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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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To protect and serve

By Aaron Zundel

Everyone’s dealt with a jerk cop. You know, the one who pulls you over for a taillight and then harasses you for 15 minutes? The one just aching to ticket or arrest you because you’re young, African-American, Hispanic, cock-eyed, whatever?

It’s an undeniable phenomenon that’s as common as petty crime itself. So it stands to reason that when five New York cops fire 51 rounds into a car of three unarmed men, people would have the impulse to get upset-tired of what they see as another flagrant abuse of power in a long line of incidents. This impulse, however, is not a good one.

The shooting took place Nov. 25, when five plain-clothed officers opened fire on a car driven by three young men after their car struck one of the officers. Since then, and without any real information about exactly what happened, the media has fueled a public firestorm over the shootings. Lobbyists and activists, including the disingenuous Rev. Al Sharpton, who referred to the incident as a “firing squad,” have come out of the woodwork, claiming that racial prejudice and unregulated police brutality were factors in the shootings. Nicole Paultree, fiance of one of the victims, called the police “murderers.”

The idea that the New York Police Department as a whole, or the officers themselves, were motivated by racial prejudice, or were unconcerned with the plight of the minority community, is laughable. Two of the five officers involved in the shooting were black, and another Hispanic. Yet details such as these are lost amid the rhetoric and outrage of a young man shot the night before his wedding.

Not that the officers are innocent of any misconduct-it certainly sounds as though something went horribly, horribly wrong. But aside from the fact that at least one officer was struck by the car and 51 shots were fired in response, no one knows exactly what happened yet. As a society, it’s astounding how quick we are to side against five police veterans, men who devote their lives to protecting others, in favor of a young man who had already been arrested four times and who was-in an excellent display of moral fiber-soliciting sex the night before his wedding.

Perhaps the officers involved will ultimately end up being found guilty, but that’s not the point. The point is that we pathologically fear those who protect us. Stemming from a larger social attitude to distrust and hate anyone who is in authority, villainizing the police today has become almost trendy.

When an incident like the one in New York occurs, people automatically assign blame to the whole group. Indeed, less than a day after the shooting, people rallied in New York City for the resignation of police commissioner Raymond Kelly. And New York City Council Member Charles Barron, along with Al Sharpton, plans to lead a protest against police brutality Dec. 6. Such frenzied behavior is not only directed at the wrong people, it’s also unproductive and even damaging.

The citizenry needs to be able to trust its local police force. If it can’t, it’s one more step toward social corruption, violence and, at the very worst, chaos. Virulent rhetoric, protests and demonstrations, especially when no one knows the facts surrounding an event, only serve to further the divide between police and society. If there’s a problem, people ought to work toward strengthening relationships between the public and law enforcement, not tearing them down.

Here on campus, we have a dedicated police force and, believe it or not, it works hard to keep us safe. They may be pompous, overbearing and even unjust at times, but the good the officers do far outweighs the bad. We have the ability to feel safe on campus because of the job they do. In the coming days of anger and protest, try not to let misplaced national outrage about the actions of a few unruly people influence your own opinions about police and law enforcement. And the next time you run into officers on campus, thank them and let them know they are appreciated.

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