There has been a lot of controversy over a situation in Ferguson, Missouri. A white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old African American.
Many people are angry, saying it was racist or that he was just a kid. People are greatly angered after a grand jury did not indict Wilson. It has led to protests, some of which have been violent. Police have been taunted, windows broken, cars vandalized and buildings have been robbed and set on fire.
Today, I would like to give a high school kid’s opinion on law enforcement. This is something that is close to me, because a family member of mine is a police officer. There has been a great misunderstanding over the Brown and Wilson situation.
What I believe needs to be said and understood is this: Police officers don’t have more than 30 seconds to make a decision in a situation that is potentially dangerous. The courts and citizens of America have years to ponder over the right and wrong of the situation. Police do not get that luxury. They are trained to go with the best decision to get rid of the threat.
While it is a terrible tragedy that Michael Brown was shot and killed, people must understand that Officer Wilson was just doing his job.
There is always going to be the what if: What if Brown had not been a threat? Would Brown have been more of a threat if he had not been shot? What if what Wilson did was wrong?
To me, Wilson handled the situation to the best of his ability. It is my understanding that he warned Brown before shooting at him. People often ask, “why did he kill him?” Well, my answer is, officers don’t just shoot for fun. They shoot to kill. While that sounds terrible and brutal, it is true.
People also wonder why do we allow people the power to do such things and be pardoned? Well, from watching my loved one, I know that they go through extensive training at a police academy. I also know that the departments offer frequent training programs for officers to attend so that their training is always updated.
An officer’s job is to protect. That is exactly what they do. Yes, I understand that there are some corrupt people out there. That is not just in the police force; you can find that anywhere. But, that doesn’t mean people should stereotype cops because of a few bad ones. They just don’t hear the good stories about cops. So, I will tell you one.
My family member who is an officer was heading home from work. As he was driving, he came across a burning house. The fire department had not yet been called. So, he called, alerting them of the situation. Then he did one of the bravest things I have ever heard: He ran into that burning house and rescued everyone in it. He now has permanent lung damage from rescuing that family. Does he care? Not one bit. He was just glad that he was able to help that family.
Let me share with you another story. This same family member was on duty. A river had flooded and a little boy was stuck in the rushing waters. The officer jumped in and rescued that little boy in the freezing river. Once again, some damage was done, but he did not care.
This officer is a loved one of several people; so is Brown and so is Wilson. Would it be fair to ask Wilson to hesitate? Would it be fair to ask his family to let him go forever after that? The answer is no. I think that people forget that officers are just regular people too, with regular families that love them. Officers die all the time, but no one riots over their deaths. They were killed unjustly. They were taken from their loved ones. Yet, people sit back and don’t do anything.
I apologize to the Brown family. Their loss was a great one. Yet, a man lost his job and now he and his family have to suffer through guilt, most likely for the rest of their lives, and for what? It was because he went to work that day to do his job and protect the people he serves.
If you want people to protect you for little pay, then don’t complain to them about what they do. You asked them to protect you. They vowed to do just that. They don’t do it because they are evil; they do it because they truly have compassion. Police officers want to help people and even though the job can have damaging physical and mental affects, they don’t care. They don’t complain. They just do their duty and we should honor and respect that.
Peatross is a junior at Tooele High School.