A friend of mine recently posted a link to a controversial article written by the wife of an RCMP officer. She examined the tendency for the public to automatically finger point and blame the police. She acknowledged that although there are few bad apples in the policing field, most members are working very hard to serve and protect and make it home alive at the end of the shift.
Many of the comments on her article were supportive. They respected that men and women in first responder professions risk their lives every day and that they are put in positions where their decisions or mistakes might have dire consequences. The author’s main point was that the public shouldn’t judge a situation that they know very little about, or automatically blame the police when they don’t know what led up to the decision that the officer made.
The other side of the comments on her article ranged from people pointing out that police brutality exists, to extremely hostile, police-bashing, angry-at-the-man type sentiments. She eventually had to close the comments when individuals threatened her and wished that her police officer husband would beat her to death.
As I read through the progressively more disturbing comments, something occurred to me.
Regardless of your opinions about the police, we can all agree that there needs to be more accountability. I don’t mean holding a person or group accountable; I mean being personally accountable.
Whether we are bureaucrats, corporation heads, teachers, parents, or blue-collar workers we can all be more accountable for our behaviours and choices – both the ones we make and the ones we don’t. This would include what we say or stay silent on, how we spend our money and time, our attitude, what we consider important, and whether we jump to blame or jump to find solutions.
We are all responsible to act the way we would if we knew everybody was watching, even when nobody is watching. We are all responsible to respect other people’s things, families, beliefs, and lifestyles as if they were our own. We are responsible to ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow humans, whether that means protecting the environment, speaking up against an injustice, or simply being honest and trustworthy.
Personal accountability is fairly simple: work hard to be a person others would admire; adhere to the law or run for office to change the law; admit when we make mistakes; accept the consequences when we slack, break a rule, or screw up; exercise our right to vote so the people we want representing us are elected; appreciate and value the people who are trained and willing to do the difficult or dirty jobs that we can’t or don’t want to do.
Everybody is where they are today because of the choices they made yesterday. If you commit a crime you will be treated like a criminal. That is the choice you made and it’s not a police officer’s fault that you made that choice. On the other hand, if you are in a position of authority and you abuse the privilege or power that has been entrusted in you, you shouldl lose that position of authority.
I’m glad there are men and women who are willing to be spit on, attacked, and threatened with weapons as their profession. Sure, some police officers are corrupt or lack integrity; some have been on the traumatizing and sometimes thankless job too long; some have personal problems that affect their judgement; and some abuse the authority they have been entrusted with. Most of them are individuals who are caring, responsible, brave, and calm in threatening situations.
If we cop bash, the type of young men and women who we need in policing will think twice about choosing that profession.
Instead of bashing, let’s all work on being accountable to ourselves first.