I saw this meme in a couple of social media places this week and it struck a chord with me.
Look, I enjoyed The Andy Griffith Show as much as the next bored-on-summer-break elementary school kid, but if you want to know why we don’t have more Sheriff Taylors it’s because Mayberry doesn’t actually exist. There are bad people in the world, and sometimes police officers need guns.
For instance, my little town of Eagle Mountain is as Mayberry as a town with 20,000 people can be. There’s either a church or an elementary school seemingly on every street, and our biggest lawbreaking means pulling a snow sled behind a four-wheeler in the city park on a beautiful winter day.
Or at least it was. Last January our Mayberry left the realm of idyllic black and white old timey tv shows and became the place of roadside memorials in remembrance of our police officer shot and killed in the line of duty.
Seargent Cory Wride pulled up behind a truck parked on the side of the road just a few miles from my home. He thought they were having car troubles and stopped to help. How’s that for engendering respect, Mayberry style? But, with the officer sitting in his patrol car, the driver of the stopped truck opened his window and shot Wride dead. He then drove off, leaving Sergeant Wride to be discovered by his fellow officers after he failed to check in with dispatch on time.
And it didn’t end there. The murderer shot and wounded another officer in the head before he was finally forced to abandon his truck, incapacitated by spikes police had put on the road. But that wasn’t the end of it. He entered the freeway and stole another vehicle, firing shots as he did so. So officers spiked the freeway again, forcing him to abandon his vehicle. He still didn’t give up, firing more shots at passing motorists and pursuing officers. Finally, he was critically shot and the spree ended. He died in the hospital the next day.
As much as we’d like to, we don’t live in a world where the town drunk puts himself in the jail cell each night to sleep it off. Instead, he has his 17-year-old girlfriend buy him meth and goes on a 100 mile long shooting spree.
I hate the optics of militarized police in places like Ferguson. There are definitely times when police response is too aggressive. I can think of no reason why cities like Draper, Utah need a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle. But let’s not pretend being a police officer has no risks. Let’s not think that because we live in an idyllic, protected world that means it just protects itself.
No, I don’t want my town to have a military surplus MRAP. But let’s not forget those who put their life on the line, and those who’ve given their life, to allow us to live in our Mayberry world.