Kevin Hale: Remembering to 'protect and serve'
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Kevin Hale: Remembering to 'protect and serve'

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Kevin Hale 

I have no idea what it’s like be a police officer. I’ve never had to wear a Kevlar vest to do my job or carry a firearm into a situation that was tension-filled. I don’t get in my car every day looking for situations where I have to make a split-second decision to confront crime and be the wall between a lawbreaker and the citizens of my city. It’s a job with so many twists and turns you have to be an Olympic gymnast in your mind to solve all the daily riddles thrown at you. It is an incredibly trying job.

I know what you’re thinking. This is a love letter to police officers in the wake of the tragic events that killed Mr. George Floyd. It is not. Nor is it a hack piece to throw all police officers under the bus. This article is the first piece of rebar to be put in a concrete bridge we must all build. If we don’t build that road, I fear for our country’s future.

I am not an attorney and I do not play one on television. My job is not to advise Decatur Police Chief Getz and every police officer in this city and country on how to best approach their jobs.

I simply want to bring up words I see painted on police cars all around this country, “Protect and Serve.” Those beautiful words are starting to be blurred as some police officers forget the meaning and deep sacrifice those words mean. Many police officers have laid down their lives heroically for those words and some have abandoned all meaning to that phrase.

As in life, a police force is a reflection of the community they serve. You get some officers that are great apples and some that are worm-filled and rotten. However, police worm-filled apples lead to deaths around the country and generate fear and loathing in minority communities.

I have never once watched my son walk out the door and feared for his return because he might be pulled over by a police officer. African-American families are trembling in fear because their children might have contact with an overzealous and over-officious police officer that could lead to their child’s death.

That is a fear that has come from years of unrecorded tyranny at the hands of some police officers who let emotion and bias lead to escalation and actions that happen far too often.

Thank the heavens a courageous soul had the cool thinking to record Mr. Floyd’s murder taking place at the hands of multiple despicable and cowardly Minneapolis police officers.

Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz has been proactive in having minority voices be engaged when a police shooting takes place. He has shown transparency in allowing access to voices that many times go unheard.

I’d like to offer Chief Getz another opportunity to be proactive. I want to test his abilities to futuristically better “Protect and Serve” his community and officers. I work in a laboratory of multiculturalism. I teach in the Decatur Public system. I’d like to invite Chief Getz and his police officers to my classroom for open dialogue with my students to understand each other.

If we had Decatur teachers invite police officers to their classrooms, we could change the future. Maybe on a dark and snowy night an officer might confront a former student and not reach for his gun and the former student may drop the rock in his hand. They may look in each other’s eyes and see a friend they met at a school.

In the future one set of parents won’t have to scream in pain holding a picture of an erased loved one.

Mourners gather for funeral of retired St. Louis police officer killed in looting

Kevin Hale is an instructor at Eisenhower High School.


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