It is disheartening to see the lack of faith in law enforcement when major incidents occur.
On June 14, 2019, an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer was involved in a shooting inside a Costco in the city of Corona. The story received national attention when it was discovered that the victims of the shooting were a developmentally disabled adult along with his parents.
As the Corona Police Department worked diligently to investigate what had occurred, social media erupted with accusations of a deliberate cover up and a biased investigation.
Less than a month later, a Fullerton Police Department K-9 officer was driving along the 91 freeway when he became involved in a shooting that took the life of a 17-year-old girl. The Anaheim Police Department took the lead in investigating the shooting because it happened in that city.
As detectives and the Orange County District Attorney investigated, public speculation painted a picture of a trigger-happy police officer being protected by fellow officers. This unfair portrayal was further fueled by the young woman’s family attorney holding press conferences questioning the integrity of the investigation and circumstances, while at the same time failing to mention the young woman was going through a mental health crisis.
In the Costco shooting, Corona Police Chief George Johnstone released a video stating his detectives were doing everything they could to gather evidence and information and forward the findings to the district attorney’s office for review. The video was a necessary step to defend the integrity of the department and put a stop to false narratives and social media speculation.
The investigation was submitted to the Riverside District Attorney’s office for review in a matter of weeks.
Chief Bob Dunn from the Fullerton Police Department took the extraordinary step of releasing the body camera footage from the officer, as well as dispatch radio calls and 911 calls by the family to the police within one week of the freeway shooting.
The young woman apparently purposely provoked a confrontation with the officer. She struck the officer’s vehicle, then in a dangerous move did a u-turn in the middle of the freeway to face the approaching officer’s unit head on. The video can only be described as tragic and unsettling as the young woman is shown pointing a replica handgun before being shot by the officer.
The young lady rolls on the ground and begs, “Can you help me, please?” as the officer and an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer render first aid in an attempt to save her life.
The video has been seen hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube — a disturbing form of reality television entertainment.
In both these examples there are still questions that need to be answered and further investigation to be completed. My real concern is the lack of faith in the police investigations in the aftermath of the incidents.
In each case, I am certain the teams of detectives are integrous and professional. They are being overseen by supervisors, managers, and police chiefs who probably have never been questioned on their integrity.
Think about it. If there were really an attempt to cover up something it would be a failure of integrity and ethics at a colossal level.
That being said, a lack of faith seems to be the way we operate at every level these days. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and The Blindside recently started a podcast called Against the Rules. In it he addresses through discussion and insight the lack of fairness and faith of those in charge. He asks the question, “What is happening to a world where everyone loves to hate the referees?”
Every major sport is investing millions of dollars in instant replay technology that is only used sporadically. Sound familiar?
In an NBC interview with Chris Hayes Michael Lewis said, “It’s like no one sees the world through the eyes of a referee. It’s the same thing, that everybody’s on the referee. Both sides think the referee is against them, and nobody imagines themselves into the head of the referee. But without the referee, the game can’t be played.”
No one thinks about what is going on in the heads of the detectives, investigators, police leaders, district attorneys or anyone involved in these high-profile investigations. They simply assume they are not going to do a professional job and, therefore, just like a referee they are abused and jeered at in public forums.
But in the end, the overwhelming majority of the time, the men and women who investigate these major incidents are doing the best job they can. Just like the referees, they take the abuse and jeering because the job still has to be done.
Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.