Here's the link to my latest Courier-Journal column. It is on the C-J website now, and will appear in tomorrow's paper edition. Thanks to the C-J for giving me permission to reprint:
There were many images of first responders on the 14th anniversary of 9/11. Police officers stood behind the bereaved at the 9/11 Memorial, guarding them and mourning with them.
As a mother of boys, I recall that the most popular Halloween costumes for little boys in 2001 were firefighter and police uniforms. That resulted from the courage of the first responders on 9/11. The blessing that came out of that terrible day is that we witnessed numerous ordinary people become heroes. It was a powerful lesson.
Recently I heard of a local police officer who became a hero in a quieter way. LMPD Officer Michael Leek gave a new bike to an eight-year-old whose last two bikes had been stolen.
WHAS reported that the boy, Clarence, had helped the officer search for lost keys. The two began talking, and the officer observed that Clarence needed a new bike. The child explained that he had owned a new bike, but that it had been stolen, so he was making due with an old one. Two weeks later, Leek again saw Clarence and asked where his bike was; the older bike, too, had been stolen.
Leek surprised Clarence with a new bike. The boy’s mother cried with gratitude. Clarence now says he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.
Leek wasn’t just thoughtful and generous. He was intentional about getting to know the people on his beat.
He noticed Clarence and remembered him; he asked questions and followed up. He let Clarence know that he saw him and heard him, that he was not an anonymous poor kid in a rough neighborhood. Leek saw Clarence as an individual, and likewise, that is how their interaction caused Clarence to see Leek.
Leek’s concern about the theft of Clarence’s bike harkens back to the “broken windows” theory of policing that did much to make New York City safe under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The idea was that when police crack down on minor crimes like pan-handling and jay-walking, it transforms the culture from lawlessness into order.
An eight-year-old’s stolen bike is a petty theft, just as a broken window is not a crack house. Fix the broken window, and reduce the odds of the house becoming a haven for drugs. As the murder rate soars in cities across the country, it’s an approach to law enforcement worth revisiting.
Leek’s gift to Clarence is particularly poignant while the Black Lives Matter movement demonizes — and endangers — police. To be sure, there are bad cops, just as there are bad citizens. Both should be punished under the rule of law. But their numbers should not be overestimated and should not detract from the vast majority of police who risk their lives and serve with professionalism, anymore than the criminal element should be taken to represent a community or racial group.
That brings me to a segment I heard on Bill Bennett’s Morning in America radio show. Bennett’s demeanor and erudite analysis contrast with the vitriol of most of talk radio. But even Bennett’s measured delivery cannot take away the ugliness of certain facts.
The Black Lives Matter movement recently held a protest — kept safe by a police escort — at the Minnesota State Fair, hours after a Houston policeman was gunned down. The protesters chanted: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon!”.
Certainly “pigs” refers to police. What I had not previously understood is this: “pigs in a blanket” refers to cops in body bags. Notwithstanding the protest leader’s dissembling, the chant calls for the murder of police officers, pure and simple.
The chant does not distinguish between good cops and rogue cops: it calls for the murder of all cops. So I cannot help but think of Officer Leek and the 9/11 heroes when I contemplate the phrase.
And I think of eight-year-old Clarence. His life matters. Not because he is black. It matters for the same reason that all lives matter, because he is a human being created in God’s image. I am grateful for police such as Officer Leek who protect Clarence and all of us. I pray for their safety.
The Obama presidency was supposed to usher in an era of post-racial healing. Why, then, does President Obama not condemn the chant “pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon”? His silence in the face of this call to violence does not promote racial healing, but rather the opposite.
Terrorists killed 215 blacks on 9/11; that number is dwarfed by the thousands of American blacks murdered by criminals annually. Showing support for those honorable police and first responders who seek to prevent and redress such tragedies demonstrates that black (and all other) lives truly matter.