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Posted 5/05/15 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Nobody likes to be stopped or pulled over by a law enforcement officer. It usually means that you’ve done something wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally. And a fair number of Americans have had that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach as they watch a law enforcement officer approach them.
Fortunately, in most cases, the person being approached by an officer gets off with a ticket or a warning. And sometimes, their crime is more serious and warrants them being arrested and being taken into custody.
At that point, most Americans would assume that even if they are being arrested, handcuffed and placed into a squad car for a trip to jail that they would be treated fairly and with some degree of respect.
This nation’s law enforcement officers and police departments need to be respected by the people that they pledge “to serve and protect.” They are doing a job that most of us could never comprehend, especially when it comes to dealing with hardened criminals, drug dealers, armed felons, and the list goes on and on. Law enforcement officers must make split second decisions that can affect not only their lives, but the lives of the person they are arresting and the lives of innocent bystanders. While it’s a job that many young children say that they want to be when they grow up, it is a job that very few people will apply for.
But the question being asked today around the United States in light of the recent cases of police brutality and the deaths of the people that they are arresting or trying to arrest is, “What has gone wrong with our law enforcement?”
It has almost become a weekly news story where another police department across the country is being called into question after police officers either kill or seriously injure a person. Or where another city is paying out millions of dollars in settlements on police brutality charges.
Police brutality is inexcusable and rare. When it happens, the officers involved and their departments need to be held accountable, just as what happened last week in Baltimore.
But every time that another person dies or is mistreated by law enforcement, the trust that police officers must have by the people that they serve erodes.
Policemen and law enforcement agencies can no longer hide behind their shields when they do something wrong. Just as there  are bad people who shouldn’t be working at their jobs, there are bad police officers. And those bad officers need to be out of the law enforcement business.
The process of rebuilding the public’s trust in law enforcement begins with the cities, counties and federal government that employ these officers. It is up to the mayors, county commissioners, governors and the federal government to make sure that the people that they have employed as peace officers are truly qualified to do so.
The road to rebuilding the public’s trust, especially in this country’s metropolitan areas where there is such a diverse population is going to be a major challenge. But, unless the challenge is met, the riots and discontent that this nation has witnessed this past year is only going to grow.