It could be a whole lot worse than a middle finger

Yesterday a photo circulated throughout social media depicting a few Norwich Police Department officers and two of them were making a perhaps vulgar, or suggestive gesture with their hands.

Comments on the shared picture ranged from supporting the officers because they “put their lives on the line for us every day,” and others said it was an embarrassment and “a horrible display.”

You know what I say? I say they’re human, and sometimes humans give the middle finger.

The photo was taken late last year, and just recently surfaced on Facebook. According to the police chief, the matter was addressed and handled.

Many, many people expressed they were offended by the photo. Yes, the officers were in uniform and inside the station.

Want to know what I have to say to that?

Google Kelly Thomas.

Kelly Thomas was a homeless man in California who suffered from schizophrenia. An officer on duty approached him because he was shirtless and untidy. If you watch the video of the entire incident – which I will warn you will most likely make you cry uncontrollably – you will see that Thomas became confused by the orders of the officer, who then called for backup.

Thomas was then beaten by (I believe) six officers. Six. He was tased multiple times. Kicked repeatedly. Punched. Beaten with batons.

In total, before losing consciousness, Thomas said, “Help me,” 26 times. He called for his father – a former deputy – 31 times. He said, “I’m sorry,” 15 times.

When ordered to put his hands behind his back – with many officers on top of him – he said “I’m trying.”

Yet, Thomas was beaten unconscious and died in a hospital five days later.

Only two of the involved officers were charged in relation to the crime. Yes, the crime. Committed by officers in the line of duty. Thomas was unarmed. Merely a mentally ill homeless man.

Sidenote: If it takes six officers to subdue an unarmed homeless man, I think there might be an issue with the officers. But that’s not my point.

My point is, Kelly Thomas was murdered by police officers on duty. In uniform. The two officers charged were recently found not guilty.

There’s a typical failure of the justice system for you.

Regardless, Kelly Thomas is dead.

That’s just one instance of police misconduct.

Nationwide, it happens daily. Women are raped at traffic stops. Dogs who clearly posed no immediate threat are shot and killed. Both men and women are abused unnecessarily while in police custody.

So, the way I see it, we don’t have it that bad. If the worst problem our police department has is a photo of a couple on duty officers taking a selfie with their middle fingers up, that’s a good thing in my book. The gesture didn’t offend me.

Yeah, yeah … it happened on the tax payer’s dime. Taxes are another beast I’m not going to touch with this piece.

What I wanted to highlight is Kelly Thomas. A man who was homeless and didn’t commit a crime but was killed on some other folks’ tax dime. Now that bothers me.

What doesn’t, is the circulating photograph.

Be happy that’s the worst of the problems with the NPD.

Additionally: Keep your eyes peeled for a column regarding my ride-along with a Chenango County Sheriff’s deputy, and a piece covering a ride-along with NPD officers, including both a day and night shift.

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