08/08/09 — Target criminals: The real problem are those who choose to break the law

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Target criminals: The real problem are those who choose to break the law

The words that the Goldsboro police officer uttered as he was struggling to subdue a fleeing suspect weren't what most of us probably would have liked to have heard come out of a law enforcement officer's mouth.

No one should threaten anyone with shooting anyone in the head. And no one should have to worry that a statement like that would be carried out.

But then again, we weren't there -- and neither were the members of the NAACP who have decided to make this case their next cause.

We weren't the ones facing the crowd of onlookers in a less-than-wonderful neighborhood. We weren't the ones struggling to control a suspect who had already run once, had given a fake name and was facing two warrants.

We did not have to fend off a 17-year-old's grab for a gun -- or struggle to protect the safety of a fellow, less experienced officer and the crowd surrounding us.

We did not have to make a quick judgment as to how to proceed -- a decision that could have ended another way, with a dead police officer.

That is the life of a cop. And while there are rules that must be followed and standards to be adhered to, there is no way to truly understand what a moment's miscalculation could mean to an officer and his partner.

You hear the stories all the time -- officers killed in the line of duty, sometimes by a suspect who was able to manage to turn a chase into an attack.

And when we hear the stories, we are sad and call for the toughest punishment for the criminal who took the life of a hero.

Yet, when these same officers are out in the streets struggling to maintain order, we keep them under the magnifying glass -- and allow others to vilify them as rascist bullies out for a lark with no basis for their actions.

We have a right to expect much out of our law enforcement officers. We do hold them to a higher standard -- and we should punish those who do not meet the obligations of the oath to protect and serve.

But the hoopla raised over this incident is disproportionate and likely not related at all to the color of the suspect's skin. The words, although unfortunate, likely would have been said to a white suspect, too -- if the officer faced the same stress and potential danger.

If the local branch of the NAACP really wants to make a difference, perhaps the cause it ought to be championing is throwing the book at the criminals, drug dealers and others who put black and white children in danger every day.

United against that enemy, this community could save hundreds of lives every year -- some from murder and drug overdose, and others from prison sentences that take away their lives at 17.

That is a cause worth fighting for.

Published in Editorials on August 8, 2009 11:03 PM