Friday, March 27, 2015

Link in the Chain

A police officer friend of mine posted this picture on his Facebook.  I shared it and received some question back on my stance.  Allow me to answer: 

I cannot understand the people who blanket hate police. Don't they realize there are bad apples in every profession? Don't they realize that simplistic answers like, disarm the police, offer no real world practical answer to the fact that bad guys exist? Don't they realize that demonizing the police only increases the likelihood of bad cops where working as a community lessons the likelihood of corrupt departments? Don't they realize that police officers are people who live in the neighborhoods too? Don't they realize that our incarceration rate demonstrates precisely that there isn't a lot of corruption in the police force compared to other places where bribery and corruption is rampant?

Absolutely a police department can become corrupt and a city can become a police state.  Its actually quite easy.  We see it in all sorts of groups.  Churches become cults.  Companies become fraudulent.  Government agencies become abusive.  Leaders at the top create a culture that coercively adjusts people’s behavior, either in a good way or a bad one.  You see it with companies that treat their employees well and churches that do service in the community.  Those are good examples.  Then you have situations like Goldman Sachs and Wall Street at the start of the recession.  Or that famous evil church who I won’t name because I refuse to draw attention to them.  Or Ferguson Police.  Or other Police departments such as the two in Florida who were just disbanded because of corruption.
What can we do about it?   

 First let’s take some thought about the real situation.

The profession of police officer is already a difficult one.  Consider having to wade day in and day out in the worst that humanity has to offer.  Seeing abused wives and children.  Seeing dead babies.  Seeing people who have lost everything because of a wrong choice.  (In many ways, the pastoral profession can get this way too.) 
Consider also the fact that NO ONE wants to see a cop in their rear view mirror.  How often are they yelled at, cussed at, and treated like dirt?  Think of the names, Five-O, Pig, etc. 
Consider that they have to be right in split second decisions 100% of the time and will get criticized in the media and courts by people who have hours and days to think through and review their decisions minus adrenaline, fear, and other pressures.  Or that they face regular false complaints from citizens of discrimination or wrong use of force, merely because said citizen didn't like the fact that the police officer was holding them accountable for their actions.  All that with the knowledge that if they make a mistake, they could die.  Or someone else could die.  Wow.

Police officers don’t truly “face death every day,” as an officer friend of mine told me.  Many days are riddled with boredom and paperwork.  HOWEVER, they face the prospect of danger on any given day and any given call.  Six hours of boring duty and paperwork could suddenly result in minutes of terror and danger.  

Their job results in blame sometimes no matter what they do.  Arrest the bad guy and his family accuses you of discrimination or being a bully.  Don’t arrest him and an hour later he has shot someone in an armed robbery.  Arrest the husband who beat his wife and she turns on the officers (a common phenomenon in domestic violence).  Don’t arrest the husband and later that night he beats her to death.  Pull someone over for speeding and you are a petty jerk for worrying about ten miles over the limit.  Don’t pull them over and then maybe face having to go to the accident scene where they hit some kids.  

Is it any wonder they have such a high rate of divorce, depression, and suicide? 

This all causes them to withdraw into a shell.  The thin blue line is a real thing.  It’s no different than with soldiers.  They think no one cares.  They believe, “No one understands us but each other.”
The very actions pushed by people like Al Sharpton or some of the anti-government groups (and even some of the major Democrats) are precisely the wrong choices because it exacerbates this very thing.

Jumping on every single police shooting as if it is an example of an endemic problem is not the way to go about it.  Protesting without considering the case by case circumstances is wrong.  Making judgements based on shaky video taken out of context and with no backstory isn’t good.  Posting every copblock statement about bad cops only skews your own vision and does no good.  Announcing every bad thing done in any police department everywhere and rarely if ever showing the thousands of positives that go on every day isn’t helping.  

All those things do is push officers around the country more and more into that ‘thin blue line’ fortress mentality.

Lest we forget, these same men and women live in our neighborhoods.  They have children and families too.  They want to go home at night.  They want to live without fearing crime.  Just like each and every one of us!!!

Evil exists.  Period.  The one thing I never see from the protestors and anti-police types is an answer of how to keep our streets and families safe without some law and order.  It’s called anarchy folks and guess what, those of us who desire peace will be in greater danger without police.  I’ve been accused of being naïve about this.  But, the truth is, I recognize that there are bad cops and even bad departments out there.  Those must be aggressively rooted out, just as bad pastors, politicians, teachers, and all others who use power for evil must be rooted out.  But you don’t cure cancer by killing the patient.  You cure a cancer by rooting it out.  I would challenge that those who make blanket statements about police are the naive ones.  The old saying is ultimately true, “when you’re in trouble, you ain’t gonna call a crackhead.”

Instead of all the negative, the solution is to get involved.  Get to know your local officers.  Call them out for the good things.  Invite your businesses, churches, and organizations to award those who do heroic things.  Volunteer on the civilian review board.  Advocate.  Do a ride-along.  Join your block watch.  Attend the police community presentations that most departments do.  Community is the answer.  Tomorrow, our church is hosting a group called, Link In The Chain, who rally for the police because they realize that we, as a community are part of the solution.

Being part of the solution goes both ways.  When the bad happens.  When you do get that bad apple, we mustn’t be afraid to stand against them.  A great example of that is what just happened in Phoenix with our previous Police Chief.   Not only did his officers pull together to stand up to him, but members of the community, including myself did so also.  Another example is our famous (or is that infamous) Sheriff Joe.  Integrity for those who believe in the rule of law means calling him out for ignoring the rule of law for the last 18 months.  It also means going the other way and calling out Al Sharpton and his ilk for helping to destroy the career of Darren Wilson long before the real story got out, and for not apologizing and working to make it right after the truth came out.  

Ultimately, we have to quit cultivating an Us versus Them mentality in this situation.  Pray for your police officers.  Let them know that someone out there gives a damn.  Hey, thank them for their service…even when they write you a ticket.  We all want safer, healthier communities and that ONLY comes from working together. It's easy to complain, the hard thing is to stand up and get involved.  Choose to be a link in the chain supporting our police and community, don't be the one who breaks the chain but provides no hope or solution in exchange. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Will it take another Craig Tiger before we do something?

It is with great concern that I learned of the suicide of Officer Craig Tiger.  My heart broke for his family, but then, as I became aware of the circumstances leading up to it, I became angry.  I am angry that our city let this officer down, that he was injured in the line of duty and we did not provide for him.  It is my understanding that both his personal psychologist and a city psychiatrist diagnosed him with PTSD stemming from the shooting that occurred while he was on duty.  Had he been physically injured in the altercation, the department would have provided him all the medical care, leave, and assistance humanly possible.  Had he been killed in the incident, he would have received an enormous recognition from the department and his family would have been taken care of.  Instead, due to the stigma of mental health issues and the sad state of leadership in our police department, this officer was mistreated and discarded by the very department he served.

This issue is compounded by the growing awareness we in the ministry and counseling community have of PTSD related to the wars our nation has been fighting.  The egregious issues that have come to light with the V.A. here in Phoenix should have been a wake-up call to all of us, including the police department.

I am also concerned that Officer Tiger did not receive a normal civilian review board hearing, but was taken directly to a Loudermill hearing with the Chief who disregarded the findings of both counselors.  It is my understanding that the frequency of these Loudermill hearings and the number of times that the Chief has disregarded the recommendations of the review board have increased under this administration.  The job of a leader is to care for his subordinates, to be aware of the sacrifices they make and the dangers that they face; it is not to be an authoritarian who demands total loyalty and control to himself.  Further, his treatment of news reporter Donna Rossi was unacceptable.  Chief Garcia absolutely owes an explanation to Rebecca Tiger, to the officers who serve him, and to the City of Phoenix.  

