Opinion | Crime, Guns, Race, Bad Cops: 11 Law Enforcement Officers Discuss - The New York Times
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America In Focus
"What These 11 Cops Think People Don’t Understand About Crime
One of the goals of our Times Opinion focus groups is to bring together subsets of Americans and explore assumptions that others might have — digging deeper into them, challenging them, in some cases stamping out stereotypes. In our latest group, with 11 police officers and other members of law enforcement from around the country, one assumption we had at the start was that some or all of them would see crime as the most important issue in the country. In fact, none of them did.
Many of them were more concerned with issues that, in their view, are among the root causes of crime: a loss of respect for parents, teachers, police and other authority figures in society; generational trauma in families and homes that leads to unlawful or violent behavior; a lack of mentors to deter kids from going down the wrong path; inadequate mental health care resources; and mistrust between law enforcement and communities.
Time and again, the conversation kept coming back to the humanity of those affected by crime, including, in some cases, the cops. Several told their own stories about being victims of violent crime growing up or early in their careers and how it shaped them. Several of the police officers recognized the deep mistrust that many Americans feel toward law enforcement and the racism and brutality that many Black Americans and others have experienced; they didn’t think such criticism was completely unfounded, but they did feel it overshadowed the work most cops do.
For anyone who has dealt with a police officer who seemed robotic, uncaring, unyielding, that image is not how many cops are, they said. They wanted people to understand that cops are human, are imperfect, have feelings and want to get home to their families. And they had hopes and concerns about America that many others have — an appreciation for the country’s diversity and concern about political and cultural divisions.
The group was far less defensive than we expected. They seemed, if anything, to want more dialogue with people and to have a chance to overcome assumptions. “Instead of trying to call me and my co-workers out, call us in,” said one of the focus group participants, a police officer who described himself as a Republican from a mixed-race background. “Call us into your small groups. Call us into your city council meetings. Call us into the meetings that really matter, where the transparency takes place.”
Mr. Healy is the deputy Opinion editor. Mr. Rivera is an editorial assistant in Opinion."