Opinion / Politics

A “Systemic” Problem with all Police? Not so fast.


The liberal media tells us people despise the police.  We’re told the problems are beyond some bad apples.  Police brutality, bad behavior, and racist sentiments are systemic.  The media tells us all are embedded in the profession and departments across America.  But from where does the media get this?

Systemic is defined as affecting the whole as opposed to a particular part.  Are police officers and departments all across the country “out of control?” Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck was beyond horrifying.  Chauvin’s demeanor through it all, while knowingly being filmed no less, was so cavalier.  This fact was even more revolting.  But is this just the classic or typical behavior of your average police officer?  Is the arrogance and criminality that Chauvin displayed systemic?

That’s a big leap.  But if we can point to dozens of other officers whose behavior also shocks us, it must be systemic.  Maybe, but not necessarily.  We must take great pains to guard against taking the extraordinary and making it appear as the ordinary.

Of course we do not know what is in the minds of police officers.  But we do know what is in the minds of ordinary Americans.  Gallup has done polling for decades, asking how much confidence we have in our institutions.  A solid majority of Americans have said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in police every year since they were included as a choice in 1993. 

In fact, in 2019 the police beat out organized religion, Congress, labor, big business, newspapers, the presidency, banks, TV news, the medical system, The Supreme Court, the criminal justice system, and public schools.  Not one of those even came close to majority support.  In fact, only two institutions scored higher than police—the military and small business.

What can we make of this?  Are we putting the wrong institution, the police, under the microscope because of protestors, mobs, and 24/7 media coverage?  What about public schools?  Only 29% of Americans said they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in them last year.

You might recall the notorious Atlanta Teacher Cheating Scandal of a decade ago, where 35 educators were indicted?  What about NYC teachers deemed so incompetent, even dangerous, that today are being paid full salaries to play cards in “reassignment centers.”  The educators themselves laugh about it all, calling these “rubber rooms.”  A documentary was even made in 2010 called “The Rubber Room.”  What about all the high profile sexual misconduct and teacher abuse cases making news every year?

Overwhelming majorities of Americans are happy when you ask if they approve of their own children’s teachers.  I taught high school social studies for 15 years, bringing my “A” game every day.  My colleagues were equally stellar.  But even my own system was not immune, as one male educator was dismissed for “sexting” and inappropriate meetings with a female student.  I hope to not be judged by this.  Bad teachers embarrass me.  They disappoint me.  They anger me.  The same is true when you ask police officers what they think of Chauvin and others of his ilk.

What about police reform, or even teacher reform?  Are they meaningless?  Not at all.  Important public institutions like law enforcement and education should review and update existing policies and procedures often.  Frequent professional development is important.  It was a meaningful and necessary part of my teaching career, even if I didn’t find every class or training seminar to be stellar.  The training offered and educational status achieved of teachers and police officers today is far superior compared to decades ago.  Calls to defund and disband police departments are dangerous, knee-jerk proposals by protestors and mobs.  The liberal media is lapping it all up.

Speaking of the media, how much confidence do Americans have in television news and newspapers in the Gallup polling?  Only 18% and 23%, respectively, have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in both.  If indeed there are systemic problems with institutions in America, it might make as much or more sense to address them in the media as with the police.   

Jeff Szymanski works in political communication for AMAC, a senior benefits organization with over 2.1 million members.

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