My Turn: Fictional models for real police officers

For the Monitor
Published: 11/21/2019 6:30:14 AM

Several times a week now our senses are assaulted by news of another violent incident by police or a school security officer on citizens. All too often, the victims have dark skin. Many appear to have a mental illness or a learning disability. In each case, the police employ a level of force clearly not justified by the alleged offense.

What has happened to our police to make them so violent? Why do they appear anxious to shoot to kill rather than disable? Why do they not make every effort to defuse a situation? When did it become okay for police to shoot people in the back?

We recently watched a report on teachers at a small Massachusetts town who were being trained in the use of handguns, a horrifying burden our violent society is placing on teachers. They were taught to make torso or head shots. Imagine their dilemma if one of their students was the perpetrator. Does it not make sense to train them to shoot to disable rather than kill?

Clearly, the mass proliferation of guns has made police more cautious. But too often, overly violent solutions ensue. When police who step over the line are not held accountable for their egregious actions, the public feels victimized and becomes alienated.

Police and firemen and school security officers are public servants sworn to protect us, even at the cost of their own life. They deserve our deepest gratitude for taking on this important role. But recent events suggest many of our public servants could use a refresher course.

Two of my favorite fictional heroes point the way. Benoit “Bruno” Courrèges has won over the hearts of readers since Martin Walker published the first book in his series, Bruno, Chief of Police in 2008.

Bruno lives in a small town in the Périgord region of southwest France. He is a gourmet cook and former soldier who maintains control of his town by skillfully defusing disputes without resorting to violence, let alone arrests. He wins over the villagers by being one of them. He teaches tennis and rugby and is a confidante to all. His life is interwoven with those he protects. Not only do the villagers respect him, Bruno is the most honored and beloved member of the community.

No less beloved, and equally adept at defusing potentially violent situations, is Sheriff Walt Longmire, who patrols a Wyoming county with his friend Henry Standing Bear. Walt’s ability to handle the most violent situation without anyone being harmed wins him the loyalty of the citizenry, and regular re-election. Craig Johnson published his first book in the series in 2004, and it is still going strong.

Our police would benefit from a return to the basics exemplified by these fictional characters: police as trusted public servants, whose reverence for the lives they are sworn to protect requires them to defuse potentially violent situations with a minimum of harm.

It’s not that these values are absent here. In our small town of Sutton, the police are respected and honored. They participate in local events, and are an integral part of community life. Children and adults look up to them as the town’s protectors. Here’s hoping their example, policemen as peace officers, mirrored by Bruno and Longmire, becomes the norm again.

(Sol Solomon lives in Sutton.)


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Concord Monitor, recently named the best paper of its size in New England.

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy