By Sgt. Anthony Limite
Kearny Police Department
Special to The Observer
I’d like to comment on Kevin Canessa’s July 13 column in The Observer titled “It’s time for good cops to speak out.” I’m sure you will figure out quickly that I am, in fact, a police officer and have been for over 20 years. I will not take any of your time to call you names or insult you over your article, but rather, offer some insight from what I feel is a cop’s perspective.
First, the simple fact that you, from behind a desk in New Jersey, can conduct an investigation into the two police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and come to an absolute conclusion that the two men killed were killed simply because they were black is reckless and irresponsible.
I fully understand that it’s your right to believe what you want and say what you want, but to write in a paper that numerous people will read that these cops went into work that day and decided to kill someone just because they were black inflames the situation and can possibly push that one lone wolf sitting on the fence into action, like in Dallas.
The absolute truth right now is that no one knows why those cops reacted the way they did except those cops themselves.
The cop in Ferguson, Mo., was charged and convicted by the media and everyone else who jumped on the bandwagon. It was reported that the man who was killed had his hands up and said “don’t shoot,” and everyone believed it because it was reported on the news.
The fact is, an independent federal investigation found he never had his hands up and didn’t say “don’t shoot.” Instead, he in fact attacked the cop and that the cop did everything he was trained to do and was found by the feds not even to be charged with anything.
Yet, because it was reported, we still have people today at protests with their hands up saying “don’t shoot,” when that never even happened.
Many people believe what they hear and read, so reporters and opinion writers need to understand that statements that are not fact and that are written can and do have a profound impact on people’s beliefs and thoughts about that situation.
You also explain that we, as white people, will never understand what and why black people feel and think the way they do, and you are absolutely correct. But have you given any thought that there is even a smaller minority of people in this country that others will never understand and know what it’s like to be them, no matter how much you try to Monday morning quarterback them?
Well, that minority is cops.
You have no idea why a cop thinks or feels the way he does, what violent circumstances throughout his career that threatened his life make him react differently than anyone else in this country and you never will.
I can tell you this as fact: A large majority of people we come in contact with, most of whom are called into us by the public and not just picked out randomly, lie to us. So are we suspicious and question people more than an average person would.
That’s what we deal with every day.
I have been assaulted, spit on, threatened with weapons and was even almost run over on purpose by a criminal in a stolen car .
So after 20 years of being cursed at and assaulted from out of nowhere, am I more cautious and suspicious and treat encounters differently than the average person? Yes. You and every other critic out there will never ever know what we deal with on a daily basis, year after year. You will never ever know why we think the way we do, and why we draw inferences from certain things that no one else does unless you get out from behind your desk and do this job with us.
And, not for a day or a week or a month, either. Come out with us for a year or more and see and feel what we do. Maybe then you could begin to understand this world we cops live in.
I have had the great pleasure to work on a DEA task force for years, and have worked with cops from all over this state and from different parts of the country as well. I know many cops and I can say this as fact as well — I have never heard once or felt that any other cop I’ve worked with came into work one day and said, “Hey, let’s go out and kill a black person today.”
I’ve never even heard or knew a cop that even wanted to go into work on any given day and kill anyone! But with your article you would make people think differently, which is very hazardous.
I’ve been in three different situations in which I could have used deadly force and let me tell you, it is not an easy decision at all to pull that trigger knowing you may take someone’s life. I can also say that when I see bad cops, I do speak out and tell it like it is.
The police shooting in South Carolina when the cop shot a guy and killed him for running away from him after a traffic stop was just unbelievable and I stated so to anyone I had a discussion with. The video was clear and knowing what constitutes deadly force, I was able to come to that conclusion.
In Ferguson and Baltimore, I didn’t know enough facts and constantly stated that I’d wait for the facts to come out before I came to a conclusion. Again, the media that convicted them in Baltimore and Ferguson were wrong.
So do we learn from any of those situations or keep stoking the fire by writing and reporting what you think is the story without any facts? I do believe that police training is a must and must be on a continuing basis. I know there are some cops out there who are not meant to be a cop. I know there are cops who make bad decisions, but does that mean that they are evil, heartless human beings because you wrote they simply went out there and stalked a person and killed them for the color of their skin?
How can any person state what another is thinking and say the reason for their reaction was this or that? You also write that since you’ve been back in NJ, every single time you’ve seen a car pulled over, the driver was black. That is either because that’s all you want to see because I am out here every day and I see plenty of white people pulled over for violating the law.
You stated you were liberal, but pro law enforcement — and go on to talk about your uncle being a police chief but when it comes down to it you write exactly what all the other liberal media outlets write and want people to believe.
I truly believe that open discussion is vital to resolving problems and I am always willing to discuss these matters to enlighten people who don’t walk in our shoes to understand better. I would hope that you could find a way to hit the streets for an extended period of time and witness our society from our perspective.
That I think would help a lot.
I would be more than willing to discuss anything with you if I think it would help bridge the gap I think we have. Until then, I’d ask that maybe you can really consider the words you choose and the accusations you disperse and how they may be interpreted by others reading your article.