On August 9th, 2014, a man was shot and killed by a City of Ferguson police officer. Even though this incident happened in a small town in Missouri, it made national headlines within the day. You couldn’t watch the news for less than five minutes without hearing about the “unarmed black teenager” being shot and killed by the “white police officer”. This incident caused one of the biggest media frenzies in history. Riots broke out all over the town of Ferguson, MO. Not only were buildings broken into, but these same buildings were set ablaze. Fires were spread throughout the city and the chaos lasted days after the shooting. This particular moment in time has changed everything for our fellow officers today. Why? Because the media made an uproar by broadcasting false details.
The news announced details after details as soon as they received new information. It didn’t matter if this information was true or false, if the media heard it, they broadcasted it. The young man (Michael Brown) who died, was an 18 year old, black male who measured 6’4″ feet tall and weighed 292 pounds. In news headlines he was described as an “unarmed black teenager”. The legal age of an adult is 18, and nothing about 6’4″ feet tall and 292 pounds says “teenager”. This was a grown adult who could take care of himself. The media also described him as a “gentle giant”. This was later contradicted when survelliance video which showed Mr. Brown robbing a gas station while violently attacking the store owner just minutes before the shooting. Witnesses who claimed to have seen the shooting kept saying that Mr. Brown had his hands up and said “Don’t shoot” to Officer Wilson. This was the beginning of the “Hands up, don’t shoot” protests. All across America, protestors were chanting the phrase up and down city streets. In the midst of all of this protesting, federal investigators we’re proving that Mr. Brown had never had his hands above his head. In fact, these investigators were proving that Officer Wilson acted in self defense when firing the fatal shots. This case is a prime example of how the media has greatly effected the perception of police. Even though the media announced numerous false accusations about Officer Wilson, much of the public has chosen to believe those faulty details.
The Ferguson case was just the beginning of this negative attitude toward law enforcement. Multiple cases have come out nationally since the August 2014 shooting. It seems that now when you watch the news, all you hear about is police brutality and racial discrimination. Whether or not these handful of officers in the news were in the right or in the wrong, all police officers are now feeling the negative effects. While officers already have an extremely stressful job, now, on top of that, they are dealing with hostile people who don’t trust them. Some individuals have been so upset by the recent shootings that they have gun downed unsuspecting officers in their patrol cars. These were innocent men doing their job. These violent acts have caused departments to reevaluate their current safety precautions. If officers before didn’t already fear for their life on the job, they definitely do now.
So why is it that we’re now hearing about all of these allegedly crooked cops? It seems that ever since the media has painted this negative picture about police, society is becoming even more intolerant of law enforcement. Police officers have always been easily portrayed as the “bad guys” in society. They pull us over, write us tickets, and take us to jail. Or at least that’s what some people believe. These “bad guys” are actually the people in society getting the real bad guys off the street. People are so quick to judge and pick apart officers, but these same people are the last to get behind the badge. So of course cops are easy targets for news reporters. The media has no problem depicting our fellow officers as reckless killers because it’s more believable then say, maybe a doctor. In reality though, there are some doctors who use malpractice on their patients to make more money and some nurses who purposely make their patients sicker. Do we hear about them every week? No. Every occupation has true and unjust people. Just because a few officers may or may not make a bad call, doesn’t mean all officers deserve to be treated poorly. In fact, officers deserve to be treated with respect. Much of the public has no idea what they do and go through on a day to day basis. If people had even just a glimpse into an officer’s day they would propably think twice about giving them such a hard time.
So what are officers’ to do now to escape the harsh judgements of the media? There’s not much. But they can start by using more technology to protect themselves. Departments across the nation are beginning to incorporate body cameras into their policies. These cameras can now keep rolling when an officer leaves their patrol vehicle. This provides more safety for the officer and for the public. Unfortunately, it could take years or even decades for the average perception of police to revert back. Once false information has been put out there, it can be very difficult to change peoples’ minds. As long as the media is spreading their stories, and people are unwilling to listen to the facts, police officers will be having to look that much harder over their shoulders.