Sacramento Police Officer Tara Christina O’Sullivan was shot and killed on June 19, 2019, while keeping the peace at a domestic violence call. O’Sullivan was in the last phases of her training before embarking on what would have been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for her.
As her department and the entire community were mourning her loss it was disheartening to see a video shared by journalist Matthew Keys showing the actions of bystanders verbally taunting officers as they tried keep people at a safe distance in order to keep them from harm following the shooting.
The video shows a belligerent woman yelling at the officer as he asks her to move farther back for her own safety. “The only person we need to be safe from is you,” she replies.
In another clip she challenges the officer to fight, saying, “Take that gun off. I’ll whoop your little butt…All y’all cowards.”
Others can also be heard in the background taunting the officers. The officer’s professionalism given the circumstances was laudable.
Statements like those are not uncommon. If you don’t believe me, just peruse social media and you will find thousands of posts where demonstrators and bystanders go out of their way to verbally taunt or abuse police officers. There’s even one guy who does it just to get hits on his YouTube channel.
For those who believe hate is a normal response to injustice, all police officers are open game. They might think all police officers share the collective guilt of any actions committed by others, or all police officers are the same just because they chose to wear a uniform — a uniform the overwhelming majority of police officers wear with integrity and honor.
Of course there has been and probably always will be a recalcitrant part of society that despises authority just because. All police officers from any age have experienced this over and over again. But in the age of social media, unchecked hatred has real consequences.
For the people who feel it’s okay to verbally abuse a police officer, I will say the person you’re yelling at is probably a father, a husband, or even a Little League coach. They got into the profession for all the best reasons, mostly to help people. If you called 911 and needed help they would immediately respond and, like many police officers in recent incidents, they would take a bullet for you.
They more than likely have never even fired their firearm on duty, been sued, or even had a personnel complaint against them. Like the Sacramento officers in this video, they will take your abuse and try to do the best job they can, no matter how much you hate them or verbally abuse them. Like a 2-year-old having a meltdown, the best reaction is to ignore them.
Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at email@example.com.