Whenever a police officer shoots and kills a suspect, the automatic assumption these days is that they have done something wrong.
And I get that. Police are law enforcement officers and, as such, we have to be vigilant that they don’t abuse the powers they’re given, and that they keep a level, unbiased head out on the streets to the greatest extent they can. So although it may seem unfair, even a little predatory sometimes, such scrutiny goes with the job.
But when a police officer is shot down in cold blood, the way Weymouth’s Michael Chesna was early Sunday morning, you almost wish for the same outcry. But there never is.
Chesna was out doing his job, answering a call, when he was shot to death. The suspect in the case, Emanuel Lopes, was allegedly involved in a single-car collision and was fleeing the scene when Chesna caught up with him.
According to reports, Lopes hit Chesna in the head with a large rock, then stole his gun and shot him with it.
He then, police say, went running down the street shooting seemingly at random. One of his shots penetrated a house and killed the occupant inside, police said.
I sat on my sofa Sunday and watched the recaps of this horror, and either shortly before, or shortly afterward (I don’t recall, to be honest), there was a report about a suspect in Chicago who was shot by police, and a demonstration of some sort followed. The juxtaposition of the two stories was almost as tragic as the stories themselves. I wish there was a way we in this country could get a little perspective on these things.
When the movie came out last year, I was interested in seeing “Patriots Day,” which chronicled the 2013 Marathon bombing and the massive effort on the part of law enforcement officials of every level to band together to catch the two Tsarnaev brothers. I recall being more than a little put out over the fact that Mark Wahlberg had to invent a character (his own) to bring a unifying element to the film. Why, I asked anyone who would listen, do we need fiction when we had such compelling fact at our fingertips? I still don’t understand that.
This seemed to minimize the work of the average cops who put in long, arduous hours to catch the Tsarnaevs. There were no “super cops” who worked on this case, because everyone who put on a uniform and pounded the pavement for five straight days was a super cop. The outpouring of happiness and pride over the doggedness of our law enforcement personnel to hunt down and catch these criminals was genuine. As one of the real police officers said in the movie, “When do you ever see people cheering the police?”
It’s become obvious that now, more than ever, police put their lives on the line every time they step out of their cruisers and mediate a domestic dispute or even a traffic accident. And that’s when you have to stop every now and then and look at life from the perspective of a cop. You have to put yourselves in the shoes of a police officer and try to understand the anxiousness he or she feels responding to a scene.
You can’t, of course, because unless it’s happened to you, there’s no way you could ever understand the experience.
Perhaps reading about Michael Chesna will help a little.
I grew up in a quiet section of Lynn, and we never heard of police getting shot, or of police shooting anyone. Maybe that’s because our parents did a good job shielding us from those things.
It wasn’t until I got to high school, and Saugus Police Officer Augustine Belmonte was killed during a 1969 robbery, that this level of violence hit home. From then until now, it’s only become worse.
There still seems to be a sizeable segment of people who seem convinced that the police exist to hassle kids and make the lives of all but the most upstanding citizens as miserable and painful as possible. And while it’s probably a safe bet there are some officers out there who have become so jaded by what they’ve seen that they’re actually like that, if that’s the case, it’s a very small percentage. The rest of them are out there working to keep us safe and out of harm’s way.
We take them for granted sometimes. Then, we are awakened by the jolt of the news that a young police officer who was answering one more call before his shift ended has sacrificed his life on behalf of the citizens he served.
Please remember that the next time you’re inclined to complain about police.