-Isms: Original views on life in rural America
June 25, 2020
I first met Vinne about 10 years ago, when he ventured from Boulder, Colorado, to Norfolk, to participate in the amateur division of the Great American Comedy Festival.
He had a presence on stage that was hard to forget. He paced back and forth, wearing a path, like a tennis ball ricocheting side-to-side. And, there was something about his voice. He commanded attention. His timing was impeccable, delivering the twist of a joke.
He made an impression. We chatted after the competition and friended each other on social media, where I continue to follow his antics.
I imagine Vinnie exhibits some of the same mannerisms on the job. See, Vinnie is a police officer. Since age 14, he’s served his community in law enforcement as a volunteer and commissioned peace officer.
His comedy routine includes jokes about the job, hilarious blunders made by not-so-smart criminals, an occasional cliché about cops and donuts.
The other day, I watched him make an impassioned plea during a five-minute video. He talked about how discrimination rips apart communities, how law enforcement is no longer respected.
Maybe the general public doesn’t understand what the job entails.
“When citizens are at home asleep or off on holidays, law enforcement is protecting them, responding to calls for service. We’re doing our best to protect people from the evil that exists in this world,” he said.
Vinnie talked about different scenarios and how police are trained to respond.
Then, his tone shifted. “Do you know what it’s like to have someone spit in your face? Do you know what it’s like to have someone tell you they hope your family members die?”
The statement that nailed what’s going on in this country: “Please don’t judge us for the misconduct of a few rogue officers ... They need to be held accountable. They are the exceptions.”
My heart hurts for Vinnie and fellow law enforcement officers across this country.
Yes, there are bad cops, just like there are crappy car salesmen and ineffective educators and corrupt politicians and unethical reporters. They are the exceptions and need to be held accountable.
You want to believe good outweighs bad, the fight for justice and letter of the law triumph. You want to believe the officer who is called to assist a loved one has compassion while enforcing the law. You hope and pray an officer, who arrives on scene of a horrible accident and must deliver bad news to a family, feels empathy instead of anger. You want officers to do their job, which entails multiple roles. Officers are expected to be a social worker, a parent, a doctor, a mental health practitioner.
All this national talk about defunding police departments is a bunch of bunk. Are we willing to resort to a wild west mentality, where each person hands out their perception of justice because we no longer trust law enforcement?
When did we, as a society, lose faith in the justice system and what can we do to help restore it?
We have to dig deeper to find the root of the problem. It starts with criminal justice reform. It won’t be easy. It will take time. But, it must be done.
And, it starts at home, where we teach the importance of respect.