‘Us vs. them’ rhetoric toward police only divides nation

The recent shootings of police remind the public of the dangers officers face and our nation’s growing divisions.
The recent shootings of police remind the public of the dangers officers face and our nation’s growing divisions. TNS

The American people have heavy hearts after watching the horrific, targeted massacres in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left a total of eight police officers dead. These senseless tragedies reminded the public of the tremendous dangers law enforcement officers face, as well as the growing divisions within our nation that desperately need to be addressed.

While tensions are high, we all need to take a step back and acknowledge that law enforcement officers make up a diverse group of men and women of every race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. An overwhelming majority serve with honor and distinction. They go to work every day willing to take a bullet for complete strangers to keep our streets safe. As we witnessed in Dallas and Baton Rouge, sometimes they make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

With the exception of our service members, how many Americans willingly put themselves in front of such danger on a daily basis?

Law enforcement officers are entrusted with a tremendous responsibility; that is why we hold them to such a high standard. With that said, there are a small number of officers who have not lived up to that standard. When officers’ actions violate their duty, justice should be served in accordance with our legal system.

However, these rare incidents should not be a license for people to advance a political agenda by unfairly casting all law enforcement officers in a negative light. We don’t classify all doctors as incompetent because of the infrequent instances of medical malpractice. We don’t use the example of one bad teacher in our children’s school to draw a negative conclusion of the entire teaching profession. We should apply that same rational standard when it comes to how we view law enforcement.

To indiscriminately cast all law enforcement as enemies of our communities is to engage in an attempt to divide our nation by turning Americans against each other.

North Carolina has sadly witnessed some disdain toward law enforcement in recent weeks. Following the tragedy in Dallas, the Fayetteville Police Department received more than 60 threats against their officers. At a restaurant in Shelby, employees had the nerve to taunt and publicly humiliate two North Carolina deputies.

Our police officers make far too many sacrifices to be mistreated and receive threats from the very same people they risk their lives for. We need to support our law enforcement, and that’s why I recently joined my Senate colleagues from Texas to introduce the Back the Blue Act, which would increase penalties against violent criminals who deliberately target law enforcement officers. The legislation also opens up grant funding to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities in which they serve.

The Back the Blue Act represents a critical step towards giving police officers needed protections, while also opening up a dialogue on how we can improve trust between police and local communities. Our national conversation should be expansive and inherently unifying, addressing urgent priorities such as implementing bipartisan sentencing and criminal justice reform, and providing adequate training for police officers so they can make the best split-second decisions possible.

We can no longer tolerate the “us versus them” rhetoric that poisons our national discourse. For the majority of Americans who want solutions, let’s work together to find common ground to reach a shared goal: giving every American the opportunity to live in a safe, peaceful community.

Sen. Thom Tillis is a Republican representing North Carolina.