The Thin Blue Line Is a Bit Thinner Now

By | January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments


The expression “thin red line” had its origin in the Crimean War. In 1854, the Sutherland Highlanders, pictured above, stood fast and broke a Russian cavalry charge. Later, the expression was extended to include all troops who withstand enemy attacks, not just those in red uniforms. Still later, it was modified into “thin blue line” to describe the understaffed police who stand between us and criminal anarchy.

Trucker Reginald Denny was driving through the intersection of Florence and Normandie at the start of the 1992 Los Angeles riot. But Denny was listening to music on the radio and was unaware of the danger. Thugs pulled him out of his truck, hit him on the head with a concrete block, and beat him almost to death, leaving him with permanent brain damage.
Although the beating was videoed by a news helicopter and shown live on TV, police were overwhelmed and could not – or simply did not – respond. Providentially, Denny was rescued and driven to the hospital by four courageous bystanders. This is what happens when the thin blue line gets too thin and unravels.
When the riot was over, 58 people were dead and over a billion dollars in damage was done. But before it was over, the overwhelmed police were reinforced by the National Guard – which proved inadequate. President George H. W. Bush had to declare an insurrection and send in Army troops from Fort Ord and Marines from Camp Pendleton. I vividly recall a Humvee with a pedestal-mounted .50 caliber machine gun on a street in Westwood, a few blocks from the UCLA campus.
The riot – and the machine gun – are what we can expect when the thin blue line becomes too stressed to hold. There are two ways to overstress the thin blue line:
● The first was demonstrated in the Los Angeles riot. The media showed – literally hundreds of times – an excerpt of the Rodney King beating video. But the initial portion of the tape, which showed King rushing at Officer Powell, was edited out. The whole tape was shown only at the trial. If the trial had not been televised, and if I had not been off work that day, I never would have known that the world had been shown a video from which King’s aggression had been edited out.
We call this media bias, but in fact it is media incitement. And to this we add incitement by “community leaders.” Who anointed these “leaders”? What are their qualifications for leadership? No matter. We are expected to listen to them because they are “leaders.”
To this incitement we add those people who are susceptible to incitement. Perhaps ingratitude for America’s many benefits plays a role here. Perhaps lack of ethical values is important. Perhaps bitterness at an abusive or absent father is a factor. Perhaps chronic, free-floating anger is key. But whatever the reason, the fact is that some people are susceptible to being incited to violence.
The result is clear: NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed in the line of duty – executed while sitting in their patrol car. Those who fan the flames of anger cannot claim innocence when the flames burn out of control.

The flames are crossing the country. Incidents of anti-police violence are reported almost daily. Recently a Los Angeles police car was hit by a rifle bullet. Luckily the officers were not hurt, but not for want of trying. Taking out a personal grudge on a specific individual is one thing. It is quite another to take out free-floating anger on people you have never met, just because they are wearing blue uniforms.
This is  the moral and intellectual equivalent of racists lynching random black persons because of anger at what other black persons had done – or were alleged to have done. Persecution teaches some people to act with kindness; it teaches other people to act like their persecutors. How sad.
Those who believe that police over-reaction is a problem should ask themselves this question: Are random assassinations of police likely to mitigate the over-reaction, or to make it worse?  Would you be likely to interact with the public in a more relaxed manner if you knew that unknown persons might have you in their sights at any time?
And the rest of us should ask ourselves this question: Are there people among us who want to make things worse, in order to further their notion of “fundamental change”? After all, “fundamental change” sounds suspiciously like “permanent revolution,” doesn’t it?
● The second way to overstress the thin blue line is for politicians to condemn the police before the facts of the case are known – or even after the facts are known, though the facts support the police. President Obama condemned the Cambridge, Mass. police for acting “stupidly” when they arrested Prof. Henry Louis Gates for breaking into the front door of a house and refusing to identify himself as the homeowner. Obama condemned George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin, because “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Increased empathy for those who look like oneself is called narcissism, or even racism.
Then we have the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death in custody of Eric Garner in New York City after being subdued. This question remained unanswered: How are the police to take into custody those who resist and are close to 300 pounds in weight and well over six feet in height? The answer is not to be learned by getting a degree in law or political science. Nevertheless, lawyers and politicians feel free to lecture police on how not to effect these arrests, yet remain silent on how actually to do it.
I leave to you the task of researching all the remarks of President Obama and especially New York Mayor De Blasio disparaging police. Suffice it to say that the resentment these remarks evoked has caused many NYPD officers to turn their backs on De Blasio at Officer Ramos’ funeral and then boo him at the graduation at the NYPD Academy.
That’s the problem with thin lines, whether they are red or blue. No matter how dedicated individual members may be, if the line itself is thin, it is subject to being frayed and ultimately broken. Those who stress the line from without by inciting violence, while at the same time stressing the line from within by continual disparagement and hostile remarks, cannot now claim to be shocked – shocked! – when the hostility is returned.
Here are two helpful suggestions for a long and healthy life:

1. Do not use physical violence against people who carry guns.

2. Do not insult, dishearten, and alienate those on whom you depend to protect you from violent enemies abroad and violent criminals at home.


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