Lies, Damn Lies and Furloughs.
Long before furloughs of LEOs and budget cutbacks in the face of increasing attacks on LEOs, Desiderius Erasmus famously said, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Now I never met Mr. Erasmus, but I am pretty certain that during his lifetime there was little discussion of laying off LEOs, sending LEOs home several hours before their shift to save overtime and disbanding specialized units to supplement patrol functions. However, from what I have seen, his quote is spot on and provides a clear path for all of us who wear the badge or support those who do.
Violent attacks on LEOs are not a new phenomenon. The Northlake Bank robbery in 1967, Norco Bank robbery in 1980, and the active shooter at who murdered four Lakewood Police Officers in 2009 are stark reminders that LEOs have and always will be under attack. However, what is lost among the statistics of the shootings, the politics of the response and the speeches at memorial services is an inescapable truth of every violent attack on a LEO; it could have been worse. As bad as the loss of a LEO on a traffic stop or the murder of students on a campus will always be, each one could have been worse. More often than not, the carnage ceased because of an accelerated LEO response or pressure from the response.
I am about as politically conservative as you will find and that includes fiscal matters. However, when it comes to LEOs and all of public safety, furloughs are unacceptable. The great statesman Henry Clay once said, “Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.” Citizens are not shareholders of the government. A shareholder looks to a dividend in the form of cash. A citizen should properly look to the government to provide a safe environment to live, work and raise a family. When a government furloughs LEOs, the obligations that come with the role of a trustee dictate that such actions must be a last resort.
So the LEOs and LEO supporters who read this should be prepared to raise a flag of caution whenever public safety resources are eliminated or reduced. Have on hand the statistics that prove your point. More than quoting national crime statistics, look at local response times, calls for service and crime reports. Meet with your government officials, attend public forums and speak out. Your speech is protected as long as you speak on a matter of public concern. The reduction in service that will result from furloughs will affect you as members of the community and you have a right to speak up.
When you hear or read inaccurate information, counter it quickly. You will find that the public wants to be informed about the facts and they overwhelmingly value your input. You are the subject matter experts on crime, law enforcement and officer safety. Do not allow anyone else to claim that title.
In many respects, we are living in a land of the blind. LEOs do their jobs with both eyes open and must do so to stay alive. You are the leaders in your communities. If your government officials are not going in the right direction, you can lead your citizens toward the light. They will follow your lead if you act professionally, stick to the facts and work within our political system to make your voice heard. You may not be king, but your efforts will save lives.