As I was watching the news this morning, there was an item that reminded me of the Old West. I’m not talking about wagon trains and dysentery. I’m talking about an attempt to take the law in your own hands.
What if we didn’t have police officers to keep our streets safe? What if we had to take steps on our own when someone tries to break into our home, a spouse tries to assault us or gunned down an innocent victim in the streets? Why am I asking these far-fetched questions? Let me explain.
News reports, including the Orange County Register, tell about an incident taking place Tuesday where an altercation on a police officer’s property in Anaheim. Teenagers apparently were walking on the officer’s lawn, and he was telling them to get off, with some colorful verbage. That’s when one decided to get mouthy and say he was going “to sue” the officer, which the officer apparently misheard as that the teen was going “to shoot” him, the Register reported.
That’s when the teen and officer scuffle, and video shown on television news stations showed a couple of other teens getting in on the fight. That’s when the off-duty officer pulled out his gun and fired a bullet into the air.
The Anaheim Police Department reported an investigation is underway, and the officer has been placed on administrative leave. That apparently was not enough for some folks in the city who believe the officer should be charged with a crime, so they took to the streets to protest. If it was just angry chanting, the protest would have been understandable, but protesters didn’t stop there.
The protest became a mob when people tried to vandalize the officer’s home and the homes surrounding, along with throwing objects at other police officers trying to maintain the peace. Apparently, there’s something wrong with a police officer firing a gun into the air—not at someone, mind you, but into the air—but not citizens causing property damage.
The logic reminds me of a saying: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
We believe in swift justice in America, but we’ve also become a culture where we sit at home and think we know whodunit better than the sworn law enforcement actually out there investigating. The respect for police has dropped immensely in this country, exacerbated by the number of police-involved shootings reported in recent years, especially shootings involving white officers killing non-white citizens. It’s painted an image that officers are hotheads, but people need to look past the broad brushstrokes.
Many officers will probably never need to pull their gun in the face of danger, and some of those who do will not have to discharge their weapon. To automatically assume the officer in Anaheim, who was off duty and dealing with infringement on his property, was unjustified in pulling his weapon after multiple teens came at him is ludicrous, and most intelligent people would rather see an investigation reach its conclusion before taking action.
The officer fired his weapon into the air, and not at a person. We’re not dealing with a teenager’s funeral right now, which is a departure from recent police actions. The officer only pulled the weapon after multiple teens came at him. Could any of us say we’d do something different in the face of such an attack? I think not.
The protest took place one day after the incident. Protesters believed the arrest should come before the investigation was complete. This is the kind of attitude that was prevalent in the Wild West more than 150 years ago, where justice sometimes involved swiftly hanging suspected criminals in a mob environment instead of letting the courts reach a verdict and decide the punishment for the crime.
Recently, there was a “Day Without Immigrants,” where immigrant workers left their jobs to protest a travel ban implemented by President Donald Trump. Maybe there should be a “Day Without Police Officers” in Anaheim. Let law enforcement frolic in Disneyland and not have to deal with bloody corpses, rape victims or arrogant teenagers who think it’s their right to go where they want and do what they want. Let the people who think an officer should stand silent while someone steps on his property without invitation deal with the criminals themselves, and tell me the day wouldn’t end without bloodshed.
If the investigation doesn’t yield justice, people should voice their displeasure. The investigation is not over, though, and Wednesday’s protest was extremely premature. If you can show outrage without throwing a brick through someone’s window, you’re part of the solution to America’s woes. If you can’t show outrage without resorting to random violence where innocent bystanders become collateral damage, you’re part of the problem.