Before any of us should rile up the shaky violent fringes of our society, we would do well to think through, and to understand, that no one is sponsoring the murder of minorities, and no one is sponsoring the murder of police officers. Well, no one other than those few who seem to find some political or emotional advantage in it. And we, as a body politic, would do very well to utterly and totally reject all of those who would play that game.
Is it unfair to protest the deaths of so many persons of color, now suddenly caught so often on videotape, by police officers who at the very least were quick to their triggers with everyday Americans? Of course not; all reasonable people can see that something is very wrong when so many die for nothing, having done nothing wrong. Is it fair, also, to be appalled that a semi-lunatic fringe would take the occasion of such videos, and such protests, to use military hardware to murder random police officers? Of course it is fair; no sane American would not be horrified by the slaughter of the people who protect us.
This is the worst issue to politicize in a tribal way. I believe that most — nearly all? — police officer do not sympathize with those few who commit the official equivalent of murder during stops and interventions that involve minorities. I believe, however, that they do empathize — “My god”, they might say to themselves, “it is possible that could be me, under stress and feeling endangered, and having 2 to 5 seconds to react.” Conversely, I believe that just about none of the protesters aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement would sympathize with cop-killers, and that an equal number, basically zero, would empathize with them.
We are dealing here with a very tough issue involving human cognition, raw emotion, intense pressure, and fear. By this, I mean the interactions between police and citizens, and the altercations that have happened. Every police stop is a tense moment for both parties. Police are taught that nothing is routine, even though most stops are routine. Every stop involves some level of dominance and required submission. People — officers and the citizens they stop — react to this along a wide spectrum of human emotion and behavior. And there are millions of these fraught interactions every year. All of them are difficult; a microscopic percentage lead to violence, and a fraction of that fraction involve unnecessary and tragic violence that should not be excused despite its infrequency.
But it turns out to be too easy in the world of politics to demonize those who press forward for even more better protection from untrained officers or malicious ones, as if their focal point was every officer and every police department. Easy points to score with the angry white voter.
The good news is that just in my adult lifetime, many police departments have proven that they share these concerns and they have massively escalated training, adopted more sophisticated approaches, and tried to better understand the human cognitive difficulties that lurk in every interaction between police and citizenry. As usual, quietly but effectively, our American infrastructure is learning and adapting, even as many of our leaders seek to exploit rather than solve.
I have found the BLM movement to be reasonably articulate and focused, and anything but a mass defamation of law enforcement. And as I have read of it, an awfully large number of departments are reacting constructively to try to get this right. Just another case in which playing to the truth gets more done than playing to the base.