Free Speech is almost always about the kind of speech you do not like. That’s a concept that every American knows far too well.
But this week, we saw how a measured response to free speech was able to inspire an over the top response.
When protesters poured red paint on the Denver Police Memorial this weekend, police allowed the protest to continue before arresting the protesters. The police were following a relatively new protocol that calls for minimal interference with protesters in order de-escalate tense situations.
The Denver Police Protective Association, have been joined by the Fraternal Order of Police, in calling Chief Robert White a disgrace and urging him to resign.
While it is completely understandable that police and their respective organizations would be upset over what the protesters did and frustrated over the policy of not interfering, their calls for Chief White’s resignation completely miss the point.
The police that allowed the protesters to carry out their plan did the police at large a favor. When citizens saw how the protesters treated the memorial, any point the protesters were trying to make was totally lost on the public.
When the memorial was defaced, the public was not only horrified, but they were reminded of the fallen heroes that have served our community and paid the ultimate price.
In short, letting the public see what some protesters were capable of doing did a lot to build public support for the police.
However, when police organizations call for Chief White’s resignation and claim that he has lost the respect of the entire force, they are reminding citizens again of the recent tensions between citizens and police and losing the credit the police have received for measured responses.
Even if the FOP feels that not interfering is the wrong protocol, the argument is not effectively made while calling for the Chief’s resignation.
The collective overreaction is making the police look thin skinned and defensive immediately after some of their own showed the ultimate grace under pressure. To be able to show discretion and patience in the face of a despicable protest is an incredible achievement.
But the calls for Chief White’s resignation and claiming he has no support essentially dismisses that patience and grace and forgets the value of the public seeing a protest that did more to offend than to garner support.
The protesters have essentially doubled down on their premise saying the media is more concerned over red paint than blood spilled in the streets. But this reaction again misses the point.
A memorial commemorating the public servants in our community who died protecting this city is not a place to remind citizens of police brutality cases.
Candlelight vigils, protests in front of city hall and attention grabbing parades can make valid points. Paint on a memorial only makes one point, and it makes the wrong one to garner public support.
If the various police organizations want to do more to address the tensions between citizen groups and the police, a good place to start is to practice the same patience and calm needed in the field, regardless of the emotions that the situation cause.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning “Colorado Inside Out” on Colorado Public Television.