Yesterday, in Philadelphia, police officers buried one of their own. Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski, a 12-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police, was murdered last week in the line of duty.
Sgt. Liczbinski was killed by a trio of men, some of which were still on parole or had escaped from a half-way house, shortly after responding to an 11:30 a.m. call regarding the armed robbery of a Bank of America branch inside a ShopRite supermarket. After disguising themselves in burqas and robbing the supermarket, the three were stopped by Sgt. Liczbinski and, according to news reports, one of the men told the other “bang him … get the rifle.” Shots rang out, and a husband and father of three was dead. The shooter was himself killed by another police officer a few minutes after murdering Sgt. Liczbinski, another was captured right away, and the third was picked up a day or two ago.
Meanwhile, as a family and a city mourns the loss of yet another Philadelphia police officer, the attention of the nation is not on Sgt. Liczbinski but on an incident which happened mere days after his death–while the third shooter was still on the run–eliciting cries of brutality and excessive force.
Fourteen police officers were videotaped from above using force in dealing with another trio of men suspected of being involved in a triple shooting minutes before. The men ran from police, were non-compliant, and were roughed up in the process of being apprehended.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, always quick to don the pinstripes and cry intolerance from afar, described the beating as being “worse than Rodney King.” The response from Sharpton and others have widened the already immense chasm between police and those they protect.
Now, as the violence in Philadelphia continues to rage, more than 15 police officers are off the streets and on desk duty. Simply for doing their job. For stopping criminals.
How else are we supposed to show that there are consequences for breaking the law, for running from police, for being non-compliant when interacting with police officers who never know, as they put on their badge and gun, whether or not they will see their families at the end of the day?
Any action taken against these police officers only serves to legitimize the claims of those like Rev. Sharpton and to provide incentive for these thugs to continue to commit crimes. Over and beyond “To Protect and Serve,” the two main functions of our criminal justice system are (1) punishment and (2) deterrence. Holding law enforcement officers to higher standards than those who break the law accomplishes neither.
Shifting blame is easy. Claiming the widening divide between people and police–widened further by unfortunate altercations–as the cause of violence like that seen in Philadelphia is a whole lot easier than addressing the truth. These thugs have absolutely no respect whatsoever for life. When the majority of people think “bang him … get the rifle” instead of “maybe I should get my license and registration,” people are going to get hurt. Unfortunately, in this case, it was a husband and father of three.
Perhaps if the news chopper had gotten a close-up of somebody’s orbital being broken, or of the cop-killer being killed this past week, maybe some of those who see nothing wrong with violence and murder would think twice about shooting a convenience store clerk or, worse, donning burqas, robbing a bank and killing a cop.