I came across this headline for an Op-ed piece in Newsweek, Uvalde Shooting Reveals Hollywood’s Deeply Flawed Take on the Police | Opinion by JESSE WILLIAMS AND JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS. I urge you to read the piece, so you’ll understand why I titled this “Are you F#$%ing Kidding Me.” https://www.newsweek.com/uvalde-shooting-reveals-hollywoods-deeply-flawed-take-police-opinion-1716254
But even if you don’t, just these first few paragraphs will illustrate why the piece is so outrageous, biased, and, frankly, misguided and dangerous nonsense.
“One thing is for certain — the myth of the police officer as the good guy with a gun, protecting and serving the community, is costing our lives. Police have been negligent or violent or both and lied about it for years, but this feels like a watershed moment in which the perception of the general public — shaped, among other things, by decades of positive portrayals in the media — is finally catching on to it.”https://www.newsweek.com/uvalde-shooting-reveals-hollywoods-deeply-flawed-take-police-opinion-1716254
Again, are you kidding me?
Their point about Hollywood misrepresenting the police is correct, but it is hardly by making them heroes. Instead, Hollywood portrays officers in one of several generalities; alcoholic misanthropes, rule-breakers who ignore the law for the “greater good,” or Navy Seal-level marksmen who shoot five people while getting their morning coffee and remain on duty even as the dead bodies continue to pile up.
Hollywood portrays the realities of police work as well as they portray the realities of interstellar travel, it is all fiction.
The one point the authors did get right in their article—which clearly seems to favor eliminating the police as a viable solution for a better society—is that the public perception of the dangers of police work is out of proportion to the reality.
Policing is not the most dangerous job in America. Statistically, commercial fishing, logging, and roofers have higher rates of job-related fatal injuries. But statistics only tell part of the story. Cops get hurt or killed at work by people who intentionally harm them. While other jobs may be more dangerous, that risk is purely accidents or negligence. Cops get attacked and ambushed.
The authors also focus on the Uvalde, Texas incident as an example of Hollywood’s glorifying cops allowing them to conceal or obfuscate their actions or failures. Perhaps the authors might want to consider waiting until the entire investigation is complete before they jump to conclusions.
They are guilty of the same things they accuse the police of, pre-judging a situation absent any evidence.
However, the topic they raise is valid. Is the militarization of the police—something Hollywood does emphasize in many of their programs—a danger to effective police-community relations?
From that perspective—something I think needs to be discussed as part of the overall strategy to reduce gun violence in America—I would suggest you read this piece by Professor Arthur Rizer
Riser is the founder of the ARrow Center for Justice Reform and an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. He is a former police officer, federal prosecutor, and U.S. Army combat veteran.
Police Militarization Gave Us Uvalde
The adoption of aggressive, military-style tactics and weaponry has put American policing on the wrong track for decades.
By Arthur Rizer
The piece—written by someone who has the perspective of both a line officer and a military veteran, points out the clear and necessary differences between civilian law enforcement and military tactics. While the piece may anger many of my friends who are still serving as police officers or retired like myself, it points out that while supplying police departments with military surplus weapons was well intended, it has become a case of the tail wagging the dog.
Police departments must be equipped to respond to the reality of the nature and number of weapons proliferating on our streets. They sometimes need to use fatal force. But if we constantly reinforce through training and the police culture that every encounter is likely to be potentially fatal to officers, yet don’t adequately train them in other tactics and alternative methods to respond to situations, we end up with an army of occupation not a law enforcement agency.
The nature of violence in America—be it guns or otherwise—is a complex problem. Finding a solution to the problem will involve many different efforts. One is a thorough and honest evaluation of how we select, train, and deploy police officers.
Hollywood is strictly entertainment. It is not a source for a realistic portrayal of what officers face on the street or how they respond. Finding ways to change the insular us vs. them mentality between cops and those they encounter will take time and thought. Something we have not always done.
But articles like the one in Newsweek do equal if not more harm than the actions of a few officers. And while I would defend their right to publish the piece, I would also demand they at least attempt to make the article balanced and reflective of the complexities of the problem.
Cops are not perfect; they are human, and that is what we want them to be.