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**This article is partially an opinion piece**

Law enforcement and police officers. These are words that are now considered a controversial subject around the United States over the last few years. Kids used to look up to first responders like police officers and now are seeing all cops being categorized as bad cops. Media and politics take the reigns and guide how we really see the truth behind stories we hear, but the question is, should we lump them all into one or should we allow ourselves to fully understand the choices they make that can mean life or death? 

Ricardo Arce / Unsplash

In an article I read from the National Police Support Fund, law enforcement regularly put their lives on the line, whether working the streets or in the jail, they’re doing a job to protect us and making the sacrifice so we don’t have to. They are here to help the public and create safer communities for people from all walks of life. Today, there is increased scrutiny and unfair treatment from many. It makes it difficult for police to maintain a level of public support needed to do their jobs day in and day out. In 2019, the National Police Support Fund created a petition in an effort to stop violence against police officers and restore the respect that they so rightfully deserve. Police officers rank as one of the professions in which American citizens have the most confidence and meaning. Police officers are generally trusted to perform their duties correctly and professionally. According to poll numbers in 2020 from Gallup, officers rated only at 53% confidence as an institution. Recent findings show that the 53% is how much confidence Americans have in our law enforcement. The lack of confidence has ebbed and flowed throughout the years due to media coverage of the police. A place where we have the right to learn the truth, but sometimes can be misconstrued. Confidence has now fallen to 52% during incidents related to the Black Lives Matter Movement. The highest levels of support in law enforcement were between 2001-2007 when Americans saw the power that law enforcement had after September 11th.  Life-shattering moments can happen every day, but what would happen if help were not there? 

Problems now are worse in some places that need police protection the most. Chicago has the highest homicide rate of any city in the country. Only 1/3 of residents in homicide impacted areas say they have “a lot” of respect for law enforcement. At a time when residents of Chicago needed the most police protection, the same residents have had less respect for them than ever before. Without the support, police cannot do their jobs. Attorney General William Barr called attention to the lack of respect shown for law enforcement when he said communities “have to start showing them respect and support that they deserve.” Law enforcement officers are put in situations that we can’t even fathom. Life and death situations that require action immediately. What many are not seeing now is that law enforcement has their best interests in mind as they work tirelessly to protect and serve their communities. This does not just impact how they do their job, but the future of law enforcement itself of recruitment and retainment. 


How do we restore respect and spread it? Start with police organizations. If officers do not have respect for the profession and for one another, how can we expect the public to feel any differently? Kevin Dowling, a police trainer in Maryland summed it up like this, “we can live our faith in any profession and at any level of leadership. We can be effective without compromising our beliefs. We can tackle hard issues, be they human rights violations, or taking someone into custody for a serious crime like homicide, while still treating everyone with dignity.”  This leads us to another path, working with elected officials to pass laws that put respect for police at the front of the line. 

Canada began to take the bull by the horns earlier in 2020, with the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, which explicitly aims to restore respect for police officers. Legislative actions like this require cooperation between both police and politicians, but that collaboration and solidarity can go a long way toward changing public opinion for the better. Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Sylvia Jones said in a news release, “often this work is silent, preventative, and unseen. Sometimes it requires police to put themselves in harm’s way. And occasionally, it requires police to make difficult life or death decisions in the blink of an eye. But no matter what, our police can be counted on to protect us. They always have our back. It’s about time their government had theirs.” It takes a large number of people to make these changes and the only way we can do that is by working together and not against one another. We need to realize we cannot look at one situation and blame it on all members of law enforcement, they all aren’t the enemy.

Law enforcement is ever-changing and right now it’s a position that is even scarier for those working in it. It is a profession that is getting more negativity than positivity. Restore the faith. See that many are here to serve and help. We may never understand situations where police officers have had to make split-second decisions, but it does not give us the right to look down on every single person in this field. Their humans just like everyone else. Support them. Our future is dependent on it. Our safety is critical. Without them, where would we be? 

My name is Katelyn Richardson. I am 27 years old. I am currently attending Central Washington University studying my bachelors degree in food and sciences to become a nutritionist and later a diabetes educator for kids. I've been personally battling type 1 diabetes since I was six years old. I love being outside, vintage shopping, watching movies, and going to stock car races!
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