Dear Mr. President:
American streets are running red with the blood of police officers. In the last twelve days alone, four officers from across our nation have been murdered.
As a law enforcement veteran of more than thirty years, I have known fear, I have felt heartbreak, I have tasted disappointment, and I have touched disillusionment, but never before have I seen my profession suffer the despair that envelopes them today. It is despair wrought by injustice, distrust, helplessness, and the threat to the quality that is the very heart of policing: trust.
This week is Police Week in America, when we as a profession gather to honor those who have given their lives in service to their communities. From the hallowed ground of the Police Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. to cemeteries and monuments in every state, men and women in uniform will stand united with the families of our fallen. Tears will fall silently as the notes of a thousand bugles fill the air with the mournful sound of TAPS and the rifle volleys of countless Police Honor Guards fire their final 21-gun salute. These ceremonies are beautiful but not without pain, for they reveal not only the empty spot in our hearts from our loss, but also the knowledge that next year it might be our loved one to grieve.
This is a time of unity, of patriotism, and of reflection. My plea for you during this year’s Police Week is to ask for your reflection about the men and women who each day don the uniform and badge of the American Law Enforcement Officer.
I feel pain in my heart for feeling that it is necessary to ask this of you. As the leader of this nation, I should not hesitate in my belief that you respect, honor, empathize, and support those who protect their communities with their lives.
But Mr. President, it saddens me to say that I do not believe that you do.
Your words, deeds, and actions directed over the years at individual officers and the police community as a whole have helped not to heal, but to drive a wedge between those who serve and the communities they swore to protect.
Your public pronouncements have consistently taken on an anti-law enforcement tone. Your decisions to send White House representatives to the funerals of criminals killed by police, while ignoring those of valiant officers killed in the line of duty, has crushed your credibility with the law enforcement community. During your tenure as president you have even chosen not to attend many of the Police Week candlelight vigils and memorial services honoring our dead.
This is a critical moment in our nation’s history. The police and the citizens they dutifully serve must stand as one if our beloved country is to heal and unite against crime and violence. This is the moment for you to reach out, embrace and show solidarity with American law enforcement.
I, along with the many Americans who believe in defending the shield, will stand with you. The American people and those who serve them need and deserve your commitment and leadership on this vital matter. Together, we can make a difference.
Lt. Randy Sutton (Ret.)
Lt. Sutton (Ret.) is the National Spokesman for the American Council on Public Safety (ACPS), a 33-year law enforcement veteran, and author.www.defendingtheshield.org.