When a hero is not a hero

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2014

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist
Another tragedy, another life lost and another layer of distrust added to law enforcement. Law enforcement’s history is full of unfortunate situations that are ugly and not even fit for prime time television, but they happen. They happen every day.
More than 150 cops won’t go home this year and I’m going to go out on a limb and say we won’t hear about 149 of them. The people want us to do what they can’t or won’t do themselves, but don’t want to know how we do it. Americans inherently do not like the cops. It’s not because we’re bad or we’re there to put you in jail if you jaywalk, but it comes from our lineage and the many generations before us.
Our founding fathers came from a nation ruled by a king and he had uniformed soldiers at every corner to keep the citizens in line. When America was born and we became more civilized, “We the people” wanted laws to keep those that wanted to do us harm under control but “We the people” didn’t want to see these new police because it reminded us too much of Britain.
In fact, we didn’t want the police in any uniforms, but soon realized that the police needed to be identified in some way, which brought us the police badge. These first cops made sure business doors were locked after hours, and we still do. These first cops kept abusers away, and we still do. These first cops worked 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and we still do. These first cops were assaulted and sometimes had to defend themselves, and we still do. These first cops had spouses and children that depended on them to come home every day, and we still do.
We only have to drive by I-65 north in Pelham to remember that not all cops go home at the end of their shift. We sing in the choir, coach baseball, take our daughters to dance and cut the grass – just like you. We also know how to get blood out of our uniform and where to place ourselves behind a car in the event a traffic stop goes bad.
Cops are given a whole lot of responsibility, discretion and liberty to take your liberty, and we have been entrusted to do so based on our training and our oath to do so. None of this makes us perfect, though. We are not perfect and all of our split-second decisions are subject to years of court proceedings and second-guesses. Cops are a representation of the judicial branch of government and should be trusted to do their job. That does not mean that they should not be held accountable. Any action that is questionable is expected to be challenged by the people we serve. If we didn’t do this, we’d slowly grow out of control and begin to dare the people to question us.  The process is in place to hold every action that we take accountable, and the citizenry should do so.

Chris George is the commander of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.