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OP-ED: A Cop’s Wife On The Murder of NYPD Officers

sad2I have been reluctant to speak up. The whole Ferguson nightmare, and Eric Garner disaster in its wake, have caused our country to become so divided that I am afraid to say what I’m thinking anymore. Don’t misunderstand, I haven’t been silent. I am a cop wife and I’ve succumbed to the urge to share and retweet messages in support of police officers lately. But Saturday night’s assassination of two righteous officers of the New York Police Department as they sat in their police car helping to protect a troubled neighborhood takes it all just too far.

This is not a race issue. It’s a respect issue. The cops that were murdered were Asian and Puerto Rican, not at all the profile of the angry Aryan militant cops that groups like Anonymous want us to believe are the root of all evil. This was a hate crime against all law enforcement. And seeing video footage of ignorant protestors chanting the following made me physically ill:

“What do we want?”

“DEAD COPS!”

“When do we want it?”

“NOW!”

Are you kidding me? That’s not peaceful protesting. That’s a call for anarchy. The only thing missing is pitchforks and torches – oh wait, they’ve been using the torches. I’d look to the families of the so-called “victims” of the police to call for peace, but nobody’s listening to them anymore because they already heard Mike Brown’s stepfather urging them to “burn it down” when Ferguson cop Darren Wilson was not indicted. We all watched him yelling that from atop a car on national television. Over and over again. And they did. Ferguson was destroyed and Mike Brown’s family asked them to do it. It’s on film. Nothing to argue about there.

Police all over the nation have been dealing with protestors who have not been “peaceful” for the most part. Every man and woman wearing a law enforcement uniform has been the target of the hatred – regardless of their race, rank or own opinion of the situation. And today’s social media has made it so easy for people spew vitriolic threats and incite others to do harm to police that I am simply terrified. What has this country become?

The NYPD officers were assassinated Saturday night by a psychopath posting Instagram messages with his intentions, and those messages referenced Mike Brown and Eric Garner. AND OTHER PEOPLE WERE “LIKING” HIS POSTS!

THIS is what Al Sharpton’s rhetoric and Barack Obama’s lack of support for law enforcement has brought about. Even the New York City mayor has blood on his hands for this one because of the way he’s handled every aspect of the protests following the grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer in the Eric Garner case. I’ve been in the cop family a long time but I have NEVER seen cops turn their backs on the mayor like they did to Mayor Bill de Blasio. And he deserved it. He’s no Rudy Giuliani.

It seems like a lot of people need a basic civics lesson here, or they wouldn’t be blaming the police and calling for their murders. In neither case did the grand jury find enough evidence to indict the officers. Cases are given to the grand jury only when a prosecutor isn’t entirely certain there is enough cause to simply charge someone. In Ferguson, it’s likely that the District Attorney only bothered with the grand jury because he didn’t want to be the one blamed when he was up for re-election. If you’re mad at someone, vote the District Attorney out of office. If you think it’s a race issue, elect a black DA. But don’t destroy your own town and blame it on the police.

In New York, the officer may have violated department policy but he didn’t actually break the law. Let’s be clear – he didn’t kill Eric Garner. Eric Garner had a heart attack while he was resisting arrest. The cop will be tried administratively by NYPD, but not tried in criminally because he did not commit a crime, according to the grand jury. Both NYPD and the cop will be sued by Eric Garner’s family. And a federal investigation is underway already. In Ferguson, Darren Wilson resigned from his department out of respect for his fellow officers and the community at large, but technically speaking, he didn’t have to. He could have hung in and cost them a lot of money to get rid of him if he’d wanted to be that way. But he didn’t.

Because we live on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico now, I tried not to let myself get too worked up about the protests back home. That’s part of why we moved here. We’d both had enough middle-of-the-night call-outs to shootings and neighbors banging on our door needing police help. I lived on Capitol Hill on 9/11, and we lived in the Anthrax postal delivery district, too. My husband once arrested a guy with a pocket full of crack trying to get into a car parked directly in front of our house! We meant to leave that all behind and most of the time, I can do that. He served 30 years without shooting anyone, getting shot, or receiving a single use-of-force complaint. I’m so glad he retired when he did.

