Does anyone share my disappointment in the decline of our newspaper of record, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution? I vehemently object to the Gracie Bonds Staples opinion printed on June 22 titled “When police can’t see a man’s humanity, things can’t help but turn bad.” Staples was referring to the actions and mindset of Officer Garrett Rolfe and Officer Devin Brosnan while Rayshard Brooks was under investigation for driving under the influence.
I don’t recommend reading the AJC article. It is full of race-based, groundless rhetoric and Black Lives Matter talking points that are detached from reality.
It cites obscure academics from unknown institutions espousing nonsense. Under Editor Kevin Riley’s leadership the AJC has deliberately blurred the lines between news and opinion, between facts and advocacy. I miss the AJC of old that had less spin; when it was more credible and complete.
The column stated: The police are paramilitary, Cohan said, trained to treat the enemy in as objectified a way as possible. Dehumanization becomes embedded in the process. “This demands a disconnection from the humanity of the other person, in this case Brooks, as well as disconnection from oneself,” Cohan said.
Here the AJC gets it completely wrong with psycho-babble. While it is true that the police are somewhat paramilitary, their primary focus is CRIME. To some, paramilitary is somehow a negative term, when it is merely an organizational structure with clear designation of authority, chain of command and discipline. It is generally mission focused and specific. The Atlanta Police Department is a civil law enforcement agency with a basic paramilitary structure in order safeguard lives and property by bringing accused criminals before the bar of justice. While largely service-oriented, it is an organization based on the premise that people who violate our laws need to be apprehended and, when convicted, punished by our courts.
Staples fails to recognize a fundamental reality of policing: That police interact with victims of crime daily. Officers carefully document and report violent crimes, and all who have served as first responders understand and relate to crime victims. Their empathy with crime victims motivates them to apprehend criminals. The feeling of satisfaction following a successful arrest is woven into the fabric of the police culture. Peace officers able to frequently make quality arrests are revered. They are commended by their departments, praised by the prosecutors, thanked by grateful crime victims, and enjoy a special status among their peers. It feels good to successfully serve and protect.
AJC writerStaples also dismissed the severity of Brooks’s offense by citing: “He was inebriated and had fallen asleep in the drive-thru” Stated in a more factual manner one would say that Brooks was operating a motor vehicle in a public area, surrounded by other drivers and pedestrians, while passed out under the influence of alcohol and blocking access to a restaurant . Georgia’s DUI laws require significant evidence of impairment, and officers are trained to carefully interview drivers on camera to create a video record of the driver’s impairment. Based on the field sobriety test, Brooks was significantly impaired. The interview revealed that Brooks did not know what city he was in. The officers had clear probable cause to believe that while operating a motor vehicle Brooks posed a significant threat to others.
One of the most difficult assignments peace officers have is to deliver a death notice to next of kin. It is hard duty. As a homicide detective in the 1980’s I recall working with men who could no longer perform that assignment, rather they asked less senior detectives to handle that task. There is nothing an officer can say or do to comfort a family or a grieving mother after a death caused by a drunk driver. Nothing.
Police officers internalize and remember these tragic moments. They hurt and want to do more, and so every potential DUI the officer encounters from then on will be judged carefully. The officer will decide, according to strict legal standards, whether this driver will possibly hurt someone They ask whether the driver is less than safe to operate a vehicle. Once the officer determines that the driver is impaired, the officer feels they owe it to that grieving mother to arrest the drunk. It is very satisfying to arrest someone who is obviously impaired and a threat to themselves and others.
I’ve written to the AJC to inform Staples that what happened during this arrest was NOT dehumanization. It was NOT oppression. Rather, this is how officers demonstrate their humanity, how they follow the law and protect the public from drunk or drugged drivers like Rayshard Brooks.
The author is Lou Arcangeli, a retired Atlanta Police Department deputy chief.