It should not be open season on police officers

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesMy husband, father of our two little girls, has been a police officer almost his entire adult life. His father and grandfather were policemen, too. We are very much a police family. We take great pride in their generations of work as public servants and for their bravery and courage.

As the youth services coordinator for the town and the United Way, I coordinate a couple of police partnerships and youth-based initiatives, including the Juvenile Review Board, an interagency team at Greenwich High School, our annual Wiffle ball tournament, and even our recent attempts to save Safe Rides. And as a fly on the wall at the Greenwich Police Department, I observe officers going beyond the call of duty because of their commitment to the welfare of others.

They eagerly participate in community projects like the ones above. I have been with them as they go above and beyond to help children be safe, be resilient, make good choices, and to be cared for. These experiences clearly temper my feelings about the police; they’re all positive. I realize others don’t have that experience.

As in any field of work, you have shining lights and some worst-case scenarios — from hometown heroes to those who fail terribly caring for the most vulnerable. In virtually any profession there are examples of those who embody all we see that is good in the world and bad individual actors who make us question their institutions.

But incidents of alleged questionable behavior should not define entire groups or unravel all the good that they do.

We all must support people’s right to express dissatisfaction, including demonstrations. But, ideally, determining facts first and responding appropriately would go a long way toward understanding and reconciliation. It is unfortunate when spontaneous destructive reactions take place that do immense harm to communities already suffering. And I do question the motives of those who arrive on a scene, stoke hatred and rioting and leave behind a worse situation. I also feel that those who are protesting what appears to be stereotyping must be cautious that their protests do not evolve into stereotyping as well.

We need to continue sending our kids a positive message that they should stand up for what they think is right and to do it in a civil, lawful and appropriate manner. I just fear that when the atmosphere becomes one of open season on any one group of people and protests disintegrate into inappropriate activities by a small group of opportunists, the constructive message and opportunity for positive change gets drowned out.

Jenny Byxbee is the Greenwich youth services bureau coordinator. She may be reached at [email protected]

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