Vargas: Police officers should never allow themselves to be emotionally manipulated by crooks

By Joe Vargas

This is not a good time for the City of Baltimore Police Department. A video that captured a Baltimore police officer repeatedly punching a subject who does not appear to be resisting went viral on Sunday.

As should be expected, the encounter was captured by a bystander and immediately posted to an Instagram account.

In news interviews, interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Garry Tuggle said the incident was being reviewed and he had seen body camera footage that was consistent with what was posted on social media.

According to news reports, one officer has resigned and a second officer is on administrative leave pending further investigation. A criminal investigation has been initiated.

“If it were borne out of emotion, we are trained — we should be trained — to never act in an emotional way, particularly when it comes to engaging with citizens,” Tuggle said during a press conference.

In a Washington Post interview, Lt. Gene Ryan president of the Baltimore police union said, “A lot of people forget that we’re human beings too. I don’t know what was going through his mind; only he can testify to that.”

“The facts still remain that whether he was having a bad day at home or at work, you still have to maintain control of yourself at all times.”

I would have to say both Tuggle and Ryan have information the general public is not yet privy to and I agree wholeheartedly with both of them when they say that you can’t allow yourself to be emotionally manipulated by the people you encounter day to day.

It is an accepted fact that people will try to push a police officer’s buttons. This happens all the time and good cops don’t allow themselves to be emotionally manipulated by crooks.

As a police officer you will be called names, your family members will be disparaged, and members of your own race will call you a sellout. People will tell you to pound sand when you have the legal authority to detain them, a crowd will harass you even when you are trying to do the right thing, and grandma will tell you “she pays your salary” as you write her a citation.

As a police officer you will see injustice daily when neighborhood predators, drug dealers, and gang members run amok in communities. Yet it is your job to keep them all safe. That’s just the real world.

Police officers are called to a higher standard. In today’s age of viral video and social media, the entire profession is impacted and everyone pays the price when even one officer steps over the line.

The great thing is the overwhelming majority of police officers adhere to this high standard daily and the rare exception should never be considered the norm.

Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.