In a country stoked by the video showing the death of George Floyd, a climate inundated with anti-police rhetoric and calls to “defund the police” has taken its toll on the families of law enforcement officers.
In particular, the families of officers who have fallen in the line of duty are impacted by the way police have been portrayed in the media and on the streets.
Chris Rutherford is one such family member. He is the son of the late Paul Rutherford, a former Phoenix Police officer who was killed in the line of duty after 23 years of service.
In an op-ed to AZ Central, Chris spoke out against the media portraying the police as “abusive monsters,” pointing out that his father gave his life to protect and serve. Chris referred to his father as “kind, honest, sincere.”
“He loved to help his fellow neighbor,” Chris wrote. “[He] was one of the most selfless human beings I have ever known.”
On March 23, 2020, Officer Rutherford was killed in the line of duty during a car crash investigation. According to AZ Central, he was struck while police were investigating an accident near 75th Avenue and Indian School Road.
During the investigation, a priority radio call pulled Officer Rutherford away from the scene of the crash. As he was crossing the street on foot to respond to the call, he was struck by a 2015 Ford Expedition.
Officer Rutherford was rushed to the hospital in extremely critical condition, and he later passed away in the hospital.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams told the news outlet, “This is just another example of the inherent dangers that our officers face each and every day and yet they put that blue uniform on and go out and serve our community.”
When police officers risk their lives every day, and can die in the line of duty over something as routine as an investigation over a car crash, it’s no wonder that family members feel justified speaking out against the negative portrayal of all officers as “monsters.”
Some have even gone so far as to dub police officers as “abusive” and “killer cops.”
To many, it seems clear that the vast majority of police officers are good people like the vast majority of us. But after the death of George Floyd, the conversation for making further improvements in law enforcement has been taken up on both sides of the political aisle.
While some have called for more police training—particularly in dealing with mental health cases—and increased funding as a solution for law and order, defunding the police has become the mantra put forward and echoed as a more radical solution, citing widespread racism and abuse of power among police officers as justification.
But for those who’ve seen their loved ones risk their lives on the job every day, this does not ring true.
“What started as a much-needed conversation about racial equality has morphed into vitriolic debate about abolishing police departments and labeling police officers as abusive monsters,” Chris Rutherford wrote.
“I’ve heard a lot of negative commentary about police officers. … I would like to remind everyone that each officer is a father, mother, daughter or son—these are people who put their lives on the line daily to keep our community safe. Some return home to their families safely each night, and unfortunately others don’t.”
This is just one man’s plea remembering a father and reminding the public who that person is wearing the uniform each and every day. But throughout the United States, millions of others like him worry about their loved ones on the force now more than ever.
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