It should be obvious to us all that there must be other officers who are suffering from PTSD, depression, or other issues, who are afraid to ask for help because they fear loss of their career, loss of promotion consideration, loss of benefits, or stigma within the department.  This is unconscionable from a humanity point of view and completely illogical from the point of view of a city which is struggling to keep officers on the street and is already seriously understaffed.  Why would we hurt those who we need?  How many other officers are struggling?  Donna Rossi’s final question to the chief demands an answer:  “Will it take another Craig Tiger before we do something?”

The City Council needs to get involved here and demand some answers as our representatives.  Chief Garcia owes an answer to the community who employees him, he owes an explanation and a heartfelt apology to Officer Tiger’s wife  and daughters, and he owes Donna Rossi an apology for his behavior towards her.  If our Chief is that far out of touch with his line officers and the community, perhaps it is time to consider someone else for the job.  I strongly request that your office would look into this and hold the Chief and the leadership of the police department accountable for their treatment of this officer and for the creation of what amounts to a hostile work environment for those who risk their lives for us.  I am sure that you are a busy man, as am I, but I would sincerely appreciate a response to this communication.  I will follow up with a hard copy to your office. 

Pastor Rodger S. Loar

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lighten Up!

“Hey Fatso, you’re a little piggy.” 

Sixth Grade.   

Mean Kids. 

It was the first time I ever remember being called fat, or even thinking of myself that way.  Looking back, I was always the fat kid in class.  Always the slow one in Phys. Ed.  Always the one uncomfortable in the clothes that didn’t fit well.  That was me: Fatty McFatterson.

There are voices now that are calling for an end to “Fat-shaming.”  They say, we should all be happy with just who we are. I am here to offer another point of view on that.

I shared the story of being called fat, because those are my credentials.  My school pictures show it.  My memories are burned with it.  I have fought my weight for years.

But please…  Don’t give me a free pass.

I don’t want it.

You see, I now volunteer at a local high school each week.  I am on campus and I have noticed something disturbing:  There is no fat kid.
That’s right, there is no fat kid.

There are A LOT of them.

When I was young, the fat kid was a rarity.  Now, the schools are full of them.  And, they aren’t just a little bit overweight, not just a bit chubby, or could stand to lose a pound or two.  Now, there are easily a third of these young adults who would be classified as morbidly obese! Another third are probably on their way to that classification.

There are dozens of fifteen and sixteen year old kids who outweigh me!  Most of them are even shorter than me, too.  Stop and consider what I am saying here.  High schoolers, kids, under six feet tall and weighing 250, 300 pounds, or more.  What’s more, P.E. is no longer required here in Phoenix.  The kids just have to take a health class or (get this) they can take P.E. online.  Yeah, read that again.  Physical education by sitting in front of your computer. 

This bodes ill for our future as a nation.  Type II diabetes, cancer, heart disease, back problems, knee problems, high-blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease – all are increased with every pound you carry.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to bullying fat kids or calling names.  And yes, there is a danger of emphasizing weight and causing eating disorders, but perhaps it is time to consider that encouraging obesity or letting it be OK is not the right idea either.  It’s not heartless to do the right thing.  (or is that the light thing?)

I have a friend who is a High School P.E. teacher.  I regularly tell him, “Tomorrow, when class starts, have a fat kid run a lap for me.  Tell him it’s a gift from a fellow fat kid.”  I’m only partly kidding when I tell him that; I wish I had people who made me be a bit more active as a child.
It’s easy to complain about a problem, but I believe in solutions.  So here’s mine:

Let’s give something up to add in Physical Education.  Every single year of school.  Let’s get these kids out on playgrounds, into the gymnasium, running, jumping, and playing.  How about we give up algebra class.  Let’s be honest, most of these kids will never do a logarithm after high school.  Perhaps we could just start the first half hour of every single day with calisthenics, every single day of school from preschool through twelfth grade. 
Let’s encourage healthy eating.  Stop giving Michelle Obama trouble about pushing this as an issue.  Whether you agree with her husband’s politics or not, she is absolutely right, we must start being healthier as a nation.  Further, we as parents need to step up too.  Is it hard to offer healthy portions and healthy food.  Yes, it is.  It’s also hard getting kids to do their homework, finish their chores, and make a hundred other difficult choices.  That doesn’t excuse us from teaching those things.  Let us be the example too.  Eat your veggies and get active.  Stop eating so much fast food, and begin getting active.

