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We revere the right to freedom of speech. After all, police have sworn to uphold all laws, and to protect the rights of those who act within the law, whether we agree or not. Conversely, we also have a Constitutional right to disagree. That’s where we find ourselves with [Quentin] Tarantino. His comments reflect more than just a glimpse into the mind of a very strange man, they reflect a growing misunderstanding of the administration of public safety policy in this country.
He spoke publicly and with great publicity; we have reacted. He’s promoting a movie; our only weapon in response is to endeavor to reduce that movie’s revenue. Will we succeed? The history of boycotts indicates that we probably will not — this movie will probably do better than it deserves to because of the publicity he’s ginned up.
That being said, we had to do what we’ve done — we can’t let irresponsible comments by self-appointed champions of the downtrodden ride roughshod over the truth. Police officers are the only element of local government that exists in the poorest parts of many of our nation’s cities. Poverty, a decaying infrastructure, a failed educational system, squalid housing and broken homes is what far too many of our citizens are born to. Police officers are the only manifestation of government that some ever see — and then only when something’s gone wrong. Tarantino didn’t need to whip up that crowd — they’re whipped up by the colossal failure of their elected officials.
A recent analysis of available data from the Washington Post showed that 74 percent of police-involved shootings occurred when the assailant had already fired or brandished a firearm or had launched an attack with some other weapon. In only 5 percent of these cases was the officer’s decision or judgment called into question. This is our job, our sworn profession, but we are human and we will make mistakes. In the movies, choreographed gunfights scenes are filmed at all angles over the course of several hours or days, but law enforcement officers have to make life or death decisions in a split second. There are no second takes — we have to get it right the first time.
So Tarantino race baits, and we boycott. No happy ending to this short drama — rather than trying to help heal the wounds, Tarantino picks at the scabs. Rather than conciliatory, Tarantino is stoking the fires of hate and division that have made him a very wealthy man. I hate that this movie will make him still richer, and that perhaps this boycott and whatever else we may do will be to no avail; but, as long as there are befuddled demagogues like him bashing the police, there will be folks like me trying to get the truth out there.
Chuck Canterbury is the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s oldest and largest law enforcement labor organization representing more than 330,000 members.
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