the answer will be “no” in the majority of cases. What they will tell you is that criminals who carry guns are the issue and that when they encounter a lawfully carrying citizen, most of the time they are the most honest, polite, and cooperative people they encounter. Every concealed license firearms carrier I have ever met on the road as a patrol deputy was a great person. During calls for service or traffic stops, every time I ran into an armed citizen, they were the ones who seemed to be the calmest and most helpful.
So where does the news get all the anti-police information? How do they figure that cops hate people legally carrying a firearm? I am not sure, but most of the situation is overstated and made to look like police hate everyone and the citizens hate the police. This is just not true. If you turn on the news, you may hear about a police shooting, but only if the news can make a race issue out of it or if the suspect was under the age of 20 so they can call them a “teenager” to make it seem worse. And just to make things clear, unarmed suspects can be a danger to police as well; ask the Florida deputy who was almost beaten to death by a suspect before an armed citizen shot and killed the unarmed attacker. Where was all the national news on that one? You would think that a citizen shooting and killing another citizen to save the life of a police officer would be national news. Well, you would be hard-pressed to find this story mentioned for more than five to ten seconds. Maybe it was not such an issue because the news saw that it was a black man who shot a black man attacking a white officer? Maybe the race combination did not fit the news agenda of dividing America more.
I get very tired of hearing that the public at large does not like or trust the police. I had a student at the University of Florida call the police academy wanting to talk to someone about how “distrust of the police seems to be at an all-time high.” REALLY? I didn’t know that. Maybe the young, budding reporter should have done a little research on the subject she was talking about before she decided on it. The largest polling company, Gallop, recently did a poll entitled “Americans’ Respect for Police.” I would be dishonest in my writing if I left off the last word in that title. The title actually reads “Americans’ Respect for Police Surges.”
The poll found that three out of four Americans have a “great deal” of respect for police; that’s about 76%, up from 64% just last year. In fact, this statement by the poll-takers is very telling: “Gallup has asked this question nine times since 1965. The percentage who say they respect the police is significantly higher now than in any measurement taken since the 1990s and is just one point below the high of 77% recorded in 1967.” Really? But if you listen to the news, the general public thinks the police are out-of-control killers and that police violence is an epidemic. Evidently the public in general does not think so. But what about all the recent reports describing police shootings of “unarmed black men”? The poll-takers took that into account, saying, “The increase in shootings of police coincided with high-profile incidents of law enforcement officials shooting and killing unarmed black men. Despite the flaring of racial tensions after these incidents, respect for local police has increased among both whites and nonwhites. Four in five whites (80%) say they have a great deal of respect for police in their area, up 11 points from last year. Meanwhile, two in three nonwhites (67%) report having the same level of respect, an increase of 14 points from last year.” Why does that kind of news not make it into the reports on how much the public hates the police?
Let’s be honest—do police ever do something wrong or against the law? Of course they do. When you have a group of people that large, you are bound to have times when the police overstep their legal duty or guidelines. Do cops ever make bad decisions and shoot someone they should not have? Of course. Police are placed in more situations that may require the use of force—including deadly force—than any other profession in the States. Police are sent to places where violence is happening, so violence is bound to follow and happen. I am not excusing any of the actions of the officers that may have been illegal or improper. I am just trying to put in perspective how people really feel and how the news reports on the police. And they are not the same thing.
Chris Wagoner is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Army Veteran. He has been in law enforcement the last 35+ years. He specializes in LE Firearms Instruction, and is in charge of a large Police Academy in North Florida. In his spare time Chris is a freelance Military Reporter and owner/founder of the Largest Military Videos Channel on YouTube “3rdID8487”.