BY DARREN E. CAMPBELL
As most of us are terribly aware, 2020 has been trying to say the very least. This year has already seen its fair share of major historic events. We watched with disbelief as the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. The unknowns of COVID-19 have weighed heavily on the minds of many Americans and Iredell County residents, especially those dealing with it on the frontlines. We watched and cheered as our healthcare workers bravely put their patients first, while undoubtedly fearful for their own health and the health of their families. We reshaped and revised our daily schedules as remote learning became the norm for our school-aged children. We lauded our dedicated educators as they navigated a new way of teaching, and we applaud their dedication and enthusiasm. Parents watched with teary eyes as teachers sent videos telling our children they miss them, and above all, assured them everything is and will be okay.
One of the most shocking and harrowing events of this “annus horribilis” — to steal the words of Queen Elizabeth — was the death of George Floyd at the hands of those sworn to protect him. I, like many others, feel a deep sense of betrayal at the actions of a few officers. It is unfathomable to me how the events we witnessed in the death of George Floyd could have transpired. I know I am not alone in my shock over the horrendous acts of the officers involved. Their actions were inexcusable and unlawful.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 145 this past week, establishing the Criminal Justice Task Force for Racial Equality. Detailed in this order is a statement that I could not agree with more: “the ability of law enforcement to serve and protect the public is dependent on the public support of law enforcement.” Without the support of the public, law enforcement is undoubtedly crippled. I firmly and unabashedly believe the vast majority of officers are excellent men and women. These men and women took an oath to protect and serve, and do so out of a desire to serve their fellow citizens. Officers take this oath, knowing they will be scrutinized for their actions and even demonized for their choice to wear the badge. Despite this, they still choose to put the badge on, kiss their family goodbye, and pray they make it home safely at the end of their shift. They know they will miss birthdays, little league games and dance recitals, but the call to serve is not one taken lightly. It is a calling, not for wealth or fame, but one answered with hopes of making a difference in the life of their fellow man.
While it is easy to categorize the actions of law enforcement with the deplorable and criminal actions of a few, the more than 800,000 dedicated law enforcement officers throughout the United States are here to serve and protect you. These men and woman go to work every day, vowing to step between you and harm’s way. The faces of the officers in Minnesota will be ingrained in our minds for a long time, but their actions are not what I, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, and the majority of law enforcement stand for. The actions of these officers have shaped the way we view law enforcement. For all of us who wear the badge with honor and virtue, we are outraged and wholeheartedly disgusted with these officers’ actions. We know we have mountains to move to gain and maintain the trust of those we are so adamant about protecting. I ask that we all keep each other in our prayers. If you see an officer, a smile or encouraging word may be the one thing they need to decide to place their badge on their chest for another day.
Darren E. Campbell is the Iredell County Sheriff.