FOP Open Letter Critique: Speak Up, Louisville!

From the very first sentence of the “Open Letter from River City FOP Lodge 614” the tone is angry, frustrated, accusatory and hateful. All of these emotions are completely understandable. Police officers have been under a lot of scrutiny this year and with a recent fatal shooting involving an officer, everyone in our city is on edge. We are living in a very volatile time and recent events, though tragic, have created an opportunity to come together as a community and work together for change. Instead, Dave Mutchler, president of River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 614, has used this opportunity to foster even more hate, fear, and distrust between officers and the community they protect.

The vague “self-appointed spokespersons” the open letter addresses are accused of being individuals who “remain blind to reason, who use misinformation and who sensationalize tragedy at every opportunity to forward their political agendas.” Not only does this basically sound like “people who don’t agree with us, or in any way question our authority,” it also makes it seems as though any of these things could be a crime. The next paragraph goes on to say, “[we] will no longer stand on the sidelines while anyone continues to assault and demonize us.” Well, we already know you won’t stand for physical assault… What are you considering verbal assault? What do you mean by “demonize?” To me, the entire letter holds a baton of self-righteousness and privilege. There is a theme here: You are not allowed to criticize those who protect you.

I am not a fool. I recognize that Louisville is hot with crime rings, gangs, and drugs. One only need to turn on the news to find that out. But the very idea that this letter brings forth: that everyone who has ever committed a crime is a dangerous criminal, is dangerous in itself, to our community and its citizens. I would even suggest that it is this viewpoint that aids the cycle that many Americans get pulled into. Once you have committed a crime you are tainted. You are no longer able to be a functioning citizen. You are no longer able to contribute to your society, and therefore left to be pulled back into the cycle. Additionally, the idea that those who would speak out against police officers are criminals and their words are “verbal assault” is harmful to our community’s chance to come together and make change for the better.

I am absolutely not denying that police officers are an important part of our community. The good deeds they do every single day is often unseen, while the bad is often a headline. I truly believe that most people are good, and that goes for police officers, too. However, when even a small percentage of the people we entrust with our lives, freedom, and justice are corrupt, the entire system must be evaluated. If all black people must be held responsible for the few that end up in the headlines, then so must the cops. Dave Mutchler, instead of sitting on your pedestal with your Taser and your handgun, telling the citizens who pay your checks to “have the same integrity and dedication to serving the community that [you already have,]” who not take responsibility for the small percentage of cops who do not protect and serve with honor. Look inside your ranks, at police all across the nation, and recognize: you are not perfect. There is always room for change and improvement, but instead our fine officers have decided to participate in fear tactics and succeeded in widening the gap between their force and our fine community.

It is almost as if, through this letter, Mutchler has drawn a definite line in the sand. If you are not with him you are against him. Even Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad have distanced themselves from this tactic, both trying to reinforce ideas about community and trust. I, for one, completely agree with them. Trust and communication between the community and its police officers is vital to fostering a safe and nurturing environment for all citizens. After the tumultuous events of the last week, we need to come together as a community, to mourn and to discuss ways to avoid violence in the future.

To me, Louisville has always been possibility city, and i think that’s more true now than ever. The definition of possibility is a thing that may happen or be the case. It may be the case that Louisville could be the next political hotspot for the racially charged tension between public servants and the community they serve. But we also have the possibility to grow and prosper as a community, to rise above all expectations and unite as one. It is up to us, every citizen in our beautiful city, to make the choice.
* * * *

I am so disappointed that one of Louisville’s Finest would take this opportunity to generate fear and hate, and I stand behind a large number of Louisville residents when I demand his resignation. We cannot let this be the representation of police officers in our community, and quite frankly, now that I’ve written this article, I am kind of scared, too.

Read the open letter in full here:
http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/269089912/Press-Release-River-City-FOP-Lodge-614

Read Mayor Greg Fischer’s statement here:
http://m.wlky.com/news/mayor-greg-fischer-full-response-to-fop-presidents-open-letter/33684968

Read Louisville Chief of Police Steve Conrad’s statement here:
http://m.wlky.com/news/police-chief-steve-conrad-response-to-fop-presidents-open-letter/33684974

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