Taking a Knee

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Given all that’s going on today, is this a fight in which police want to engage?

Police Express Outrage Over NFL Anthem Protests.

On September 21st, the “The Washington Post reports some members of law enforcement are expressing their outrage over protests in the NFL that involve ‘kneel[ing] during the national anthem to draw attention to unfair treatment of minorities.’ The Post says some police officers are offering a direct response to the protest saying, ‘If you don’t respect our flag, we won’t work security for your games.’

“IACP President Chief Terry Cunningham is quoted saying, ‘I think that what the players are doing is disgusting…American soldiers laid down their lives to protect their right to protest, which I understand. But find a respectful way to do it, don’t do it during the national anthem.'”


I understand how matters of flag and patriotism can get many police upset. But then there’s the personal versus the professional approach. An individual police officer or chief might be angered by one group or another, or a politician or activist group like “Black Lives Matter,” but a professional does not threaten to withhold his or her services to the community or any person based on personal preferences.

When this happens it tends to reinforce some folk’s stereotypes of police. What I would have liked the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (of which I am a life member) to say something like this:

“While many of us in policing may find disrespect to our flag or national anthem repugnant, we, as professional police officers, remain committed to serve everyone — even those who take disrespectful or unpatriotic public actions that are within the color of law.”

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More recently this has been a trend that has involved many sports at the collegiate and high school levels.

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9 Comments

  1. I agree that we should never withhold or threaten to withhold policing because someone exercises the right of free speech. Even the despicable acts of spoiled entertainers who don’t realize that the American flag and the Republic it stands for is the only hope they have are protected by the Constitution I have sworn to uphold and defend.

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  2. Unfortunately, some cops like former LAPD Chief Gates did make some remarks about withholding police services when an LA city council person from Brentwood was grilling Gates which Gates did not like.

    “You cannot force patriotism.”

    Especially when you have certain groups of people being treated like second or even third class citizens and then they are supposed to fight for their country when they know they are not going to get anything once the war is over. You can’t blame Malcolm X for not joining the US military during the Second World War or Muhammad Ali for refusing to be drafted during the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the Japanese Americans were granted full American citizenship.

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  3. It boggles my mind to learn just how little police officers understand the Constitution they swore to uphold. It’s unconscionable for police officers to threaten to withhold services because of a political disagreement and it’s incredible that they object to someone’s exercise of free speech.

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    1. Yup. Teaching intro to CJ last spring and this fall, I stress the Bill of Rights as our unprinnings — why we do what we do — the fundamental values that a police officer dedicates his or her life to not only preserving but enhancing them for everyone.

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  4. My initial reaction when first hearing this story was that those officers were acting like the mob/mafia: Either you show us the respect we believe we’re due or we’ll stop protecting you. Nothing short of a protection racket whether they meant it to look like that or not.

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    1. It was a statement that did not help repair trust — the reason the knees are being taken during the singing of our national anthem is in protest against racism. Don’t we get it? We could have affirmed that and been Voltairian in our response.

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