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Learning from the mistakes of others

There have been countless marches in the US about police misconduct, but most officers should be commended for their work, our columnist says, with many risking and losing their lives while helping to protect society

The recent murders of a wealthy family along with their housekeeper in America, which stunned much of that nation, reignited memories of the 1959 killing of an entire family that became a book by Truman Capote and later a film, depicting how two young men entered the home of a farmer in Kansas and, after discovering there was no money there, decided to execute the family of four in cold blood.

Even after so many years since that horrible crime, many people still express great discomfort in just thinking about how those men could have committed such a dreadful act, and then attempt to move on as though nothing had happened.

Through brilliant police work, the culprits were arrested and put on trial. Both were convicted and sentenced to death. They paid with their lives for a tragic robbery that yielded them only $43.

The incident in Washington DC had reflections of another film, ‘The Desperate Hours’, when a family was held hostage by escaped convicts who sought a considerable ransom from the father. At least in that situation the family survived, after suffering many hours of torment. The family in Washington was not so fortunate. According to reports they were tied up and tortured before being killed.

The fact that a 10-year-old boy was said to have been stabbed and burned resulted in a massive manhunt, culminating in the arrest of a prime suspect who will now face the justice system for one of the most disturbing crimes in modern times.

Others may have been implicated in the tragedy, so police are probing evidence after a failed attempt to burn the house down.

In recent times, there were countless protests marches and demonstrations throughout the United States against police after incidents involving the conduct of certain officers.

After the death of a man while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland, six officers were charged, and they too will face the justice system.

Such events have a way of casting a shadow over the majority of officers who do outstanding work daily, and often lose their lives while trying to serve and protect society.

After the killing in Washington, when people were closing their doors and hoping the culprit or culprits would be caught soon, they also knew who would be on the front line.

Brave police officers, who were willing to put their lives on the line, launched a major operation around the clock and, after positive leads, cornered a prime suspect in a vehicle — in a manner making escape impossible.

There was a sigh of relief throughout the community after the arrest, but what happens next in the investigative process is yet to fully unfold.

The role of police is vital in any society and often their good deeds are overshadowed by those who fail to uphold proper expected standards in the course of performing their duties.

There are major projects under way in the US to reduce such incidents, but everyone knows it will be a challenge.

During the tragic story in Washington, an incident in another part of that country showed once again the dangers of police work.

A female officer who recently gave birth to a premature baby had returned to duty while the baby was improving at the hospital.

She was due for maternity leave in a matter of hours when she was struck by a bullet and died during a police operation.

Her name may never be in lights but her fellow officers hailed her as a hero and someone who was cherished for her glowing attitude on and off duty.

Every year a number of officers in the US are killed in the line of duty.

No police force is perfect but without them as one person recently said, most communities would resemble the old wild west. When bad things happen, it is always the police who respond. While some might say it is their job, few of us would be willing to step into their shoes in a dangerous situation.

However, as long as some people are daring enough to commit crime in cold blood, with no respect for life, decent societies worldwide will need the services of dedicated police officers, who will need full community support while performing their duties.

A major concern throughout the United States is whether better training will make the difference when it comes to how some officers behave when confronted with situations involving minority groups.

Unless dramatic steps are taken to eradicate the wall of mistrust between communities and police in America, things could get worse before real change takes place.

We watch these events in our little Bermuda and hopefully we can learn from the mistakes of others.

With much of the Bermuda Day spirit still in the air, it would be positive to harness that together attitude in tackling the many issues the Island still faces in trying to move forward with respect and harmony.

That too will be a challenge, but progress takes place when challenges are overcome by working as a unified community using our best resources.