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Media Coverage of Policing in America

My dad’s “Alright buddy, I am going to head out,” still reverberates in my head to this day whenever thinking back on my childhood. I can’t begin to tell you the countless times where my father had been called by dispatch requesting his assistance on some issue in the streets of Mason City, Iowa.

Many nights I watched him put on his uniform and kevlar vest down in our basement. When he was all geared up, I would hug him despite some discomfort from his equipment, and tell him I loved him as he headed out the door. There were numerous times like this, moments in which I wondered if my father would return back unharmed. Yet every morning, I would be woken up by my father in his police uniform, smiling at me as he kissed me on my forehead and headed for bed.

Fast forward to the abhorrent present. Two deputy sheriffs in California were ambushed when a man came up to the parked squad car and opened fire on them in broad daylight. Both of the sheriffs were shot in the head. It was later reported by local media that the female deputy had a 6-year-old son at home.

While rare incidences of police overextension of force are broadcast on TV, the increase of homicides and ambushes against officers is not an agenda that established media want to cover. It doesn’t get the most views, nor it is popular amongst the anti-police rhetoric of politicians and political activists alike.

This is not to excuse the overstepping of American police officers, but express a need for more media coverage of these instances. In my own personal experience I have had plenty of run ins with officers who were not well suited for the job at all. I even tried to fight a ticket in court.

Without a doubt, I have met some that do not uphold the code of “protect and serve,” but instead use that power to strike intimidation to people they do not like or care for. Being one of the few minorities back home doesn’t help either.

It seems as if the current generation of officers hold the “I am the law” mentality whenever they attempt at ‘community policing.’

No more are the days of officers handing out police badge stickers to kids on the sidewalk. Those times are now seen as the novel generation of law enforcement officials.

One of those novel law enforcement individuals was my grandfather, Thomas Lillquist, who served for over 20 years at Forest City’s Sheriff’s department. When he passed away, I heard all the stories where many officers would call him in the middle of the night to calm a suspect or prisoner down.

“Sometimes all people need is someone to really listen to them,” he often would say.

Everyone knew my grandfather because of how he treated everyone he met with respect and dignity. Many people he arrested even came up to shake his hand, thanking him for his kind words and sympathy towards humanity.

That is the policing that the United States needs more of, instead of the chest pumping bravado mentality of wanting to go arrest as many individuals in one given shift. Yet for as many bad officers I encounter, there are about twenty that are an exact depiction of what an officer of the law should be.

Justified or not, the media has left the law enforcement community out to dry with the lack of coverage regarding the increase of ambushes and killings of police officers.

According to a USA Today report, 40 officers in the line of duty were shot and killed between 2014 and 2016. In the year of 2016, a total of 115 officers were killed, which is a 167% increase of shootings just in that year alone.

CBS News also reports that, “the number of police killed in the line of duty rose sharply in 2016, driven by shootings of police around the country, most notably ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”

This is not even to mention the horrific ambush shooting that killed Des Moines Police Officers in 2016 who are also unfortunately a part of that list.

“On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty in the U.S. every 61 hours and more than 20,000 police officers have lost their lives in the line of duty since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791,” the CBS News report also stated.

As of recently in the year of 2020, 53 officers were killed in the line of duty according to Spectrum Local news.

Other than the ambush in California this past weekend, another one was reported by the LA Times in May where two other deputies in Santa Cruz were ambushed by a “far right” activist, killing one officer and injuring another.

I write this piece because there is definite lack of established media coverage on this topic, as there are for a plethora of other topics. Yet there is a parallel amongst my life and the life of the 6-year-old boy whose mother was ambushed. The officer could have easily been my dad. I can’t help but think that the little boy, too, hugged his mother goodbye as she left their house for another day on patrol hoping that she too would come back home safe and sound.

This increase of homicides, shootings and ambushes is now a reality and a new norm for American police officers. When law enforcement gets less support and more animosity is directed against American peace officers, this will only enable and encourage others to do more harm for those that protect and put their lives on the line everyday.

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