To demonize police officers and to promote the liberals’ stereotype that cops hate black people, it helps tremendously when the media totally ignore the variety of programs that urban police departments organize to support black youths in high-crime neighborhoods.
If journalists reported on these police programs and encouraged participation with the amount of effort the media devote to exploiting violent interactions between cops and black individuals who have resisted arrest or committed other crimes, the relationship between the police and black communities might have a chance of improving.
Across the country in cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Baltimore, the police reach out to inner-city youths plagued by the dangers and challenges of the streets. Cops try to create positive activities and interactions with the children and teens in the communities that the officers are sworn to protect. The departments also organize efforts like Christmas programs to provide presents to as many children as possible.
In smaller cities with fewer resources, many police officers take it upon themselves to mentor the local youths. My friend Ryan Hepler is a perfect example. The city Ryan has sworn to protect has the dubious distinction as one of the top ten most dangerous small cities in America. In fact, two of the boys Ryan has tried to help through the sport of amateur wrestling have shot at least four local youths and attempted to shoot more.
On the other hand, Ryan and his fellow officers have not shot any youths in the ten years Ryan has served on the police force.
Instead, Ryan has logged countless hours of his own time organizing and raising money to provide opportunities for the kids he coaches. Thanks to Ryan, many of these kids have competed in wrestling tournaments across the country. This past summer, Ryan drove a van full of local youths to Fargo, North Dakota to compete in the USA Wrestling Junior Nationals. One of his wrestlers, Wilson Smith, placed second to earn all-American honors at this prestigious tournament.
For many of the kids Ryan works with, their first trip out of North Carolina has been with the wrestling club. Team members have traveled to Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and North Dakota thanks to Ryan’s hard work and time.
Ryan encourages the kids to tackle goals they would not ordinarily set for themselves. He works to instill traits like persistence, self-discipline, and a positive attitude. Through Ryan’s commitment to these boys’ lives, they learn to believe in themselves. Ryan teaches them that they can compete against anybody if they are willing to work hard, sacrifice, and avoid excuses.
Unfortunately, the problems and challenges that many of these kids face cannot be solved by all of the police officers like Ryan across the country. Their problems cannot be solved by more government programs, either.
Ryan and other cops cannot replace the eyeball of Devonte’s mother, knocked out of her face by the fists of a drug-dealing boyfriend. Ryan cannot stop Demetrice’s mom from disappearing when the demons of drug addiction come calling. Ryan cannot restore life to Jacoby’s friend who was gunned down by rival gang members. Ryan cannot stop Shyheim from joining a gang, dealing drugs, or attempting to murder other kids. And Ryan cannot do anything to stop teenage boys from making babies with teenage girls.
Ryan – and police officers like him – can only show the kids who know him that he cares about them and believes in them. He can try to teach them values that can help them succeed in life if they will practice and apply them. And he can continue sacrificing his free time in the hope of making a positive difference in the community he serves and protects.
Ignoring police officers like Ryan by smearing cops as racists to inflame racial division and to advance political agendas seems like a crime itself. Unfortunately, no law can fix that sort of injustice, hatred, and immorality.
Lee Culpepper is a former United States Marine Corps officer and reformed high school English teacher. E-mail Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @drcoolpepper. Read other articles by Lee Culpepper at Townhall.com and BearingArms.com.