But it's not just that. Cities and communities are hiring people as police officers who are not fit to be public servants. Many are bullies and have mental problems that lead them to resort to violent confrontation instead of negotiated solutions. They are also people who tend to turn quickly to using a gun or a taser when they feel threatened or even disrespected.
Think about the other major category of uniformed public employee: firefighters. Here we have people who have volunteered to do probably the most dangerous job that a person can do: running into burning buildings that could collapse at any moment in order to rescue someone who might be in there, and if so, might still be alive.
I witnessed this kind of action once when I lived in an apartment in New York. We lived on the 11th floor of a large fireproof building of 17 stories. One day, there was an alarm and fire trucks rushed onto the street. Looking out my living window, I saw thick black smoke and flames pouring out of an apartment about five stories below and to the right of mine. Fire fighters were rushing into the front door of the building.
I raced down the stairs to the floor of the fire, and went into the hall, rushing down to the door of the burning apartment, which was metal, but had paint blistering paint on it from the heat of the fire inside. At that moment two firefighters -- both large men in full gear with compressed air tanks on their backs and cans of fire retardant in hand came around the corner after having climbed the stairs. They told me to get away, and then walked up to the door. Without even stopping to think -- or say a prayer -- one guy just kicked hard on the door and busted it wide open. Smoke, flames and heat roared out at them and yet, to my astonishment, they just rushed in together into that inferno.
As it turned out, nobody was in the two-room apartment, and the two men came back out. The fire was extinguished with hoses that sprayed in through the windows from the outside and it was quickly all over.
I've thought about that incident over the years, and especially lately as we see case after case of police officers shooting unarmed young men and women (and sometimes young kids), claiming their actions were justified because they "felt threatened."
Those two firemen certainly had to have "felt threatened" as they contemplated, however briefly, busting down that door with it's bubbling paint and then rushed into the darkness and smoke of the apartment in search of someone in need of rescuing. Yet they didn't hold back and wait for the trucks outside to douse the fire. They went in.
Why are firefighters willing to put their lives at risk to save people (even black ones!), while so many cops, with their body armor and their guns, are so quick to shoot to kill people that they imagine might be intending to harm them? Why do we as a society expect our firefighters to put their lives on the line to save us without a thought for themselves, but just shrug when cops, instead of putting their lives on the line to defuse situations involving drunken or mentally ill, or otherwise disturbed or possibly suicidal people, just take out their guns and blow such people away?
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