Donnie Harrison - Violent Riots & Removal of Statues in Raleigh, NC

Friends - recently I wrote and sent this Op-Ed to the
The News & Observer
regarding the recent activities in Raleigh. Not surprisingly, you haven't seen it printed there.
June 24, 2020
Opinion Response for the News and Observer Editorial Page
SUBJECT:
Violent Riots and Removal of Statues in Raleigh, NC
RESPONSE:
Some fifty-five years ago I took a solemn oath, which in part, stated that I would “be alert and vigilant to enforce the criminal laws of this State.” Now, decades later, North Carolina law enforcement officers take the same oath, an oath, which in effect, obligates us to protect the lives and property of our fellow citizens. Occasionally, an officer makes a mistake, they are human after all; even more rarely an officer lets his or her anger, frustration and yes even prejudice take control and he or she commits a brutal, unjustifiable act.
A brutal, unjustifiable act, is exactly what we watched on the night of June 19th when a lawless mob, while in the process of destroying lawfully erected public property, assaulted police officers with frozen water bottles, threw urine on them and even injured some of them? The police officers who allegedly committed heinous acts have been arrested, charged and will face trial and severe punishment if convicted. How about the majority of that lawless mob that destroyed public and private property over the past few weeks and assaulted and injured police officers?
After more than half a century serving you as a law enforcement officer, I say without hesitation, the criminal justice system is not corrupt. Yes, of course there are a few men and women who dishonor the badge, just as there are a few individuals who pretend to be leaders of the people, when in fact their ultimate goal is to feather their own nest and/or push their own agenda.
I have often heard that there are three sides to every story, your side, my side, and the unbiased truth. However, in this case, the truth is obvious; no group of citizens have the right to destroy public and private property. Further, it is the duty of the police to protect that property. We, the police, failed in that duty, and for that I am embarrassed in the extreme.
Certainly, there is an atmosphere of distrust among many segments of our society; however, a great truth remains, two wrongs do not make a right. Having been a front- line officer as well as a police supervisor and administrator, I have learned that communication between groups with differing points of view is essential. Guidelines and limitations must be clearly established early on.
Individuals who exceed the parameters of lawful assembly should be swiftly and professionally arrested after appropriate warning. It is, after all, an officer’s sworn duty to put himself or herself in harm’s way when necessary to maintain peace and to protect lives and property.
Thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of damage was done on Fayetteville Street and surrounding areas earlier in the month. Officers stood by and watched as places of business were looted and property set ablaze in the street. I completely understand that it was not the decision of the frontline officers to stand down and I am sure most of them would have done their duty if permitted to do so, but they were held back just as they were at the capitol more recently.
It has been said that insurance will pay for the damage. Well maybe so and maybe not, many policies exempt acts of civil disobedience. Either way, some completely innocent party will be expected to bear the financial burden those criminals committed; yes, like it or not, they were committing a crime. Ultimately, their actions will unfairly cost property owners and tax payers probably hundreds of thousands of dollars. We, law enforcement, failed them but so did our political leaders, who prevent us from doing our job.
At least one indication that most people want law and order was evidenced at the Capitol the night of June 19th. Mr. Kordel Davis, an African American, who had been involved in peaceful protests that day stepped forward after the police retreated. He implored the group apparently bent on destruction to back off and explained that processes were in the works to legally remove the monuments. He further reminded them that there was a bill moving through the legislature to spend millions of dollars on appropriate monuments honoring the contributions of the African American community. Obviously, his pleas for peace fell on deaf ears as one of those in Mr. Davis’s group was knocked to the ground followed by the statues.
Law enforcement is the keystone of our civilization, it is what holds society together. Defunding or eliminating police agencies is simply ridiculous and is an agenda being pushed by many of the very so-called leaders who expect special treatment and protection when it comes to their own person and property. I can tell you from a wealth of experience most people will do as much as you allow them to do. If we do not enforce our laws, the laws we make are completely useless. Our general statutes, the law of the land is just that, a body of laws, not suggestions. If civil society is to survive in a manner that assures any degree of safety and security we must step back, address our problems honestly and realistically and enforce our duly established laws. To do otherwise can only lead to disaster.
Respectfully,
Donnie Harrison
Former Wake County Sheriff