This article was written by Sheriff John Cary Bittick from Monroe County Georgia, who is the first Associate Member of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition as well as a friend and mentor
My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth. – Abraham Lincoln
Facts, as presented in our technology-fueled world, are often mere opinions of the uninformed. We have become a mass of people so consumed with a drive for instant gratification that we often do not take the time to doubt what is being presented to us as news. With a flick of our fingers we have local, state, and world-wide news at our literal fingertips, but how often do we question what is being scrolled across our smart-phone screens? How often do we examine what the talking heads on the television spout as the exclusive truth?
Things are often far more complicated than what the elected officials, news media, or the armchair experts on Facebook portray them to be. It matters not whether it is the local editor of the newspaper who irresponsibly tweets an insensitive image or a paid so-called expert on CNN who speaks out of turn and purports to represent certain factions of our country, as both contribute to the divisiveness hurting America today. Those who have been elected to represent ALL citizens of the United States have chosen sides without first evaluating right or wrong, fact or opinion, and have then mobilized their forces to point fingers at the other side. Our leaders have failed those that they promised to serve by jumping to conclusions and basing decisions on emotions rather than fact. As President John F. Kennedy stated, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” The ability to speak without being accountable for the effect of those words is irresponsible. There is a fire burning in America and politicians, news and social media on all levels are stoking the embers with every publication and broadcast.
Here is one fact about crime, law enforcement, and race: according to a recent study published on July 11, 2016 in the New York Times surveying use of force by police across ten U.S. cities, the study found no racial bias regarding police shootings. Additionally, the study revealed that in “officer-involved shootings in these 10 cities, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both of these results undercut the idea that the police wield lethal force with racial bias.”
It is true that, long ago, law enforcement in America has not always served and protected all citizens equally. Acknowledging that history, however, does not mean that we should act as if we live perpetually in the past. It does NOT mean that any use of force by police against people of color is motivated by racial bias.
It does mean, however, that each case of a law enforcement shooting must be analyzed individually. Law enforcement officers, by law, have the right to defend themselves if they reasonably believe that there is a threat of serious bodily injury or death to themselves or others. Conversely, those law enforcement officers that abuse their power in discriminatory and unjustified ways should be held accountable. There is no conspiracy by law enforcement to shoot and kill young, black males. In fact, many of our finest law enforcement officers are young, black and male. There is unfortunately, however, a collective rush to judgment based on videos in the news and social media that do not depict the entire story. Before judgment is passed, everyone should be informed of what happened before the video began and after the video ended so that all decisions and opinions are based on all the facts.
It is true that a racist named Dylan Roof murdered nine black men and women at their church in South Carolina on June 17, 2015. It is also true that 12 law enforcement officers were shot, five fatally, by a racist named Micah Johnson, in Dallas, Texas on July 7, 2016. Roof is no guiltier than Johnson, nor is Johnson guiltier than Roof for the lives each man took because of his own twisted hatred. One man was black. One man was white. Both were filled with racially motivated hatred. Both men were wrong.
I am proud to be from Monroe County, and I sincerely believe that most of the people in Middle Georgia are dedicated to our community and are supportive of law enforcement. I am also proud that our deputies experience that support firsthand and are deeply engaged in bettering our community. It might sound simple, but perhaps simplicity is exactly what we need in this world right now: right is right and wrong is wrong. It’s not a black/white issue; it is a human race issue. We all need to cease being Republican, Democrat, black, white, liberal, conservative, Southern or Northern, Eastern or Western and simply become Americans seeking the truth. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”