Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life and Death Occupations

I live in Copland.  There is just no other way to say it.  If you drive through my neighborhood you'll see almost 20+ parked cop cars.  You'll see state troupers and city cops, you'll see vans and unmarked cars, there is a good chance you'll have one pull up at the stop sign behind you.  When we first moved here we commented on the fact that cops and residents must make about the same amount of money because every neighborhood we looked at was filled with cop car.  Most of the time I find their presence reassuring.  A few years before I moved here a man approached a girl playing outside and tried to convince her to come with him.  She ran home to her dad, who was a police officer, and he sent out an APB and Copland went to work.  Those men and ladies flooded the streets and within a few minutes had apprehended the guy.  There are sometimes when it stresses me out.  I can't tell you how many times I look in my review mirror, feel a slick of sweat start to form on my back as I realize there is a cop driving behind me and I have no idea if I'm speeding or not and then see a kid's head pop up in the backseat and realize the drivers is in civilian clothes and is just taking their kid to a ball game.  It shouldn't be surprising that because of the high density of cops living in my neighbor I happen to know quite a few.  There are two in my ward.  In my mops group I'm friends with four ladies married to police officers and this year at my mops table where I'm lucky enough to be with my good friend Amanda (whose hubby is a police officer), we also have Brooke whose husband used to be a police office, and Kourtney who along with being married to a police officer is one as well.  There is always a police officer or police officer's wife working with me at PTA or on school parties or on field trips and I see police officers all the time when I'm taking stuff to the school, dropping off kids or forgotten lunches before they head off to their shift.  I live in Copland.

Copland is really starting to feel the strain of the recent events in Missouri.  For the first few days the wives were quiet, but as tension rose and the dialogue toward the police officer involved and his family got more heated they finally started to break, posting comments on Facebook, making quiet conversations at playgroups or at drop off, talking about their fears and worries and their frustration at what appears to be the public and the politicians inability to wait to hear a verdict on the case.  I hear you cop spouses and police officers.  I understand.  While I don't have the added stress that you bear of worrying for the personal safety of your spouse and their friends I do share the burden that on a bad day at your husband's job somebody might die.  While the worst thing that can happen on most of your friend's spouses' jobs are accounting errors or misconstrued comments, our husbands face life and death decisions everyday and a bad day for them might mean that they were responsible for someone's death.  That is a burden to be born.  Those of you married to teachers or accountants or attorneys you would be mistaken if you thought we don't think about that often, that we don't pray each day with our children not only for the safety of our husbands but also for the safety of those they come in contact with.  Each day I pray that my husband will have an open mind, that he can make the right decisions, that his heart and hands will be guided....and yet I know that there is a chance that someday he could make a mistake that will result in someones death.  It is a burden he bears and a burden I bear as well and I know my police officer wives feel the same.  

I think sometimes we forget that in our rush to judgement of the police officer and his family, that the job he does is unique, that it is hard, that it carries physical risk to him, and that any mistake or bad day, any off moment he has, that is could directly result in the loss of someones life.  Are their cops out there who are just total D bags?  You bet.  I've met them, you've met them, we've all met them.  But there are also doctors who are total D bags, and teaches, principals, accountants, businessman, bus drivers, attorneys, cooks, UPS guys, you get the idea.  The majority of police officers like the majority of doctors, like the majority of a lot of people are really great people.  They coach little league and work on PTA, they are in your mops group, or the deacon at your church.  You are friends with them on facebook and on your fantasy league.  They choose their jobs because they wanted to help people but every once in a while because of the nature of their job something horrible is going to happen and when it does it can mean life or death.

It isn't that I don't feel anger about what happened in Ferguson.  I do.  The fact that Mike Brown, a young person at the beginning of his life had it tragically cut short makes me extremely sad.  The fact that his family is grieving makes us all grieve.  The fact that he was unarmed and for all intensive purposes seems to be completely guiltless makes me extremely uncomfortable and horrified.  The fact that a city has fallen into chaos and anger is a tragedy, but I submit that part of the tragedy is the burden of this death that police officer and his family will now carry with them forever.  I can't help but feel that some of the anger being thrown at the police officer, the police department, or even at Michael Brown, is anger we should be throwing at ourselves.  There are so many social factors that actually play the biggest role in this tragedy that we own because we continue to allow them to exist, to multiple, to make it so that situations like this are just more likely to happen.

Racism exist.  If you don't agree I submit to you that you live, work, went to school, watch news in a pretty monochromatic world.  Those of us living in the rest of the world who happen to live, work, go to school, shop, or watch the news where more than one color of people happen to be have seen this.  Just this last week I was listening to the news and heard a story about Macys and Barneys and how they were being forced to pay a fine for using racial profiling to accuse and harass shoppers of color of shoplifting.  It is still out there.  Sometimes it is just annoying like being harassed while shopping, but sometimes it is more blatant and damaging and leads to things like the fact that we actually have a sentencing gap between races. Studies have found that black men are given prison sentences almost 20% longer for similar crimes as their white counterparts.  Minorities are also more likely to be given jail time for the same offenses as whites.  A study by the Guardian found that, "black offenders were 44% more likely than white offenders to be sentenced to prison for driving offences, 38% more likely to be imprisoned for public disorder or possession of a weapon and 27% more likely for drugs possession.

