• 48°

‘Thin blue line’ will get thinner

The term “thin blue line” is used to refer to those law enforcement officers who are assigned the task of keeping society from descending into chaos.

During the last couple of weeks, their role has been challenged. Because several officers in Minneapolis did not live up to their responsibility to protect citizens, but instead, crossed the line and became violent criminals, all of law enforcement is under attack.

Sadly, the challenge of protecting the innocent and serving will become more difficult.

Funding

Some are calling for defunding law enforcement completely. That is how a majority of the city council members in Minneapolis voted. Others, like the mayors of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York are talking about cutting the police budgets and using those funds to beef up other departments in city government. Even our very own Gov. Ralph Northam has alluded to shifting money away from law enforcement.

No matter which term you use, defunding or diverting, this means trouble for our communities and those who we have been entrusted to protect our families and prevent chaos. Less funding will result in departments continuing to offer poor wages for dangerous jobs. This, as well as the continuing criticism that officers are receiving, will leave departments with unfilled positions. Trying to serve our communities while shorthanded will further demoralize officers as well as frustrate those needing help.

Morale

I mentioned low morale from understaffing, but low morale is also driven by some leaders who do not allow officers to do their job preventing chaos.

Look at the mayors who have ordered law enforcement to stand down. As rioters and looters set fires, shattered glass, and stole merchandise, law enforcement had been ordered to stand down in Richmond. After the first night of destruction, there is no acceptable reason why the mayor of Richmond kept officers off the street. Likewise, there is no reason that the governor did not have the National Guard protecting property.

In Portsmouth, an elected official was caught on tape directing activities that led to damaging of public property. In the process, a rioter was seriously injured when the statue fell. When the chief of police was asked why officers were not protecting city property, she explained that an elected official had warned her not to act. Two days later, the elected official was demanding that the chief be fired for not stopping the rioters.

In Seattle, it was the mayor that ordered the police to surrender the precinct headquarters. What has resulted is that individuals have taken over not just the building but the precinct service area. The so called “security force” has taken roadblocks and placed them to prevent entry into “their city”, now referred to as Chaz. Already the self-appointed “security force” is already shaking down businesses for protection.

Public Safety

Safety is the highest priority of government at every level. If we do not protect our national borders, we are not a nation. If we do not protect our citizens at the state or local level, then communities will fall to the lowest common denominator. Either the rapists, murderers, and thieves will control our communities by terror or vigilantes will organize to serve. Therefore, we are far better off to train officers to proper standards and treat them as the professionals they are.

However, those who become officers are human and can act questionably when under pressure. When this behavior is not corrected, for the good of all they must be replaced. There should never be a time when a police union is strong enough to protect an officer who has had 17 charges of unprofessional actions filed against him. These are the exceptions. Ninety-nine percent are in law enforcement to serve you, their community, friends, neighbors, and kinfolk. Please thank them for the risks they take.

Vacation

Maybe one solution to test how important our law enforcement is to our communities would be to give every officer the month of July as a paid vacation. I expect folks would then be begging for law enforcement to be back out protecting our homes and businesses. We all would be more aware of the services our officers provide.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.