On August 10, 2017, Sheriff Scott Walton of the Sheriff’s Office in Rogers County, Oklahoma defended Betty Shelby as he announced her recruitment as the 31st reserve deputy sworn into his department. As reported by CNN’s Jessica Suerth, Sheriff Walton explained his support of Shelby by saying he’d hate to think that he was “sitting there quietly and letting a movement take over and take our ability to protect and not only protect people, but get officers killed.”
Respectfully, Mr. Sheriff Scott Walton, the “movement” is on fire and we need you, and every other law enforcement agency, to enter the burning building. The movement you speak of is not one that incites violence against officers, but it is one that begs of officers to be better trained, to be less emotionally responsive, and more tactful in their encounters. The movement you speak of is not one where your officers are protesting day after day, week after week, month after month, begging the communities to stop killing your unarmed officers. The movement you speak of is not one that has disabled your ability to protect people, it is one that yearns for stronger relationships between community members and law enforcement so people trust you to safely patrol their streets again. The movement you speak of desperately needs you to stop making statements in support of people who unapologetically shoot and kill unarmed constituents and start making statements to the people afraid of dying at the hands of your reserve deputies and active officers even if they do nothing wrong.
Firefighters enter burning buildings all the time. They voluntarily enter the fire rescue profession, despite knowing they may get killed trying to save unknown people in a burning structure. They don’t say, “I won’t go inside because I might get burned.” And while the world appreciates the difference between a firefighter and a police officer, the integrity of your profession is analogous to theirs. The community is the public and you joined the profession to serve them. To protect them. To save them. They need to see that you will enter the burning building, that you will see the burning “movement” asking you to act like you care about what scares them, and address it, enter it, become a supporter of saving unknown people’s lives even if it means you might get burned. We understand you want to save the lives of the officers who serve you, and believe it or not, a lot of people have a lot of respect for officers, even after all that has happened. A lot of people have family members and friends who serve as law enforcement officers, so don’t think our movement means we don’t want them to come home safely. We just want to see a change. One where you show us just how far you’re willing to go to protect our lives too.
Will you go into the burning building? Because, again, the movement is on fire.