Pushing a false narrative undermines challenging work of law enforcement
In 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls, as National Police Week. This year National Police Week was held May 8-15. National Police Week is an annual observance when memorial events are held across our nation to honor police officers who have sacrificed their lives. Last year in the United States, 264 officers were killed. Thus far in 2021, 125 have died.
During National Police Week, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to all state employees marking Juneteenth as a state holiday of “service.” He wrote: “Juneteenth is a celebration of the progress we have made as a nation towards equality and justice for all. Sadly, the continued death of African Americans at the hands of police … are painful reminders that racism and intolerance are still with us today.”
The professional leaders of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association support the Juneteenth holiday. A seminal moment in American history, celebrating the end of slavery in our country. Unfortunately, Gov. Wolf chose to inappropriately push a false narrative that is inflammatory and irresponsible. The Governor chose to insult the over 1,100 law enforcement executives and over 25,000 law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth during National Police Week. The professional men and women in law enforcement in our Commonwealth have dedicated their lives to “service.”
Policing has always been one of our country’s most complex and challenging professions. Comprehensive criminal justice reform is a complicated challenge. It requires the full engagement of many parties, including, but not limited to the police. The Governor’s opinion, while politically expedient, does not inform nor does it reflect the law enforcement environment in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s professional police chiefs are committed to public service and ensuring our communities are safe. They take an oath/affirmation to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to uphold, obey and enforce the law without consideration of a person’s race, color, sex, religious creed, sexual orientation, age, national origin, ancestry, handicap or disability. They are committed to upholding this obligation. They are compassionate individuals who are willing to sacrifice their safety for their fellow citizens.
We pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. Pennsylvania’s law enforcement leaders will continue to embrace the issues and hold themselves accountable as we work through challenging times. This is not an issue to be politicized by our Governor; it is an issue of civility, common courtesy, and a respect for human dignity. Pennsylvanians need to work together and against injustice and make our Commonwealth equally safe for all its citizens; but this must occur through the lens of truth, reality, and critical thinking, not insults.
Scott L. Bohn is executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.