The Truth about Violence

News out of Milwaukee marks a new low in police-community understanding

By Scott Hughes  |   Aug 16, 2016

As I watch the senseless violence unfold in Milwaukee I think to myself, “We’re screwed!” No matter what we do we, the police, are critiqued, criticized, abused, demonized, assaulted, and even killed. For the most part mainstream media refuses to support the police and they seize every opportunity to turn a tragedy into a “police problem.” As I watch residents burn down their own town I ask myself, Why?

What does burning down a gas station and looting convenience stores have to do with an apparent justified shooting of a known felon who is armed with a gun? But I quickly remember that it doesn’t matter.

Forget facts and statistics: The media and others refuse to admit that the agenda they are pushing is inaccurate and deadly. Three more officers were killed this past weekend. Some will argue there is not a war on cops because overall numbers are down. Well, tell that to the families of the 70-plus officers killed this year! Gunfire deaths are up nearly 80%!

Overall numbers are down for a variety of reasons. One of which is training. Again, contrary to what some say, police training today is—or it can be—phenomenal. I might be a little biased of course. Calibre Press training programs have undoubtedly saved police officers lives over the years, hundreds if not thousands.

Could we train better as a profession? Absolutely. But we do a pretty good job despite all the obstacles, and it saves lives. Even still, activists are trying to shut down police training all over the country as you read this.

Another reason officer deaths are lower in part is better equipment. Instead of taking equipment away from officers, we should issue more: helmets, shields, and less-than-lethal weapons, for example, have been protecting officers from rioters who throw rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails at officers protecting their neighborhoods.

This won’t matter to those who have no idea about police work. They will continue to hide behind their keyboards and Monday-morning quarterback the actions of police officers. These are the social-media experts. They will call for defunding us, withholding essential and potentially life-saving tools from officers.

Speaking of equipment: How about bodycams?

There’s been an unprecedented rush to equip every officer in the nation with a bodycam. It’s been hugely expensive and poorly implemented in many cases. Questions about privacy are tricky and nuanced, but politicians and critics don’t want to hear that: “record everything” is their answer.

If it’s not recorded or if the recording is poor, it’s automatically a cover-up on the part of police. Because technology always works, right? Especially cutting-edge technology in rough and dynamic environments?

They did that in Milwaukee—in fact, it appears as though the latest case was caught on camera and allegedly shows the criminal armed with a weapon. A word of advice: If you have a weapon and run from the police you dramatically increase your chances of forcing the officer to use force. The odds are increased even more if you turn toward the officer.

Some will want the officer to wait until the criminal shoots his weapon before engaging the threat. That’s ludicrous. As cops we accept risks, but reasonableness is of the essence. Who would suggest it should be otherwise?

There was a situation two weeks ago in Cincinnati in which a convicted criminal attacked a store security guard with a knife after committing a robbery. Shortly after fleeing the scene, officers spotted the subject and went to make an arrest. As the officer exited his patrol car the suspect charged the officer with a knife. Faced with a deadly weapon the officer discharged his weapon saving his own life.

Despite being captured on video, Black Lives Matter and a local homeless coalition released a joint statement demonizing the officer and his response to the knife. Perhaps the officer should have talked to the suspect or waited until his throat was slashed before engaging?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” True and beautiful words. But out on the street, an officer deals with not just hate. We deal with violence, and the only way to overcome violence is superior violence. It’s an ugly truth that most cops know first hand but most in the public, understandably, like to avoid. Violence comes quick and nasty.

Bodycams are showing the world that law enforcement professionals face each day. Despite the efforts of the police, community activists, clergy, and others, the world is not Candyland. We have made tremendous strides in community relations and there is more to be done. I’ve said it before, and I’ll maintain: We, the police, are not the problem. The overwhelming majority of police uses of force are justified and within the law.


This job is hard enough as it is. Throwing in all the politics and controversy and vitriol can at times make it feel impossible. Officers put their lives on the line for strangers every day in this county, and yet we are vilified constantly at protests, on television, and across social media. We aren’t immune to noticing.

Every cop I know—a hugely diverse cohort, mind you—got into this line of work to make a positive difference in the world. I’m all for accountability. But that’s a two-way street.

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Scott Hughes
Chief Hughes holds a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of Charleston and is a graduate of The Supervisor Training and Education program as well as The Police Executive Leadership College. Scott is also a graduate of the 133rd FBI-LEEDA Command Institute and is a certified Law Enforcement Executive (CLEE). Chief Hughes is an active member of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police where he serves on the education committee.