In the wake of Ferguson, “I can’t breathe,” and now Michael Slager in South Carolina, there’s been a flood of embittered, sarcastic, sometimes downright slanderous posts in my Facebook feed as people share every example of possible bad coppery they can get their hands on. I’d like to take these folks—my friends—out for coffee. (Well, virtually.) Let’s sit for a second.
I love freedom. I love justice. I hate chains. And I hate corruption, especially coming from those who have sworn to protect and serve. I’m all for pointing out problems in America and for turning over rocks to reveal scum hiding in the dirt. Absolutely, teach your kids that bad cops are real. My parents did. My dad worked with lots of good cops, but my mom also warned us girls about letting ourselves get pulled over in the middle of nowhere on a dark night. (There’s legal permission not to stop until you’re in a well-lit area.) But if all or even most of what you post on Facebook are fuzzy videos featuring cops apparently/super obviously misbehaving (accompanied by your own shrill commentary), then I suggest you go start a blog and call it Two Sizes Too Small. Seriously.
I’m not saying ignore evil, I’m saying learn how to speak the truth in love. What are you loving? Whom are you loving? Are you more smitten with your bloodhound ability to sniff out every single instance of potential cop crime than you are with truly safeguarding liberty? Do you love the good cops out there more than you hate the bad ones? Do your words, tone, and frequency of posts show this love?
Perhaps you think you’re the lonely Jeremiah whose calling is to preach bad news no matter whether people want to hear it, and I get it—there are times for Jeremiahs and America could use a couple good ones right now. But you are not him. Jeremiahs say hard things, but they say them in love. They call for repentance. They have a call to action. They have a “therefore, do this.” When your posts are sour and sullen and contain hasty generalizations saying cops are “foul-mouthed hothead[s]” (I’m only quoting Facebook), do you know what your tone tells me? You’re bitter. You’re cynical. You don’t love sheep as much as you hate wolves—and it’s skewing your vision.
Do you actually know for sure that ALL of those fuzzy videos show verified cop crime? Are you a detective? A jury member? A judge? A true witness? Love gets the facts straight, tells them in a winsome way (hitting hard where it needs to), and motivates to action. Even if you can guarantee that every single news article or video you share is true, love still doesn’t sit at a computer on a scowling complaint binge. If you have the insight of angels and the gift for discerning all manner of abuses, but have not love….
Perhaps you’re thinking your one and only calling IS to complain because Americans are so blind, you’ve just got to beat this horse again and again because nobody will admit it’s dead yet. I hear ya. There are times for that. But this is not it. Who is your audience? Facebook friends. Are they aware of the danger of bad cops? Yes? Then let’s ease up.
Your audience is also implied—the wider world, including cops. Including good ones. I am friends with a Christian police officer (an old college buddy), I go to church with at least two more, I dated a deputy once upon a time, I’ve been on a ride-along with an officer who prayed he would never have to draw his gun, and all of them, together with the 20+ other cops that I’ve met and interacted with over the years in various cities, are gentlemanly, brave, helpful, respectful, and conscientious servants of the law. When your Facebook posts are resentful, pessimistic, one-sided, and ungrateful, how are you treating these guys? We aren’t looking at the Stasi or the KGB, people. A big majority of the LEOs out there are heroes living in danger 24/7…for you. Show some respect. Don’t be more liberal with your fire and brimstone than God was on Sodom and Gomorrah.
It’s easy to haunt Dirty Cop Website and share links. Just copy/paste. You know what’s not easy? Applying wisdom in how, when, and why to do it. Popping sin, but keeping sanguine. Giving thanks for the good while condemning the bad. If you want to raise awareness of what really does appear to be growing corruption among the men in blue, then raise it in such a way that shows you are a likable, charitable, fair-minded, God-fearing, respectful citizen who knows how to smile.
Cheers! Coffee’s on me.
Gwen, I think the real issue that gets people posting all those stories is the perception that there’s no accountability for bad cops, however few of them there are.
In the absence of official accountability, publicizing incidents of police abusing their power seems like the only alternative. If that makes good cops uncomfortable, they need to take steps to convince the public that there is real accountability when an officer does something wrong.
Thanks, Michael. That could very well be the issue for many people–and I sympathize with it. The posts I’m targeting here are the kind that leave you feeling shriveled, angry, and antagonistic because of their attitude, word choice, poor logic, etc. To compare them with protests: We can share “bad cop” videos in a way that is like a peaceful march, but we can also share them in way that gets bitter people chucking rocks. I’m against the second kind.
Thanx for this! I believe that bad cops exist, but more common are cops who have a lapse in judgement. Who misread a movement or action as going for a weapon, or perhaps emotions get heightened and excessive force is used. The Golden Rule could probably eliminate most cases of police brutality.