I think I assumed cooler heads would prevail eventually. It’s not that I don’t believe there are no bad cops out there – there are. As a District Commander and acting-Deputy Chief, my husband spent more time than he liked dealing with many legitimate complaints. But there are bad people in every profession. Fortunately, there are more good guys in law enforcement than bad. Believe me, cops don’t do the job for the fat paychecks and fancy party invitations. And despite what some would have you believe, police departments do their damnedest in most cases to ferret out the bad cops. They don’t want them anymore than the citizens do. No good cop wants to be partnered with a “bad cop” ever. It’s dangerous.

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So I watched the protests and listened to the legitimate arguments from both sides of the fence and came away last week thinking it’s obvious that there are some problems that need re-evaluation in some police departments. And there’s a list of investigations being launched and steps being taken to add cameras and other stuff like that. But on the other side, all I heard was inflammatory rhetoric. From leaders of both genders and a variety of races all over the country. The fringe has been calling for violence against the police since the grand jury in Ferguson, some even before. But now, our country’s leaders have been so irresponsible in their management of this situation that all hell has broken loose.

Two young NYPD cops were executed in cold blood for no reason as they sat doing their jobs, “protecting and serving,” in a troubled New York City neighborhood. Did you know there was another attempted assassination of an NYPD officer just hours later, but the gun jammed? And on Sunday, another whacko announced his intention to kill NYPD cops on social media and was captured en route from Tennessee. What is this? Every freakin nut-job in the country is headed out to off a New York cop? Do any of these people remember the footage of these same police officers running into the burning World Trade Center buildings to save people? Do they remember how many cops died for the citizens of New York that day? Where is the respect? Now you call for their murders?

POLICE

What have these “leaders” started? Do they even understand the magnitude of what they’ve done? Too many people can’t sort out the rhetoric from the reality. People like Al Sharpton are giving them a free pass. And the mayor of New York is letting it happen. Charles Manson is laughing his ass off in his jail cell watching because this is the race war he envisioned in “Helter Skelter” when he murdered those innocent people in Los Angeles. President Obama is playing golf. These people are not martyrs, they are the worst kind of criminals. But hey, these are just peaceful protestors, right? Not.

Now, it’s personal. I’m a cop wife, and a member of the cop family. My husband retired seven years ago as a Captain from the Metro Transit Police in Washington, DC. He was highly decorated, and had been the SWAT commander and a firearms instructor.

We sold our home in the city and moved to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, to open a wedding planning company. Coincidentally, the last Friday before we moved, we spent the day in the Federal Courthouse testifying at the sentencing of several young men who had opened fire with a shotgun and handgun on our home and my husband’s personal vehicle in 2003. These men were drug dealers, and they shot at us a few months after we moved into our new home in an up-and-coming part of the city because they didn’t like having my husband’s unmarked police car on our street. It was hurting their drug business.

Although we suffered only property damage (I was home alone and my husband was on duty), the bullets the DC police dug out of our next-door-neighbor’s air conditioner matched multiple other shootings in our district. Something like 13 murders were solved when they caught the guys who shot at us. And we were there to testify at the sentencing because they had all pled guilty and accepted life in prison, without parole, in lieu of getting the death penalty. They would have been convicted. Their arrests were part of a much larger sweep the US Attorney’s Office did with many law enforcement agencies to shut down the gang they referred to as the “Taft Terrace Crew.”

As the only “victims” who hadn’t actually suffered a death of a loved one as a result of these monsters, we were more able to articulate the impact of their actions at the sentencing than the other victims’ sobbing mothers and wives. What was crazy was that after we testified, we had to be led out the back of the courthouse by U.S. Marshals because family members of the convicted felons were screaming threats at us openly in the courtroom. I will never forget the mother of one shooter screaming “You lie! You lie!” at me as I left the stand.

For God’s sake, lady – it was a sentencing BECAUSE YOUR SON PLED GUILTY. He admitted to the crime. I didn’t even testify at the trial because they took the plea deal before the prosecutors got that far into the case – it was THAT obvious they would be convicted. The trial prep was horrendous for me personally. Listening to the recording of my own 911 call after the shooting was the worst. To say the entire experience was traumatic – for me, my husband and our friends, family AND NEIGHBORS – is an understatement. But at least nobody at our house got killed. Their other victims were not so lucky.

