An Open Letter to the Good Cops and Everyone Else

Hey good cops. It is time we had a talk. First of all, I believe that you, and almost all of your colleagues on the police force joined with the intention of serving your community and helping people. I believe that most police are there because they want to do good.

But it looks like a lot of people are plenty pissed off at you. You (and a lot of your supporters) think that this is pretty unfair. After all, you are doing your best day in and day out to be a good cop and to serve your community, sometimes at risk to your life.

Recently, my social media feeds have been filled with messages telling us to support the good cops. At one point, I posted this video, and asked where the good cops are?

One of my friends then asked if I believed that there were no good police, and that forced me to examine what I really do believe, and of course, it is much more complex.

I don’t buy the concept of “good people” or “bad people” at all. Everyone has the capacity for good, and everyone has the capacity for evil. “Good” people do bad things, and “bad” people do good things. People are complex, and trying to put them into the basket of “good” or “bad” is seldom useful.

Two examples from the world of ecology and environmentalism illustrate the point. The first is William T Hornaday. Hornaday was an avid conservationist, and is credited with preserving the American bison from extinction, He worked with Theodore Roosevelt and was a tireless advocate for the protection of wildlife. By 1915, the American Museum Journal declared that Hornaday “has no doubt inaugurated and carried to success more movements for the protection of wild animal life than has any other man in America. The Boy Scouts of America name their highest award for conservation after Hornaday

Hornaday was also the director of the Bronx Zoo, where a Pygmy native of the Congo was placed on display in a cage with monkeys. Yeah, you are reading that correctly, a human being was on display in the monkey cage at the zoo

At the other extreme is Robert Kehoe. Kehoe was a toxicologist who argued vehemently that lead in gasoline did no harm, and testified in congress against the proposed bans on leaded gas. I have said that I don’t believe in Hell, but if I did, I would say Kehoe belonged there. But, people are complex. Kehoe also argued against allowing lead to be used in children’s toys, and was an early advocate for occupational health and safety standards.

Whether we are “good” or “bad” isn’t inherent in our nature. It is the result of choices that we make every day. Good cops, there are some things that you need to do. Some of these are going to be hard.

The first, and I am sure the hardest, is you need to break the blue wall of silence. Now I know that is going to be hard. You have been told that you are part of a brotherhood, and those that aren’t loyal, and coming forward comes with great risk, both personal and professional. But now we need you more than ever before.

The next is that you need to listen. You need to listen to your community. You need to listen to your critics. I know that isn’t easy either

I want you to know that even those of us who want to #defundthepolice recognize that you have made sacrifices and taken risks, and you have done so because we asked you to.

But we also recognize that for too long, we have asked you to solve problems that shouldn’t be your job. That we have failed to address societal problems and turned them into enforcement problems. That isn’t your fault, but you can be part of the solution

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