• Andrew Finein

Police officers: the good guys or the bad guys?

Police departments across the country have come under heavy scrutiny over the past decade due to how they treat citizens, especially black males. Every week or two a new “case” where a white officer shoots a black male makes national headlines, but where is the media when an officer shoots an unarmed white male, goes above and beyond their duties, or gives back to the community? These situations often times get little or no media coverage, but why? The answer is simple: ratings and profit.

Photo courtesy of democracynow.org

The media claims they are in the business to inform citizens of what is happening, but in reality, the media cares more about making a large profit and receiving high ratings. Making a profit and having high ratings is done by retaining the largest possible audience. The best way to retain an audience in today’s society is to cover controversial topics that pull at our emotions. One of the most controversial topics for the past few years has been police shootings where a white police officer shoots an unarmed black male. Due to this, nearly all the other police-involved shootings have been overlooked, causing police to be viewed upon negatively.

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black male, was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This shooting made national headlines for months. It sparked outrage across the country causing people from around the nation to travel to Ferguson to protest. Many of the protesters claimed the shooting was racially motivated, but there were also many protesters who did not know what was going on and were there for the attention. Two days later however, there was another cross-racial shooting where a police officer shot an unarmed suspect.

In Salt Lake City, a black police officer shot and killed Dillon Taylor, an unarmed white male, on August 11, 2014. All the major details were the same as the Ferguson shooting. A police officer of one race shot an unarmed male of a different race, who, police described as behaving “suspiciously.” This incident was in the local media for a few days, but it never really made it to the national headlines. There have also been multiple cases where a black officer shot an unarmed black suspect and a white officer shot an unarmed white suspect, but again, there hasn’t been any major media coverage of these incidents. This is because media companies can generate more profit and receive higher ratings by focusing on situations where white individuals attack the black community. It is not because police officers across the country are racist, and it is not because they are bad people either. I am fairly certain if we were to take ratings and profits out of the equation, all these other situations would have made the news, and white-on-black attacks wouldn’t be so prominent in the news.

There was an event more recently and closer to home that proved that police officers are not out to shoot people and care about our community. On December 12, officers of the Joliet Police Department spent their own time and money at the department’s annual “Santa’s Cops” event at the Wal-Mart on Rt. 59. According to the Joliet Police Department, during this event, the off-duty police officers walked through the store with a total of 75 children from underprivileged families and bought them Christmas presents. Towing company CR Towing & Recovery posted a photo of the event on their Facebook page. The caption of the photo mentioned how there was not “a single reporter and news camera” present. Here is an example of how police officers gave back to the community, spending their own time and money on the underprivileged community, many of whom were from black families, and the media did not mention it. Instead, the media is too busy focusing on covering police related stories that will cause controversy.

What can people like you and I do about this? There are a few things. First, you can write a letter to the editor for your local newspaper or newspapers stating you want fair media coverage of police related situations. Second, you can call, write a letter or send an email to radio stations and news channels suggesting they also cover the good things police officers do rather than focusing on all the bad things. Third, you can boycott any media outlet you feel is giving too much attention to a certain story. Lastly, and most importantly, spread the news yourself. If you see police officers going above and beyond their duties, or see the media is not covering something you think they should, tell people about it yourself. You can even start your own blog for free to inform everybody else of what the mainstream media is missing.

So before you go out saying every police officer is racist or they are bad people, stop and think, what have they done that you don’t know about? There is, often times, more to the story than gets told.

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