When cops are killed too

Sahn Choi, Contributing Writer

In late 2014, protesters in New York City shouted, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” after the police killing of Eric Garner.

Since then, the protestors’ wishes have certainly come true. On July 7, five Dallas police officers were killed by Micah Xavier Johnson, who intended to kill as many white officers as he could. A Baton Rouge, La. shooting left three officers dead on July 17; shooter Gavin Eugene Long viewed his actions as necessary to “create substantial change.”

As recently as Tuesday, funeral services were held for two slain police officers in Palm Springs, Calif. Suspect John Hernandez Felix “wanted to gun down police officers because they wore the uniform.”

Lesley Zerebny, one of the two slain Palm Springs police officers, had just returned from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter four months ago. Now her daughter won’t have memories of her mother. Jose Vega, the other officer killed, was weeks away from retirement; he was working overtime when he was killed.

His wife and kids said their final goodbyes Tuesday.

There are valid concerns, on a case-by-case basis, regarding a police officer’s decision to use lethal force. Reform is needed in our legal system to rectify these concerns. That said, killing police officers is not the right response. “Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause,” said President Obama in a July 2016 press conference.

A society that antagonizes those who serve and protect is harmful to everybody, not just police officers. Amid anti-police rhetoric, murder rates have gone up.

According to the F.B.I.’s data on crime for the entire U.S., the murder rate rose nearly eleven percent across the United States in 2015, which is the highest increase in nearly half a century.

Findings from a June 2016 National Institute of Justice study reported that rising crime could be linked to less aggressive policing that resulted from anti-police rhetoric; police are backing off of the diligent policing that once protected communities from crime because they fear any use of force — justified or unjustified — will be deemed a racially-charged attack that will put their career at risk.

The murder rate in the U.S.’s 30 largest cities is projected to rise by 13.1 percent this year, with nearly half of this increase attributable to Chicago alone, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

Instead of making broad, unfair generalizations about police officers — or even going as far as to kill them — the heartbreak and the destruction caused by the senseless violence in our communities must be recognized.

The importance of police, society’s sole defense against this violence, must also be recognized.

Then, and only then, can this epidemic of violence be put to an end.