OPINION Challenge accepted: Police ‘battling’ negative perception

Friday, July 13, 2018

If you have had any access to the internet in the last couple of weeks, we are sure you’ve seen at least one of the lip sync battles done by law enforcement and emergency personnel across the country.

The videos of officers “getting down” in their cruisers, singing to donuts or incorporating their entire departments into a faux sing-a-long are good for laughs. The national trend has been going on for weeks, and the trend got started locally with a video of Bloomfield Town Marshal Kenneth Tharp lip-syncing in his cruiser to Men in Black. Not long after his challenge, Jasonville Police Officer Dustin Cain had us all laughing with his rendition of “I will always love you,” dedicated to his sweet treat — the stereotypical donut.

We also have it on good authority that a couple more departments will be getting in on the challenge, and we are anxiously waiting.

We have all laughed and shared the videos with family and friends, but the challenge also serves a much bigger purpose.

We live in a time where many people fear law enforcement. We have watched the news stories where larger cities see the good guys turn into bad guys. We have all heard at least one parent tell their child if they don’t act right, the police will arrest them.

But locally, we are pretty lucky. Our men and women in uniform are the good guys. Whether it’s police or firefighters or other emergency personnel. In a social media post asking for community reactions to the videos, one person noted arrogance among some officers, but even those guys have the community’s best intentions at heart.

Each year, the Linton Police Department hosts the National Night Out event to bring the police and community together, and videos like the lip-sync challenges take that mission to the next level.

We asked the community what they thought about the videos, and the general consensus is: Just about everyone loves them with a variety of personal reasons why.

Lacey Jo Edington said she enjoys the videos, but she also likes the fact it allows her children to see police in a positive light.

“Every time I see a video, I let my daughter watch it because a lot of the world today is convinced that cops are bad people and I want my daughter to know they’re not and that they are there to help her and each and every one of them has an outstanding personality. Even if there are one or five people in the video, they never get worse they always get better. I’ve not seen one video that’s not given me a smile,” Edington said.

Another responder to the post had a more intimate response as the wife of a police officer. Samantha Merriman said the videos allow the public to see police, including her husband, how their families get to see them — as real people.

“I get to see him at home playing with our kids or joking around with me and not enforcing the law or taking down bad guys, the people he arrests or he gives a ticket to just think he is another mean police officer out to get people or make quotas. I think it’s the perfect way to connect not only to the community itself but to use it as outreach, for example, social media has given them the ability to reach out to agencies across the country,” Merriman said.

Commenter Rebecca Pinkstaff said the videos are a great way to start rebuilding relationships with their communities.

“After all the bad publicity and criticism that many wonderful cops and emergency response personnel have had to take due to the negative actions of others....YES! It is very important for them to show they are human. Rebuilding community support is critical. Just like our military who protect us abroad, these courageous men and women protect us at home. To see this fun, playfulness about them builds trust. Let’s face it most of us tend to gravitate to those who make us smile,” Pinkstaff said. “I find it entertaining to watch them and a joy to know they care so much. I would love to see a national contest.”

Bicknell Police Officer Levi Sims, who is a former Greene County resident, weighed in on the importance of humanizing law enforcement.

“Law Enforcement today is far different than from even a few years ago, with the public perception and approval for what used to be the most respected profession on the decline. Each day as a law enforcement officer we look for new ways to show the human and heart behind the badge, and not just the uniform we are seen as by most people,” Sims said, noting at first he was skeptical of the challenge. “It has shown the lighter side to our profession and let others see us as people who like to have fun and laugh just like anyone else. It has revealed some hidden talents, and it has also shown that some need to keep their day jobs as well! This trend has become huge across America and I hope that it continues to show law enforcement and other professions that have joined, in a positive light.”

He added with a laugh, “In the future, the world might just see my hidden lack of talent.”

But, some of the lip syncs have also taken a more serious role. Beth Wade tagged one of our staff writers in a video with an officer lip-syncing to “You Should Be Here” — focusing on the officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The laughs turned to goosebumps as we took a moment to remember just how dangerous it is to be a police officer.

We aren’t blind to the fact there are some officers who don’t live up to the oath of the badge. But, we can’t let a few bad apples can ruin the perception of the bunch.

Check out some more of the positive comments on our post asking about the public's perception: