Shocking and tragic news of Darren Goforth, a Texas deputy sheriff in uniform who was murdered in cold blood while pumping gas into his patrol car, has ignited passionate response. Thus far, the only suspected motive is the fact he was wearing a police uniform. Only the most callous, fringe element would consider such a supposed motive anything but unconscionable.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson swiftly voiced what many in law enforcement appear to believe: “rhetoric”, or criticism of police over the past year caused, or at least contributed, to Goforth’s murder. “There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement,” she said.
Frankly, such a response is purely emotional and a ridiculous misrepresentation of the truth. What evidence is there to support her angry denunciation of supposed “open warfare” against cops?
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP), Deputy Goforth’s murder was unlike any other known to have happened in 2015, and it is the only one which might support an “open warfare” claim. We don’t yet know his killer’s reason(s).
The ODMP site endeavors to give some detail of each and every on-duty death of a police officer in the United States. A review of each and every 2015 line-of-duty death listed on the site shows no support for a claim of “open warfare” against cops. All but one death had a reason completely unrelated to “open warfare”. That one death appears to be a complete mystery as to motive, but nothing in it suggested “open warfare” against cops.
A detailed review of the ODMP page actually reveals 2 police deaths were caused during gun training with other cops. If Anderson’s and others’ belief of some “open warfare” claim is true, it appears cops are waging “open warfare” on themselves. The ODMP website also indicates gunfire deaths of police have dropped 21% this year. Simply put, the claim of “open warfare” has no merit.
Using Deputy Goforth’s murder as a rallying cry to discourage people from complaining about dirty cops, violent cops, or law-breaking cops is a disingenuous, devious, and disrespectful exploitation of a tragedy. Bad cops need to be exposed and removed from employment, and Goforth’s seemingly senseless murder has no bearing either way on the matter of “bad cops”.
Making baseless claims like Anderson’s “open warfare” story-telling is calculated to chill free speech, speech which some people don’t like and can’t otherwise stop. This kind of response is the position of someone losing the public debate because they simply cannot otherwise compete. It won’t succeed now, either.
We’ve been hearing similar baseless arguments for decades and longer. Rap lyrics were the cause of violence, rock lyrics were the cause of violence, fake violence portrayed in television and movies were the cause of violence, video games were the cause of violence, guns are the cause of violence, porn was the cause of violence against women, and the list continues with this terrible event.
The strong implication of those who claim “rhetoric” is the problem is to make villains of their critics, as if critics of police are pulling the trigger, along with Goforth’s killer. People who have been speaking out against rampant police misconduct, physical abuse, and even the killing of innocent people are denounced as virtual accomplices to the murder.
Of course, such an implication is preposterous on its face and a scurrilous attempt to use Deputy Goforth’s murder to muzzle what is ever-growing, legitimate criticism of police. Attempts to silence their critics will not succeed, and critics of police misconduct will continue because they have ample facts to back up many claims.
On a closing note, Anderson’s comments include two things worthy of further mention. If Goforth’s murder was based solely on the basis of his wearing a police uniform, it was “an assault on the fabric of society.” Randomly killing police officers is unacceptable and must be handled as such.
Anderson also admitted there were “bad apples” in every profession, and her comment in its context acknowledges some cops are “bad apples”. It’s good to hear an admission of the existence of “bad cops” by cops and prosecutors because many in those camps consider “bad cops” as common as unicorns.
Some cops abuse the power entrusted to them, even to the point of framing and killing innocent people. Some cops have noble, pure motives and perform heroic, selfless acts to help perfect strangers. Cops are not caricatures, but real people like everyone else; a uniform is not an excuse or a license to misbehave, nor is a uniform justification for murder of police.