Violence is never the solution

We need to put aside anger and talk about what’s going on and why

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

UTMikeColLogo copyWe live in angry times, something we should all be worried about.

From the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to the streets of our cities, folks are expressing their anger, often at each other and not in particularly helpful or useful ways.

Like everyone else, I’m horrified by the recent deadly attacks on police but also equally troubled by a spate of police shootings of unarmed, African-Americans — with one just yesterday in Florida.

To be clear: violence is never the answer; it is important to get past the anger and start talking to each other and looking for why this is happening.

Some citizens are angry — from the Black Lives Matter movement to just average folks who feel they don’t get fair treatment from law enforcement. Some police are angry, too, even here in Chester County.

Earlier this week, the Sadsbury Township Police posted the following on their Facebook page:

“If you object to the police, don’t call us when something in your world goes wrong. If your car is stolen, don’t call us. If your house is broken into and your property is taken, don’t call us. When a family member is suffering a heart attack or someone you are with is having a heroin overdose, don’t call us (we usually get there before EMS). If someone drives down your street shooting up your house or car, don’t call us. When someone is kicking down your backdoor, don’t call us. If your child has wandered off, been taken or is being molested, don’t call us. When someone has injured or killed a loved one, don’t call us.”

The post, pulled down a few hours later, also suggested if you do support the police, it was OK to call them. I reached out to Sadsbury Police Chief Jerry Ranck about the post — hoping to get insight to the frustration behind it and clarify confusion over an omitted “what if” that may have been supposed to be part of the post — but he did not respond.

Neighboring Valley Township’s police and its Chief, Joseph Friel, offered a more measured post in the days following, decrying violence and asking for folks to come together to seek solutions:

“The Valley Township Police Department would like residents to call or come to the station if they have any questions or concerns with what is happening in our communities across the United States. Although things appear somewhat confused at the present time. I want to reassure you that Valley Township Police are in fact here to service and protect our community. Recent events in other states would or could cause anger and dismay with Law Enforcement in all communities across the United States. I want to make it perfectly clear that as the Chief of Police ,and a police officer for almost 29 years there is no room for the violence that is taking place in our communities today. I direct this to both the Law Enforcement and Citizens alike. I urge all to come together to resolve the issues that have caused so much anger and death. GOD did not intend for us to be like this.”

It’s hard to argue with Chief Friel’s comments, a conversation is desperately needed, not angry rhetoric.

Here’s a couple of thoughts:

The vast, overwhelming majority of police officers are exceptional, civic-minded, dedicated people who put their lives on the line every day. They rightly deserve the support that so many in the community are offering right now. Without doubt, they are the good guys.

Also, though, minorities have reason to be angry and concerned over recent shootings of unarmed citizens (honestly, we all do) by police.

There are no circumstances under which it is acceptable to attack the police — the entire concept of needing to be able to rebel against a “tyrannical” government is unacceptable, whether you are an angry African-American or a Caucasian militia member. 50,000 people died in the U.S. Civil War proving that point. We have a political process and it — and it alone — is the way to solve conflict and disagreements. If you think things are wrong, vote, volunteer for a campaign or, better yet, run for local office and fight for the change you think is needed.

Picking up a gun and seeking to do violence against those you have differences with will not solve anything. Ever.

Still, we see the headlines about police shootings and we have to ask “why?”

Obviously, there are a lot of contributing factors from training to staffing — but I have to think the overriding factor is one thing: fear.

We’ve created an atmosphere that our police are afraid and act accordingly. For every shooting of an unarmed person, how many more are there when a suspect is armed, sometimes very heavily?

In the back of every police officer’s head at the start of their tour is one question: “Will I make it home alive to my family?” 

Police never know what they’re going to be facing when they pull over a car. Is it just a teenager who isn’t paying attention, or is it a heavily armed meth head who doesn’t much care if he lives or dies and who he takes out with him.

Our police shouldn’t have to face fear on a daily basis, but they do.

How have we gotten here? Is this the America we want?

It’s time to start asking questions and talking to each other — not talking at each other — to find real solutions.

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