This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Before they go to work, police officers wake up, take showers, put on uniforms and say goodbye to spouses and children who hope they will come home alive at the end of their shifts.
They handle brawls, robberies, aggressive drunks, fugitives, sociopaths and volatile domestic calls that sometimes turn lethal. They routinely cross paths with lowlifes carrying guns.
Their job description consists of putting their bodies between dangerous criminals and the innocent public. They are the good guys, not the bad guys.
So it gets old watching Occupy Wall Street factions resort to the old, wearisome and fundamentally vicious tactic of promoting their causes by maneuvering cops into staged confrontations designed to make them look like bullies.
As some Occupy camps in U.S. cities have degenerated into spectacles of park destruction, crime, drug overdoses and public defecation, previously sympathetic mayors have been forced to reclaim the hijacked public spaces.
Many demonstrators insist on being driven out physically – by the police, of course – in front of television cameras. It’s a grab for the moral capital of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which won the nation’s admiration after courageous demonstrators were publicly assaulted by fire hoses, snarling dogs and the Bull Connors of the old South.
As political scientist Thad Kousser told McClatchy Newspapers, “You want to be forced out by the cops – that way you never retreated, you were pushed out by the man.”
It’s theater. The protesters assign themselves the role of heroic champions of social justice braving tear gas canisters, batons and the system’s brutality. The police – “the man” – get the role of faceless imperial storm troopers who embody the evil empire.
The political statement gets made at the expense of human beings – working class men and women, union members no less – who spend much of their time putting themselves in harm’s way on behalf of the rest of us.
Sometimes harm’s way includes the theater staged by the demonstrators, who don’t always do a great job of policing their own. In this movie, officers have been getting fists, knees, stones and firebombs thrown at them.
The contrived conflict is reminiscent of “suicide by cop.” In that script, a depressed man or woman waves a gun, shouts threats and eventually forces the responding officers to shoot him or her. The officers go home having killed a human being when they would really preferred to have taken their children to the zoo or a ball game.
Call us hypersensitive, but we saw five police officers in Pierce County shot to death in the line of duty two years ago. That speaks for itself. The law enforcement profession carries more moral capital than those who force cops into scuffles – or worse – to score political points that could have been made without demonizing the police.