The tragic and horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers rightfully outraged Americans, and while it’s heartening to see them speaking out and demanding justice, the level of violence leveled at law enforcement has been very disheartening to see.
And while police brutality against African-Americans is a conversation that needs to be had — and something that needs to be addressed — there also is an equally important conversation that needs to be had concerning the rise in violence against police before we no longer have any officers who want to protect our communities.
Just looking at our own little community, we can see the rise in disrespect and violence being perpetrated against our police officers.
Most recently, the senseless death in 2018 of Officer Bronson Kaliloa on our island, and the deaths of Tiffany Enriquez and Kaulike Kalama earlier this year on Oahu, highlight the rise in violence against police officers and the dangers our officers face every day as they seek to honor their oath to protect our citizens.
To understand the rise in officer-involved shootings, we need to understand the rise in violent crimes. For the most part, the rise in numbers of our officers having to discharge their weapons has to do with the rise in violent acts against them.
Face it, our officers are dealing with the most dangerous criminals in our community, and those individuals have no protocols they have to observe, but officers have to ensure they do not use excessive force against them.
I have served as a police chaplain for the past 13 years and have firsthand exposure to their jobs, training and culture. I have been on ride-alongs where I saw the officers having to use force in the course of doing their jobs.
If I wasn’t aware of the whole incident from beginning to end, I might have thought they were being unnecessarily rough in their handling of a person.
To understand the use of necessary force, we first need to understand what an officer has to do with a person who is refusing to comply with their commands. I recently saw a video that was being circulated in which the officers were dragging two individuals out of a car. My question is: If the officers were asking them to get out of the car, how are they going to remove them from the car if they resist?
One situation I’ve seen more than once has to do with a business asking for the removal of an individual who is causing problems and scaring customers. I have seen several officers talking for 30 minutes or more trying to convince the person to leave the establishment to no avail. They then let them know they will have to take them in. When the individual refuses to move, the officers have no other choice but to physically remove them.
Why are there several officers to take care of one individual? Have you ever tried to carry someone who is dead weight? Officers also need to have witnesses and backup present when they respond to calls.
My heart breaks for our law enforcement community here. There are no words to describe the pain and trauma our police officers experienced with the tragic death of Officer Kaliloa. By all accounts, he was an outstanding officer known for his patience and compassion in the performance of his duties. He was one who was in it for all the right reasons and managed to not let the job harden his heart toward his fellow human beings.
Three fellow officers witnessed his murder and saw him die while they were trying to get him help and apprehend the suspect before anyone else was hurt. Please, let’s remember that under those ballistic vests are human beings with real hearts that feel pain just like ours.
Please, please, please let’s stop the disrespect and violence toward our police officers before we have none and have to do their jobs ourselves. Please take the time to show our officers we love and appreciate them for what they do for all of us.
Please stop the physical and verbal violence against our protectors.
Renee D. Godoy is the Hawaii Police Department chaplain.