The local El Paso Police Union says the spread of shooting videos involving police officers, often without context, is fueling polarizing conversations and hostility toward law enforcement across the country.
“There is an amped up public rhetoric regarding law enforcement and I think that rhetoric is kind of a subset of amped up rhetoric regarding racism in this country. In that respect it’s a good thing but certainly what has been going on (the killings of law enforcement personnel) is not a good thing,” said Jim Jopling, the Police Union Attorney.
In Illinois, police are looking for the suspects who shot a Fox Lake Police Lieutenant. In the Houston area, investigators still have no motive for the killing of Sheriff’s deputy Darren Goforth, shot execution style as he pumped gas. Also making headlines this week, the deadly shooting by San Antonio Police of a man who appeared in a video to have his hands up.
“I’m not going to sit here and say police officers don’t make mistakes. I’m not going to judge the officer in San Antonio. You see a three second clip of a video and then you have thousands of people out there being stupid ‘oh we should go kill police officers. Let’s riot, let’s protest.’ They don’t realize that their right to do that, a lot of officers have died to give them that right,” said Ron Martin, President of the local Police Union.
Martin said public perception of law enforcement changes with current events and media coverage. “After 9-11 the pendulum swung the other way. Now they wanted law enforcement, they wanted this strong presence of officers with high powered weapons. But as time went by, they want to be safe but they don’t want to see that strong para military police presence. It always swings back and forth, it’s never a steady pendulum that’s going to stay in the middle.”
The difference he sees now is the immediate spread of shooting videos, sometimes without context.
Jopling said older officers have a harder time adapting to the availability of video cameras and the recording of law enforcement. Though he said the national rhetoric is probably not on the forefront of an officer’s mind during a confrontation. “You cannot exclude fear from the list of things that they’re feeling in that moment.”