Before the 1960s, though the Cold War had raged unabated since the late 1940s, the U.S. was a fairly tranquil place to live and thereby generally enjoyed by its people. However, shortly after John F. Kenney’s assassination in 1963, the Vietnam War began to take on a troubling veneer for an ever-growing number of Americans.Initially the protestors were mostly college youth; before long its detractors numbered a huge cross section of the U.S. population while—by its end—seemed to include virtually everyone.
Not only involving the U.S. military and national leadership from former President Lyndon Johnson’s terms through some of Richard Nixon’s administration, soon all institutions that stand to invoke authority in the country were found wanting and charged as guilty by their perceived support of the ongoing bloody slaughter of American troops, Vietnamese civilians and the North’s Viet Cong warring in southeast Asia. What began as peaceful protests became riots on campuses, in city streets and throughout the land—the noise and fury heard and seen as a near daily event.
Some of the targets of those years of discontent were police organizations. Not that the police were entirely innocent of the charges thrown at them but many an officer was compromised by orders to ‘defend and protect’ by local and state elected officials. What resulted was police officers as “bad guys” held responsible for “helping” those Americans who advocated for the war’s continuation. They were also seen as assisting the nation’s distrusted military industrial complex, those corporations making big money profits through the supply of war machines and materials for “an unwinnable war.”
My personal experience with police in general and individual officers in particular has never had a negative twist to it. In recent years there has been only one interaction with the police. That occasion took place at McNary High School during the years my wife and I volunteered there and Keizer’s Officer Dan Kelly was the on-duty police liaison. We were impressed with Officer Kelly, having found him to be an exemplary officer through the conduct of his behavior in fulfilling the responsibilities of the position he held.
What bothers this writer at present is the extent to which protesters nowadays, sometimes employing violent means, continue to work against police organizations and police officers. There are, of course, from time-to-time, among the sworn police officers some ‘bad apples’ but that’s a condition of the personnel no matter what profession or line of work is examined. While there’ve been police officers who should probably not be police officers, quite often these men and women are ultimately mustered out: While it may take awhile, remember it is careers that are at risk.
Officers involved in fatal encounters are almost always placed on administrative leave and then brought before a review board or grand jury to determine whether the case under consideration justified lethal action. Based on what a citizen like myself can determine from media reports, it seems for the most part that officers involved were more likely dealing with lawbreakers that requires of them a protect-themselves-or-death response. When I read in print media or see on TV about an encounter that resulted in a death, speculation follows where, under the circumstances, if my life were threatened, I’d likely have done the same as the officer or officers.
Our police are more important that ever. Then, too, when trouble finds its way to us, it’s unrealistic for the vast majority of us to defend ourselves. The knowledge, training and experience of the average officer cannot be substituted. Locally, my impression of the sworn officers in Keizer and Salem is that we’re fortunate to have them and are best advised to honor and respect them, hoping for the sake of survival there will continue to be young men and women willing to join the ranks in order to protect and serve the public.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)