Asian offenders were 41% more likely to be sent to prison for drugs offences than their white counterparts and 19% more likely to go to jail for shoplifting."
It should also be noted that minority groups have a much lower showings in occupations of law enforcement.  In the town of Ferguson it has been stated that of the 53 police officers on the force only 3 were black.  That means white officers make up 94% of the force while only making up 30% of the city population.  In the Missouri state court only 5% of the judges are minorities even though about 20% of the state population is not white.  Just in case you were wondering, the state court of Arizona is 9% minority, even though "white alone" meaning not Latino/not Hispanic is only 56.7% which means that over 40% of the state is not white, 1/3 of the whole state population being Hispanic.  I'm always curious about Arizona because it is the state I grew up and faced the most discrimination in as well.  Sometimes Dr. J will ask me if I'm ready to consider moving back there again (since it is one of the states closest to our parents) and I remember what is like to be Hispanic and live there and I say, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"  In case you were wondering the states with the highest diversity in their state courts are Texas and California.  There are lots of factors that go into criminal behavior, to lack of upward mobility, to lack of prosperity and opportunities but to deny that race plays a factor would be a mistake.

We live in a country where prison is a business.  In the US we have allowed prisons to be privatized.  That means they are being run for profit and they have lobbyist petitioning our public officials to enact laws that make them more money.  It shouldn't be surprising then to find out we have the highest incarceration rates in the world.  In the last twenty years our incarceration rates continue to rise even as our violent crime rates fall.  The only other countries that come close are Russian and Cuba.  Russia and Cuba!  Have you looked at Russia lately, you can be thrown in prison for just speaking out against the government.   Our rates are almost three times those of United Arab Emirates where you can go to jail for eating during Ramadan and double the rate of Singapore where you can go to jail for yelling racial slurs.  Just in case you were wondering, Missouri has the 12th highest incarceration rate in the US.  It cost almost $50,000 per inmate a year to keep them housed and the irony on the privatization is those prisons are "filthier, more violent, less accountable, and more costly" which is pretty darn crazy when you consider that Human Rights Watch continues to raise concerns about safety in our prisons where "21% of inmates say they have been coerced into sexual activity (7% report being raped) and prisons are a hotbed of hepatitis C and tuberculosis.

We have the 2nd Amendment.  We could sit here an argue until we are blue in the face about guns but to be honest it's not worth it.  I'm not going to change your opinion and you're not going to change mine, but let me just say now I'm not a huge fan of guns but I still think it is worth noting even if you are that our attitudes toward firearms absolutely contribute to this problem.  I reluctantly own an unloaded, locked up 22.  I have zero interest in it, just like I had zero interest in the hand gun my father tried to give me for my 18th birthday, just like I have zero interest in the hand gun my father-in-law tried to convince me to buy when I decided to get an alarm system because Dr. J works so many nights and I saw my creepy neighbor kick the crap out of someone.  I reminded my FIL that his 2 year old accidentally shot him in the head with the handgun he had in the nightstand for protection and I thought back on a conversation I had with a friend about gun control (me for/she against) that was interrupted when her mother called to tell her that her teenage brother had killed himself with one of the family's guns.  I'm just not a fan.  But you know we have this constitutional right that we have chosen to interpret as an almost free for all and we have to own the fact that part of that right is this dark underside.  The truth is if you have "ready access to a firearm you are almost twice as likely to be killed and three times likelier to commit suicide."  Studies have also found that 3/4 of women killed with a firearm die in their home and know their assailant.  I saw an article recently that police officer in England and Wales went two years without fatally shooting someone and I wanted to say, "HOW IS THIS EVEN NEWS?  Doesn't everybody watch every UK crime show available??"  Oh you don't...well here is some crazy information, just your everyday, run of the mill Bobbie, police officer walking the streets in Great Britain is not armed with a gun.  If they need an armed response, they actually have to call in a special armed response unit.  Meanwhile in the US they say at least 400 people are killed by police officers a year.  Guns are not just something you have everywhere in the UK, either for cops, for regular people, or for criminals and as a result they aren't used nearly as much.  It is safer for the suspects, or just random people walking down the street, but it is also safer for the cops.  There have only been five officers who have died in the line of duty since 2012 in the UK.  Three were shot, one collapsed while chasing a robbery suspect, one was run over by a suspect.  Meanwhile during the same time period, in the state of California, which has half the population of the UK, 9 police officers were shot and killed.  So half the population, 3 times the death rate.  It just doesn't seem right.  I'm pretty horrified to tell you that in the city I live, which maybe hits a million people if you count the suburbs, 4 police officers were shot and killed in the same time period.  We have 1/60th the population of the UK and beat their shooting death rate.  The new girl at the mops table was telling me when they had their son that her husband moved the area he patrolled from one side of the city to the other because he was hoping he would get shot at less.  SHOT AT LESS PEOPLE, SHOT AT LESS!

I don't know what the outcome of the Mike Brown shooting will be.  I don't know when all the facts are considered who the country will see as in the wrong.  I think regardless, the situation is horrible and nothing that will happen is going to make that not the case.  I want to say to the family and community of Mike Brown I'm sorry for you loss, it is a tragedy.  I also want to say to the family of that police officer, and all the police officers and families who face the fact that their bad day can be life or death, I understand you are also in a tragedy.  We need to wake up to the fact that we are allowing our social problems to erode into what would already be a tense situation.  These problems deserve our righteous indignation, they deserve our awareness, and regardless of what political party, race, state, or opinion we belong to they deserve to be thoroughly discussed, to be reevaluated, and to ,God willing, be fixed.  How many civilians and cops are we willing to loose before we actually make real strides to fix the social problems we allow that inflame/create this issue?

1 comment:

  1. I love, love, love this post. Love it. You tell us--we all need to hear this.



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