A few years ago I sat in a conference room situated inside of our non-descript, hidden, drug task force headquarters waiting for an operational raid briefing to begin. Surrounding me where my partners for this unit, consisting of local and state officers. A federal agent walked in and jokingly stated, Gentlemen I'm with the Federal Government and I'm here today to help. As if on cue, everyone looked at each other and laughed.
As all of us know, within the overall spectrum of law enforcement there exists an animosity between local and state officers toward our federal counterparts. Much of what the hard, and at times comical, feeling exist is due to past experiences, fallout from messy bureaucracies, jealousy and plain old humor. However friction between the state or locals and the feds is downright dangerous and getting worse daily. I'm not talking about the cops here, but rather the citizenry and federal government. The distrust, anger and outright resentment by normal law abiding citizens being vented toward the U.S. Government puts every cop, no matter what badge you carry, in the cross-hairs.
For the last two hundred years in our country law enforcement officers have relied on the fact that the vast majority, arguably 98%, of our population would support policing efforts to some varying degree. Basically, the citizens had our back. There were more lawful citizens than non-lawful. Governance relies on this basic principle in order to maintain the masses peacefully. It has not always been like that. Presidential historians will tell you that there have been two instances in American History where presidents seriously doubted whether the people would allow this government to continue. President Lincoln had this great troubling concern in the opening days of the Civil War and President Nixon, more than a century later, grasped at the same issue due to the national unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Today, the American people have seen a cascading effect of federal government failures mixed with serious national stressors spanning the last decade. To name a few:
- War in Afghanistan
- Hurricane Katrina federal response debacle
- War in Iraq
- The Great Recession
- The Bank Bailout
- Historically high unemployment
Hundreds of town hall meetings took place last summer over the Healthcare Overhaul proposals that resembled mini-riots rather than constructive debate. The law passed last month and while Congress voted inside the Capitol Building, surrounded by U.S. Capitol and U.S. Park Police, thousands of protestors screamed outside. Most polls recently show that 80% of the people think the U.S. Congress are a bunch of buffoons and do not represent them. The President is not very popular either. We are on the verge of something here I fear.
As true law enforcement professionals we took an oath, swore by it and in some cases our Brothers and Sisters in Blue paid for it - in their blood. Regardless of our personal feelings or beliefs, duty calls and protecting those who cannot protect themselves is our calling. We stand in the gap.
Is there really a huge separation between the government and the people, national discontent with the threat of mass violence facing our nation? Have we returned to a Lincoln or Nixon moment? Former President Bill Clinton apparently fears so. As ABC News reported on 04/19/10, Clinton expressed concern that he was seeing parallels in the temperament of the public at around the time of the Oklahoma City Bombing, during his tenure, compared to today. Analysis revealed then that most who were unhappy were not violent, but certain fragments of society (highly militant) captured the mood of the nation and responded with domestic terrorism.