It’s not a good thing for us to be so heavy as a nation.  

Let’s do the ‘light’ thing here.

Let’s lighten up.

No more fat kids.

Now, pardon me while I get up off my hypocritical butt and go work out.

Your Friendly Neighborhood (Former) Fat Kid

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Is It Possible?

Is  it Possible?

Is it possible that Officer Darren Wilson was a great police officer who made a mistake AND Michael Brown was an innocent guy in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Is it possible that Officer Wilson was a flaming racist and made his choices based on that AND that Michael Brown was a violent thug who made his choices based on that?

Is it possible that Michael Brown was a pretty good kid who made some really dumb choices in the last day of his life?

Is it possible that Officer Wilson was in fear for his life and made a choice that he will regret for the rest of his life?

Is it possible that Michael Brown was a bully and was still innocent in this particular incident?

Is it possible that Officer Wilson could have been a bad cop but still made the right decision in this incident?

Is it possible that Michael Brown was shaped by the racism he experienced in many ways every day and that contributed to his actions?

Is it possible that Officer Wilson was shaped by white privilege and police officer training that contributed to his actions?

Is it possible that Michael Brown could have made the choice to move past his past experiences and approached this situation differently?

Is  it possible that Officer Wilson made some assumptions about Michael Brown that caused him to approach this situation in the wrong way?

Is it possible that the fact that Ferguson has a large black population but the police department is predominantly white just might have a little to do with all of this?

Is it possible that people of different colors experience the same situations differently because of their past experiences?

Is it possible that a black person could support Officer Wilson’s actions?

Is it possible that a white person could support Darren Wilson’s actions?

Is it possible for police officers to be caring people who want to help the community AND be a little too militant because of training choices?

Is it possible that black community leaders could stand up for equal treatment AND be honest about the problems generated by choices within their own community?

Is it possible that the strong police response ratcheted up the situation and that they could protect businesses without confronting the protestors?

Is it possible that black community leaders could have redirected the protests to limit the chance of large scale confrontations and criminal looting?

Is it possible that the black person standing in a crowd of predominately black protestors staring across at a crowd of predominately white police officers learns an unspoken lesson?

Is it possible that a white police officer standing in a crowd of predominately white police officers staring across at a crowd of predominately black protestors learns an unspoken lesson?

Is it possible that Al Sharpton is just as racist and unhelpful as the KKK group that was raising funds for the fallen officer?

Is it possible for both sides to be a little bit right AND both sides to also be a little bit wrong?

Is it possible that both sides are both terribly wrong?

Is it possible that MSNBC AND FOX News intentionally reported the incidents in emotional ways because they have agendas to push without regard to the truth?

Is it possible that every politician that has commented on this on both sides has made the situation worse?

Is it possible that news media like The Blaze AND Huffington Post have made the situation worse by their skewed reporting?

Is it possible that YOU are responsible for making the situation worse because you read and parrot your favorite news media without regard to the slant?

Is it possible that our culture is becoming so polarized that we cannot see broader possibilities?

Is it possible that we could all be wrong?

Is it possible that we can find a peace that doesn’t care what color or what political affiliation you are?

Is it possible to seek truth and peace at the same time?

Is it possible that YOU are reading this and agreeing, but thinking, “There’s not much I can do”?

Is it possible that everything you have read about this incident confirms what you already believe because YOU limit the input of ideas to only those that already agree with your political stance?

Is it possible for YOU to reconsider your assumptions on this situation and others by not turning to your usual news source first?

Is it possible to forgive even when YOU are the one wronged?

Is it possible for YOU to admit you might be wrong?

Is it possible for YOU to reach out and invest in truly knowing and understanding people, who look, think, believe, and experience things differently than you?

Is it possible to hope?

Is it possible?

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