Our appearance in court was important because these drug dealers crossed a line – they came after a police family in our home. And we learned at the time that similar instances had also happened to a DC cop family and an Amtrak cop family, all of whom lived in the 5th district not far from us but the DC police hadn’t been making a concerted effort to crack down on the problem. All occurred within weeks of each other.
Then-DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey wanted it all swept under the rug and even my husband’s own chief called and suggested that I not make a stink about things. Fortunately, I could speak to the media while my husband could not. I banded together with other police wives whose homes had been attacked and we gave lots of interviews. And we finally got our meeting with Chief Ramsey. But not until after they investigated us and did threat assessments of our homes and made us feel like we were somehow at fault for the attacks. I was baffled.

Our community supported us. They WANTED police families to live in the city and help improve the neighborhoods. Too many cops commute from the suburbs because of their own concerns about safety if they live where they work. That’s a sad state of affairs, my friends. The days of the neighborhood cop who knows all the people who live on his beat are no more, in most places.

To show their support, churches brought busloads of people to sing in front of our houses. There was a candlelight vigil with neighbors to support police families living in the city. A lot of this took place in my front yard and it was a surreal experience. It wasn’t about white or black (in fact, of the three specific families attacked, we were the only “white” ones), it was about supporting the police in your community. To let us know we were wanted and our husbands were respected and that we should feel safe having them around us.

It worked. We lived there til we moved to Puerto Rico. It also helped that the men who shot at our house were arrested a few weeks after the incident. But maybe if Chief Ramsey had paid attention when the other police families were shot at, nobody would have attacked my home. Maybe if he’d seen the significance of any threat to law enforcement personally, he’d have understood that by doing nothing, he was giving tacit permission for the attacks to continue. He’s the police commissioner in Philadelphia now and I hope he’s worrying about his police families considering all the chaos in nearby New York. What happened to us doesn’t even touch the threat to police officers right now. I know men who are taking all the stickers off their cars (and their wives’ cars), switching out FOP license plates, and not running around in police t-shirts like they usually do. It’s not just the white cops. Everyone who wears blue feels the threat. Some people have declared war on the police, but the police aren’t really allowed to fight back.

This is no longer a race issue – and maybe it never was. But the solutions to the problems lie in the investigations and pro-active citizens using appropriate channels to effect change in their community, not in killing cops. People need to vote. And get involved. The protestors have gotten their point across and the investigations are going to happen. Running through the streets encouraging people to kill cops isn’t productive, non-violent, or even legal in many ways. If there are THAT MANY people with the time to march and loot and riot, there should be plenty of people who could organize something real that would achieve their goals. Some of the best social media posts I’ve read quote Dr. Martin Luther King espousing beliefs that this behavior was not the way to change things.

The President has the ability to put a stop to this. Al Sharpton and numerous other leaders who haven’t supported the police the way they should can help bring this madness to a close. A lot of damage has been done to the morale of the law enforcement community nationwide. But Obama is golfing in Hawaii and put out a ridiculously patent statement about the murders of the NYPD officers, much in the same way he did when James Foley was beheaded. That guy is just never going to learn. Where are his public relations consultants?

Meanwhile, it’s time for the threats toward police and the anti-police rhetoric and hashtags to stop. Enough already. What would New York City do if police officers decided they’d had enough and actually enacted a true “Blue Flu” and just stopped working?

Most upstanding officers shudder at the thought of walking off the job – they promised not to do that when they joined the department. But this is different. It’s not a job action. It’s not an argument about benefits. This is a department of approximately 35,000 police officers who have every right to feel like their lives are threatened, even more than they are every day when they put on their badges to go to work. And when the mayor of your city doesn’t support you and says things that make you feel disrespected, what else can you do? It’s not like they can march chanting through Manhattan inciting citizens to harm the mayor.

Time for everyone to take a step back and think about what your city – this country – would be like without police officers there to help when you need them. This isn’t about race. It’s about respect.

Sandy Malone is a reality TV star, expert wedding planner, and internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast's BRIDES and The Huffington Post, in addition to Monsters... read more
Sandy Malone

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