It was always said jokingly, but it was the truth. Back during my career with the N.C. Dept. of Revenue, I would be asked from time to time about the perils of my job. They would ask if I had ever run into a difficult situation when trying to collect taxes. My usual response was that occasionally it would get interesting, but I did my best to avoid any potentially dangerous situations. Then I would add, “That’s what God created deputies for.”
“That’s what God created deputies for.” In other words, if the situation looked perilous, I wasn’t equipped to try to handle it all by myself. I would ask local law enforcement to intervene, to serve the legal papers, etc. Because you never know how a taxpayer would respond. And every day, law enforcement officers go to work, not knowing what they will face, and how the public will respond. The recent tragic events in Dallas, where five officers were slain during, what was supposed to be a peaceful protest, brings this into sharper focus.
The ambush of police officers in Dallas reminded me about a Kiwanis Club meeting which we had a few months ago, which I wrote about at the time. Members of the Clinton Police Department came and spoke about the new body cameras that the officers are now wearing. You’ve probably seen dramatic videos on TV made by body cameras worn by police officers. Many activists argue that more body cameras worn by law enforcement officers are necessary to deter and detect officer misconduct. While that may be true in a very few cases, I feel that the cameras will better show the general public how professional and how difficult the job today’s law enforcement officers actually have.
During the program, the officers showed the new body cameras and explained how they will be used. The video cameras are small and attached directly to the officer’s uniform. The cameras will be helpful in documenting evidence, reviewing officer performance and hopefully making suspects be less aggressive.
The officers then showed a couple of videos of the new body cameras in actual use. The videos had been carefully edited so that any actual suspects could not be recognized. The first videos were rather simple, showing everyday police work. The picture and sound from the video were clear, and it’s easy to see how they will be helpful to law enforcement. It was interesting watching police work from the officer’s point of view, and seeing what they see. But it was the last short video that caught my attention, along with others watching during the presentation.
The officer wearing the body camera was confronting an individual outside a house. The suspect looked like he was wanting to go back into the house, for whatever reason. The Clinton police officer yelled to the individual, “Stand still! Don’t go in the house!” He repeated it several times as it looked like the suspect was thinking about going back into the house.
Watching the video, you could feel the tension. I thought, “What if he went back inside to get a weapon? Does he have a gun on him right now?” The video soon ended, and the officer presenting it said the incident ended peacefully. As I looked around the room, I saw that others were thinking the same thing I was; that the situation could easily have ended up much different.
There are over one million individuals employed full time by law enforcement agencies in the United States. Are there some law enforcement officers who should not be in that occupation? Yes, but that is true of every occupation. Where there are mistakes, they should be corrected. Tragic mistakes should be dealt with according to the law, openly and in a timely manner. But they must be based upon all the facts, not jumping to preconceived conclusions, based upon emotion.
The help of those deputies and police officers was always appreciated during my work career. And I appreciate them today. Every day, law enforcement officers work hard to keep the peace in our country. And it seems that often we are asking them today to be social workers, as well as peace officers. As our country’s moral fabric and institutions grow more and more unstable, their job, keeping the peace, is becoming even more difficult and dangerous.
I may have been half joking when I remarked, “That’s what God created deputies for.” But I was thankful for those deputies back then. And I’m thankful for all law enforcement personnel today, for the service they provide for all of us each and every day.