Despite boasting temperate weather that many in the world envy, Southern California this summer has been anything but temperate. Two acts of violence in a span of a month have raised a national uproar. One tragic incident against a lone police officer, and another sickening act incited by a group of police officers.
Just this month, Jeremy Henwood, a San Diego police officer who spent several heroic tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, sat in his patrol car when a disturbed 23-year-old maneuvered his car next to the officer. In just mere moments the 23-year-old pulled out a shotgun and ended Jeremy's life.
The irony of a heroic veteran risking death in war-torn countries oceans away only to lose his life on the streets of America were duly noted. A governor, mayor, police chief, attorney general, district attorney, city council members joined thousands of others to mourn the tragic and unnecessary loss of life.
Clearly, patrolling the streets of America is no easy profession. When an officer pulls over a car or responds to a domestic violence call, she or he never knows what might happen. The fear of death is constant.
But a vocation of law enforcement, with fear constantly in existence, does not warrant the right to beat, tase, and kill a mentally disturbed homeless man. Last month, six police officers in Fullerton, a bedroom community near the border of Orange and Los Angeles Counties, were caught beating Kelly Thomas to death.
For years, Thomas struggled with schizophrenia and was known by many in Fullerton as a homeless man who was clearly mentally disturbed. When the officers were called to investigate car burglaries they encountered Thomas.
No one knows why the officers feared Thomas to the point of beating him down, but the cell phone video cameras from people in the vicinity caught the act on tape. After a few weeks of local news, the story went national encouraging hundreds to now picket the city's law enforcement.
The police officers involved are receiving death threats and some had to move out of their homes in fear of retribution.
These law enforcement incidents in San Diego and Fullerton are such a contrast between what is right about fighting crime and what is wrong. Both teeter on the fact that fear paves our streets.
We just need to realize that not all police officers are angry killers ready to beat down a mentally disturbed homeless man, most are community heroes. And not all people struggling with poverty or homelessness are cop killers, most are hurting people in need of help.
To patrol the streets of America means overcoming fear, at the expense of risking death. And sadly, to live on the streets of America also means overcoming fear, at the expense of risking death.
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