It’s been a helluva week.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department — in full view of God and planet — has touched off a week that can be optimistically seen as chaotic. The pessimists among us would probably go with apocalyptic.
Despite an overabundance of evidence pointing to what (probably) will be a swift conviction of the MPD officer (who’s name I don’t care enough about to remember), Americans have once again found a way to take sides in this latest debate over police tactics and actions resulting in the death of an African-American man. Peaceful protests the world over have brought this issue to the fore yet again, as black men and women hope and pray that somehow, someway their cries for equal treatment and justice will finally be heard.
But those cries have been drowned out by anarchists, opportunists, and criminals who would use a protest as a shield to riot, loot, and destroy residential and business areas, allegedly in the name of George Floyd. The peaceful protesters have disavowed these rioters. The Floyd family has disavowed them and begged them to go home. Law enforcement command has said they know the difference between the two factions. Still, the waters get muddied.
And here I sit, where I’m always stuck. A recently retired 25-year police officer. A black man. Hearing the radical chatter from both sides of the equation, knowing the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Except I’m not really in the middle this time.
My experiences on the street taught me that even the best laid plans can go awry in a heartbeat. What starts peaceful can end violent. What could be controlled becomes chaos. Attempts to protect life can end in death. People on both ends of the equation want to believe the answers are always black or white. That is to say, absolutely one way or the other. But the world is gray. The truth is gray. Sometimes, policing is gray.
Not this time.
There’s nothing anyone can tell me — NOTHING — that justifies George Floyd losing his life. Yeah, I’ve used the “wait until all the facts are known” line once or twice in my day. But this isn’t one of those cases. The evidence can be seen by anyone who wants to look. The key will be to build a meticulous, air-tight case free of loopholes and any other possibilities for “reasonable doubt,” which would lead to the former officer’s conviction. And I, for one, fully and wholeheartedly support the arrest, conviction and ultimate imprisonment of this alleged policeman. I did and do this without hesitation or second thought.
The time has come for police departments and the officers within them to take the blinders off and take a serious look at how we have treated minorities in the past, and work toward eliminating those tactics and thought processes. And believe me, I know: this will be no easy task.
The GOOD news is, more and more police officers are speaking up, having been sickened by what they’ve seen endlessly for the past week-plus. They’re “taking a knee” with peaceful protesters, making it clear that they refuse to condone those kinds of tactics and behavior. They’re fed up, too.
The BAD news is, many of those same cops are deeply frustrated by the burning, looting and assaults on their person. Four of my officers were shot (mercifully, none fatally) on one of the nights of rioting. My first district commander, Capt. David Dorn, was shot and killed while attempting to protect a pawn shop from being looted. Dave was 77 years old, long retired from the PD, and doing a favor for the owners of the shop where he occasionally worked as a guard. This, too, is indefensible and inexcusable. Not only are lives being lost and permanently altered, the initial message is getting lost.
I understand the rage. It is not without merit. I have been profiled while driving. And yes, this was during my time as a police officer. My circumstances were different than George Floyd’s. But it’s not that big of a leap to believe I could have wound up in a similar position. It has to stop.
Those who would muddy the waters of a valid and just cause are part of the problem. Police officers who greet my statements on these matters with stone silence or snide comments are part of the problem. When I told one such officer this — a man I considered to be a close friend — he loudly berated me and invited me to lose his phone number. In the end, I came to see it as not much of a loss. Maybe in time, he’ll hear what I was telling him. If not? Oh, well …
But those feelings didn’t stop that — heaped atop everything else I was seeing, hearing, and reading — from sending me down a deep well of depression. I stayed there for the better part of two days. I’m behind with my work, and will be spending the next couple of days scrambling to catch up. To make matters worse, music — the ONE thing I can count on to get me through the many moods of humanity — was briefly rendered impotent.
What I choose to play (when not writing about it) is almost always based upon my mood. Good moods breed carefree intelligent pop, cerebral moods lead to jazz or progressive rock, crabbiness brings out the metal in me. But for the past couple of days … nothing. I couldn’t get out of my head. I couldn’t free myself from all the feelings. Music had no way of penetrating. For someone like me, this is quite frightening.
Music is the healer. Music gets to the core of things. Music clears out the system and shows you what’s possible. The fact that I couldn’t hear the music is not something I care to experience for great lengths of time, if only because I don’t know when it will come back.
But it’s starting to get better.
I’ve left the house and accomplished things. I even made it by my favorite record store, which is open again on a limited basis. Music plays in the background as I type. The feelings are still there. I’m just looking into the appropriate ways to channel them. But ultimately, the point is that the music came back. For that I am forever grateful.
Being stuck in the middle of major social strife on repeated occasion is exhausting. Even in retirement, I cannot escape the issues. And I probably shouldn’t try. But not to the point of letting them bog me down. Not to the point where I can’t hear the music. I can never let that happen.
Then I won’t be of use to anybody.
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