Being in law enforcement is challenging at best.
When I officiated basketball for 40 years, I made some calls that helped determine the outcome of a game on occasion, but my decisions were hardly life or death.
Earlier this spring, a white Columbus, Ohio, police officer was summoned to a dangerous situation involving two Black teenage girls. One girl was attempting to stab an unarmed girl with a knife. The officer made a split-second decision that killed the attacker, saving the girl who was unarmed.
The death was a tragedy, but it got uglier when NBA basketball star LeBron James promptly tweeted, “YOU’RE NEXT #ACCOUNTABILITY” beside an hourglass emoji and an image of the officer.
James quickly deleted the tweet, but it was too late and the damage was done. James posted a second tweet that said, “My anger still is here for what happened (to) that lil girl. My sympathy for her family and may justice prevail!”
What did James want the officer to do? If that had been his unarmed daughter about to be stabbed, would he want the officer to stand by and let it happen? Is that the kind of justice James is talking about?
The National Fraternal Order of Police called on the Lakers star to be more responsible. “(He) should educate himself and, frankly, has a responsibility to do so, on the facts before weighing in,” the organization tweeted. “This is disgraceful and extremely reckless. The officer saved a young girl’s life.”
Meanwhile, a Cincinnati-area bar owner said on social media that, “If anyone wants to watch an NBA game, don’t come to Linnie’s Pub. We will not air them until LeBron James has been expelled from the NBA.”
We’ll never know if the bar owner was that upset with the LeBron James tweet, but it certainly generated a lot of free publicity.
In yet another development, Deon Joseph, a 24-year Black veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, posted a letter to his Facebook page addressed to James, where he called James’ stance on policing “off base and extreme.”
“Your tweet that targeted a police officer in Ohio who saved a young woman’s life was irresponsible and disturbing,” Joseph wrote. “It showed a complete lack of understanding of the challenge of our job in the heat of a moment. You basically put a target on the back of a human being who had to make a split-second decision to save a life from a deadly attack.”
Joseph acknowledged that, like James, he also is tired of Black people dying, and hates racism and police brutality.
“But you cannot paint 800,000 men and women who are of all races, faiths, sexual orientations and are also mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, preachers, coaches, community members and just human with such a broad and destructive brush,” he said.
“Unlike some who have dug their heels in the belief that police are inherently evil, I think if you yourself actually sat down and had a real honest and open conversation with a cop, there is a strong chance you may discover we are not the monsters you have come to believe we are, who deserve the hate and disdain you have,” Joseph continued.
He said that police officers and communities must come together to “build bridges to save lives on all sides.
“The offer is on the table, Lebron. No cameras. No fanfare,” Joseph said. “Just two men who care, talking. I know it’s a long shot. But this division and hatred must stop.
“Just putting it out in the universe brother. Even if not me, please take the time to talk to a police officer instead of judging them. No shade. Thanks for all the positive things you do,” said Joseph.
At the very least, there’s one lesson we all should learn from this sad situation – wait for more information before rushing to judgment and posting something irresponsible on social media.