Police and Media.. A Wife's Point of View
This week in Alberta a police officer was beaten, left in a ditch, and subsequently airlifted to hospital. He remains in hospital in stable condition days after.
It barely made headlines. In fact, you had to search it out in order to find any information about the incident until days after.
It’s no secret that it’s been a rough few weeks in Alberta. There have been four major incidents leaving three suspects dead, and two in hospital with gunshot wounds.
Alberta is also home to the deadliest police shooting in RCMP history. Mayerthorpe, for most RCMP and their families, brings back the memories and headlines we all watched in shock. Someone wanted to kill the police, and ultimately succeeded in extinguishing four, young, bright, lives.
The whole country reverberated again when in Saskatchewan, two other RCMP were killed not long after, followed closely by a member who lost his life in BC.
And, of course, there are many times officers are injured on the job that never gets reported to the media. Let me be the first to tell you it happens much more often than you think. Luckily for the majority of cases, the RCMP get their man.
I am both a student of journalism, and an RCMP wife. As such, you can imagine the double edge sword with which I read these stories in recent weeks. I was taught that reporting always has to be fair, unbiased, and accurate. However, the reporter’s angle, or sources they choose to use can turn one very cut and dry article, into a slam piece almost unknowingly. It would appear as of late, this seems to be happening more often than not.
A reporter wants to get to the most intimate sources of any story they are covering. Hearsay never used to be thought of as a reliable source, however more and more you see it used as such in articles.
For example, “I never knew the young man who is accused, but his family says he’s a great, solid, hardworking kind of guy, who just doesn’t have it in him to do this.”
So his family thinks he’s awesome despite the plethora of charges he faces… you don’t say.
You see why I bring this up, is that it almost always happens in a police involved article. Of course the police do not and cannot speak publically about character. It’s as divisive and biased as people are, but the media loves to jump on the random character witness willing to talk all day about what they’ve heard someone say about someone who knows the family well.
I know they want a story, but here’s where the other half of me kicks in.
It’s totally biased and completely unfair to paint the accused/suspect as a family guy who was going about his daily business, and to seemingly juxtapose the police as heartless, cruel, abusers of force.
I can’t help but feel like the media has scapegoated police to the point that we now, as a culture, believe this to be fact.
Police cannot be trusted. They will beat you, and perhaps shoot you for no good reason. They are uneducated, modern day thugs paid to enforce unfair laws and rules to a generally law abiding, and peaceful society.
As wives and children of police officers perhaps we are more sensitive to it, but we as a society hear it all the time.
The dickhead police officer that pulled you over for DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL.
The asshole of a cop who didn’t like being called an asshole of a cop.
The police watchdog pages, the petitions against use of force by police, those who video police doing their jobs in attempt to catch a slip-up. The people who are completely terrifying for anyone who loves someone with a badge: The Police Hater. More and more prevalent, they despise everything the police stand for and, like the sad events of Mayerthorpe, and Spiritwood proved, will force those we love to pay the absolute price for wearing the badge.
Then you open a paper, cringe as the headline blasts something awful like “MAN KILLED AT HANDS OF POLICE” and read the articles that accompany the quotes about the stellar attributes of the people it would appear were unjustly accosted by the police.
No one deserves to die. It’s that simple. No police officer wants to have to use deadly force as an option to protect themselves. That’s also simple.
Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice. Don’t do drugs, be in a gang, or party like it’s 1965. Follow these instructions and you’ll probably never have a run in with the police. You don’t often hear about a friendly game of Yahtzee getting interrupted by police tasering them. Just sayin….
I mean I’ll admit to being completely biased, but the police officers I know are the kind of people that volunteer to coach kids, give elderly people their seats, respect those in leadership or professional positions (ie. Nurses, doctors, teachers..), and want to get home without killing someone.
You know, just average kind of guys and girls.
I don’t dispute there are some bad police officers. Like any other profession the people behind the badge are humans. With flaws and faults. I believe that those that made mistakes need to be held accountable. I believe that an inquiry must take place to find out if appropriate action took place in cases of deadly force being used. What I will take issue with, and shout on a mountain top (I am in Alberta after all.. I can totally do it…) is that on the whole, these men and women we ask to protect us are pretty awesome human beings.
What has made it impossible for me to keep quiet, is this unnerving realization that policing is becoming more and more dangerous in a world where the media is claiming to make things more fair. Back to the old chicken and egg conundrum.. which came first? As a society have we raised children who learn at an early age to dislike and distrust police enough to grow into full blown police haters by adulthood? And is the media simply picking up on the underlying diminishing of respect for police and reporting the stories as thus, OR is the media’s constant reports about police brutality, and dysfunction within the police forces, leaving a taste of utter lack of respect and indifference to the men and women sworn to protect us?
I don’t know the answer. I feel like I’m just here to ask it.