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COMMUNITY VOICE

Officers in police shootings should not be demonized

Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 12:01 am

I am incredibly disappointed in the choices made by our local media when reporting on police action shootings.

I have read headlines implying they ran into a scene with guns blazing like what people see in the movies. And with four police-action shootings so far this calendar year, each story identifying the officer lists, in bullet point format, the reprimands throughout his career. The media does this whenever an officer is involved in a shooting.

The fact of the matter is that the officers involved in these cases fired upon suspects that had turned and pointed a weapon at them or was holed up in a house, holding a 3-year-old hostage after murdering a woman earlier in the day. It seems the media, especially broadcast, does everything in their power to demonize the officers involved in these situations.

My father is a retired Fort Wayne Police officer, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are both in law enforcement locally, and I have several friends who put on a uniform every day to do a job that most people aren’t capable of or would not even consider. You appear to take for granted the fact that these men and women put their lives on the line every day to try to keep strangers safe.

My issue is that an officer’s record/personnel file should not even become an issue unless throughout the investigation it comes to light that they may have been unjustified. But in my lifetime (34 years), I can’t recall a single incident where an FWPD police-action shooting was unjustified. They are well-trained, and we should support them, considering they just had to take another person’s life. They have made a split-second decision, so I ask, what does their record have to do with that moment in time?

My dad was on the FWPD shooting team for years and responded to many police-action shootings. He thankfully never took a life himself, but his friends did — and it wasn’t easy on any of them. Some of these officers are dear friends of mine, and I can promise you that even years later it still affects them. One of them once told me that when the gun was pointed in his direction, he took the shot. And you know what he saw in that split second? His child. His child’s face flashed before his eyes in the moment he killed a man. And to quote him, “It was either him or me, and I was going home to my family.”

I’m writing this mainly to bring up the point that in this day and age when officers are seen as the bad guys by society for upholding laws they didn’t even write maybe you should treat them more like humans. They have families, friends, people they care about, and they will live the rest of their lives knowing they killed another human being, all because they were doing their job, because they took an oath and swore to protect their fellow citizens.

Don’t be a part of the problem and add to the demonizing of these men and women.

Kimberly Grannan-Wagner is a resident of Fort Wayne.