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Opinion: Cops feeling ‘hurt’ and ‘confused’ is no excuse for brutality, readers say

Seattle police
Seattle Police Department officers surrounding City Hall look toward demonstrators protesting over the death of George Floyd on June 3.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Even before the killing of George Floyd last month and the current, ongoing protests against systemic racism and police brutality, our letter writers have been willing to criticize law enforcement in ways that mainstream politicians and commentators typically have not. Since Floyd’s death and the killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta 18 days later, readers have increasingly taken a much more skeptical view of police work, and their questions have grown more pointed.

This reality was reflected in the reader replies to a letter published Tuesday by retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Cmdr. Charles Heal, who wrote of police feeling “not only hurt but also confused” over exactly what roles the public wants police officers to fulfill. Here are some of those letters.

Kerry Meade of Reseda asks for some empathy:

I agree with the retired L.A. County Sheriff’s commander that lawmakers need to do a better job of handling homelessness and mental illness. This doesn’t explain why police are killing unarmed black people. Nobody’s quality of life improves when there is fear and mistrust of the police. Defunding the police doesn’t mean disbanding them.

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The commander takes a swipe at those of us demanding reforms, claiming we are emotional and ignorant, then says police always try to do their best, but now are hurt and confused.

He fails to empathize with the families of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile and so many others.

Mike McNiff of Costa Mesa takes issue with the idea that police are “doing their best”:

We all realize being a police officer is difficult and that cops did not sign up to deal with mental illness and homelessness.

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I direct readers, though, though, to a video from 2019 that started circulating online in the last few days showing a group of officers in New Mexico opening fire with what appear to be assault rifles on a homeless man who had been resting at a bus stop.

The man barely moved, and he certainly did not threaten them. It looked like murder, plain and simple.

So cry me a river about inheriting problems from politicians. Law enforcement is no longer about protecting and serving, as was clearly evident as we watched, over and over, heavily armed police officers brutalize people protesting, well, police brutality.

If that’s officers doing their best, then we’ve failed as a society.

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Mike Green of Portland, Ore., gives some advice:

To the retired sheriff’s commander, it’s not that hard, really: Stop shooting people in their own homes, stop shooting unarmed people in the back, stop attacking peaceful protesters, and stop shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at journalists trying to cover protests.

That would be a great start.

David Pohlod of Oak Park was the lone writer to express support for the letter:

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Geez, Charles, you take away emotion and ignorance from the liberals, and you kick out the two main pillars of the Democratic Party. (Great letter.)


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