By James Baxter, NMA President
Recently, as I read the article about the Texas software engineer who flew his plane into an IRS office complex, I was caused me to reflect on the downward spiral of the relationship between the citizenry and the government.
The incident will be officially portrayed as a “one off” event carried off by an imbalanced agitated individual. The same conclusion was implied when the recently released prisoner walked into a restaurant and killed four police officers who had no admitted relationship to his situation. Then there was the motorist who shot up a ticket camera van in Arizona, killing the operator who was screened from view. I suspect there are far more, but less spectacular, instances where angry, frustrated individuals take revenge against symbols of governmental authority. I also suspect that many more of these incidents are buried or obscured to prevent contagion.
The connection and relationship between the police and the public that they are supposed to protect has eroded to the point that common ground no longer exists. The bullet proof vests, lethal armament, stealth equipment and militaristic demeanor speak volumes about police attitudes toward the populace.
The public reciprocates by viewing the police as officious, authoritarian, exploitative and threatening. The police seemed to have achieved one objective—they are feared. However, collectively, they are also often loathed.
Law enforcement spokesmen would argue that this is a much more violent time in a violent world. Perhaps this is true? After all, half the adult population of the US has a criminal conviction on their record. We also have the largest prison population in the world; not bad when you consider that undemocratic authoritarian regimes like China, with five times the population, can’t hold a candle to us when it comes to stuffing people into prisons.
I’m sure someone can produce an opinion poll that proclaims the public supports and respects the men and women in blue, but those polls never ask the simple question “How do you feel when you see a squad car in your rear view mirror?”