While CNN is still desperately trying to figure out the meaning of “Breaking News,” the rest of us are forced to sit here on our hands like kids on Christmas Eve, except the present that is about to be unwrapped cannot be returned, and it’s contents will surely upset two sides of people. Seriously, you may want to avoid Facebook until Thanksgiving, which is when you’ll be surrounded by relatives and want to complain. The Internet is an excellent place for memes, funny animal videos, and porn — not so much civil discourse.
But just as it’s inappropriate for a campaign worker to wear political buttons outside a polling place, it’s really not the role of police officers to publicly show their stance on the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case — even if they may personally side with their fellow officer. However, that’s exactly what transpired in Portland, Oregon.
Mike Reese, the Chief of Portland Police, ordered several officers to remove images of the Police Bureau’s badge covered with the words “I AM DARREN WILSON” that the officers evidently posted on their Facebook pages in a symbolic show of support.
Obviously there’s freedom of speech (likewise the freedom to ruthlessly insult certain free speech) and that’s not so much the issue here. The issue was the fact that the officers took it upon themselves to turn their city-issued badges into a social issue. Further, the badge represents the entire city of Portland and the officers’ sworn pledge to ensure that no gluten enters the city. But seriously, it was a matter of professional decorum.
‘The image displayed does not represent this organization and was very inflammatory in nature,’ Reese said in a statement.
‘Officers certainly have a right to have and express their opinions but not using an official badge of the Portland Police Bureau. The badge represents all members of the organization, past and present, and is an important symbol in our community that must not be tarnished. I’ve asked the Professional Standards Division to review this matter for possible policy violations.’ (OregonLive)
Apparently three officers had posted the images on Facebook, which in turn resulted in some activists sharing them on Twitter with local media. Officers Rich Storm, Rob Blanck and Kris Barber were the three Portland officers that posted the image of their badges, naturally garnering “likes” from other Portland officers. The uber-biased images come amid massive efforts led by Portland’s mayor to work with community leaders to help maintain peace and friendly relations, irrespective of what the grand jury announces. He feels that the images directly imperil that goal.
Rev. T. Allen Bethel, president of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, seems to agree with political free speech, but recognized how they could easily incite the community.
“I think every person has a right to freedom of speech. I see their saying of ‘I am Darren Wilson,’ sort of like their saying of ‘I am Frashour.'”
Bethel was making reference to Portland Police Officer Ronald Frashour, who was terminated for fatally shooting an unarmed black man a few years back. Frashour, however, has since been reinstated as the city challenges an arbitrator’s ruling.
Realizing that many officers around the country would be siding with Wilson, blindly or not, the Justice Department rightfully pressured officials in and around Ferguson, Mo. to prohibit their police forces from wearing “I am Darren Wilson” wristbands. Doing so would only seek to “reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many Ferguson residents of Ferguson believe exist,” according to an official in the Justice Department.
If good cops are truly interested in ensuring that the public’s’ growing skepticism and fear of their increasingly militant and power abuses don’t increase in the wake of the Ferguson verdict, then perhaps they should adorn their badges with, “I AM WITH NOT VIOLATING THE FOURTH AND EIGHTH AMENDMENT OR KILLING UNARMED PEOPLE.”