CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Against the backdrop of National Police Week, officers and other justice system officials in West Virginia are weighing in on the current state of policing.
The tragedies in Ferguson, Mo., New York City and most recently in Baltimore led to the controversial indictments of police, questions about police brutality and racial profiling, and mass rioting. The aftermath has placed police directly in the public spotlight in an often negative way.
“It makes this National Police Week even more significant,” U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said. “Only a tiny, tiny fraction of police officers cross the line, and we’ve got to remember that.”
The controversial deaths of unarmed citizens have made law enforcement’s job even more difficult, Goodwin said, but Jerry Payne, a sergeant with the state Division of Natural Resources Police, has felt more appreciated.
“The public is more aware of police officers now than they’ve ever been, but I don’t know if it makes it harder for officers,” Payne said. “To be honest, in West Virginia I’ve had more people come up to me in the last couple months thanking me for doing my job that I’ve ever had before.”
Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Joe Thornton said the events of Ferguson and Baltimore was something both officers and the public could learn from.
“Those are unfortunate incidents that the profession needs to learn from and grow from to some degree, and the community needs to have an understanding for the job and the sacrifices that the uniformed profession makes,” Thornton said.
Goodwin pointed out that National Police Week should be celebrated by supporting the overwhelming majority of officers who do their jobs well.
“We as citizens, each and every one of us, need to support those 99.999 percent of police officers that are doing their jobs every day for the right reasons in the right way,” he said.