Choose Words More Carefully

The lesson to be taught in every family in every town in Montana is respect the police

By Mike McNamara

Now wait just a second. Your recent subhead to a story, “Four men have died at the hands of Flathead County law enforcement,” was disingenuous. Phraseology like that can cause readers to immediately form an opinion that law enforcement personnel are rogue cops gunning down innocent people. So, I ask the Beacon, choose your words carefully.

In each case cited in the article, law enforcement officers were placed in a position in which their own lives were threatened – by the people who died. There is a direct causal relationship. Threaten a cop’s or an innocent person’s life and he or she can, and likely will, respond with deadly force.

Montana’s DCI Chief Bryan Lockerby is right, the trends of responses involving intoxication are of great concern. And it is going to become far worse as unabated marijuana sales begin. You can take that to the bank. Our county attorney, local and state law enforcement agencies and the state attorney general are all preparing contingency plans to deal with an increase in mental health and drug related calls.

Our Sheriff Brian Heino is also correct. Officers do not want to shoot and kill people. It is a worst-case scenario. And officers who kill a person are humans. They, too, feel emotions and experience PTSD, usually for the rest of their lives, all because someone who was drunk, high, or mentally unstable placed them in a position where they were forced to use deadly force. We have to stop condemning our lawmen and show them the support and respect they deserve.

To be sure, law enforcement officers are engaged in a perilous vocation, which they undertake voluntarily. They have a right to protect their own lives as well as a duty to protect the lives of innocent people. So, the lesson to be taught in every family in every town in Montana is respect the police. Do not be combative. Do not get drunk, high, or out of control. And if you need mental health support, get it. People who show respect to police and do not lose control have better outcomes.

Mike McNamara