I am a member of the blue family. I am a police widow; my husband was shot and killed in the line of duty 15 years ago. My father-in-law is retired law enforcement. Many of my friends are cops. I recently left a university where I had been teaching for nearly a decade to work for COPsync, Inc., a technology company dedicated to the safety of law enforcement. Every day I struggle with the reality that one of my friends could die in the service of their job. As a writer and researcher, and I have tried to bring the parts of me that are a social scientist to the question “Is there a war on police?” I am inside the story and not a casual observer; all the more reason my voice should be heard.
Several weeks ago, the Washington Post ran the online article Once Again: There is No ‘War on Cops.’ And those who claim otherwise are playing a dangerous game. I encourage everyone to read the article, comments to the article, as well as read the linked articles and watch the embedded video posts. The gist of the primary article, though, is that the “war on police” is a fictitious political ploy of conservative politicians and media, and that the dangerous rhetoric of the right is creating a culture of fear for law enforcement. From my perspective, I am quite certain groups that publicly call for the death of police officers (https://youtu.be/K0LYvnqyIZc), individuals who assassinate members of law enforcement, and silence from national leaders is creating the culture of fear.
I do wish to celebrate the fact that line of duty deaths are at an historic low, and deaths by gunfire are on trend to be 23% lower than last year (www.odmp.org). However, statistics are of no consolation to a grieving spouse, a parent who outlived their child, a child set adrift by the loss of a parent, or a police officer wracked by survivor’s guilt. Any life lost in the line of duty is one too many.
Social scientists give much credence to the idea of lived experience. Setting aside the dueling media, a variety of activist groups, and increasing anti-police rhetoric, let’s examine the reality of day-to-day policing. When your lived experience is such that you holster a gun on your hip, strap on a bullet resistant vest, and spend your entire work day tactically examining how to keep yourself safe….you are at war.