On January 6, 2021, several thousand supporters of former President Donald Trump gathered at the White House in attempt to overturn his loss in the 2020 Presidential Election to now President Joseph Biden. As a result, approximately 8,000 protesters stormed the Nation’s Capital in which the protesters condemned, vandalized, and looted. The US Capitol what is supposed to be one of the most secured facilities within our country was overtaken. The last time such a cataphoric event occurred was on August 24, 1812 during the war of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain when the White House was overtaken. Sadly, this feat which seemed unimaginable somehow occurred again, and this time by those who shamefully call themselves Americans.
On January 3, 2021 the information regarding this planned protest was provided to former Capitol Police Chief Steve Sund. Due to the possibility of the protest to turn to violent, which has been a trend in our country during 2020, Sund requested the National Guards assistance. Sund’s request was not approved by the Sergeant at Arms of the houses of Congress and Pentagon officials. According to the Post, Sund’s request was denied because officials were concerned about the visual of armed soldiers standing by police (Staff et al., 2021). The poor leadership ability exercised later caused destruction of the Capitol, death of civilians and police officers.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, optics can be defined as the aspects of an action, policy, or decision (as in politics or business) that relate to public perceptions (Merriam-Webster). Throughout 2020, our country has seen a disgusting increased in concerns of optics demonstrated by law enforcement agencies. Mostly, these optics are not the fault of the men and women on the front lines, or command staff level administrators, but rather public government officials. This increased in concern of optics has led to further violence, death, destruction of communities, and significant trauma on officers.
Throughout 2020, police stations, precincts, and communities were frequently being burned to the ground by so called “peaceful protesters”. This destruction was not wanted by police nor those who reside in the communities. The lack of leadership of local government official’s negligence to take a stand negatively impacted those who they are elected to serve. For example, this was demonstrated in Seattle, Washington when the autonomous zone was created. According to CNN pertaining to Seattle Washington, “The Seattle police chief is openly criticizing city leaders for evacuating the Third Precinct building in the city’s Capitol Hill district. “You should know, leaving the precinct was not my decision,” Police Chief Carmen Best said in a video addressed to the members of the department. Chief Best added that the city “had other plans for the building and relented to severe public pressure,” and expressed her anger at how all this came about. She said officers spent days protecting the building before the city boarded it up (Andone,2020). Due to the poor leadership in the Seattle, the law-abiding citizens within the autonomous zone were not able to be provided to proper law and order which they are entitled to. Seattle and the Capitol breach both demonstrate where those in position of power in public safety organizations lost the purpose of public safety, which is law and order.
Poor decisions made by command staff level and elected officials directly affect the mental well-being of those that serve under them. In this instance, the elected officials declined to activate the national guard and additional police because they were too concerned with the image of armed officers and soldiers. Not to mention, the elected officials were aware of the potential threat and they put their political agenda above the officer’s safety and American citizens safety. Poor decision making directly affect the morale and trust officers have in their administration and ultimately their well-being. As a result of these decisions an officer was killed turning this catastrophic event into further trauma for those involved. The lack of proper management skills by elected officials will live with officers mentally and potentially cause PTSD. Furthermore, instances like this create the do more with less mentality, lack of sufficient manpower for protests, which already cause a great deal of stress for officers.
Andone, D. (2020, June 12). Seattle police want to return to vacated precinct in what protesters call an ‘autonomous zone’. Retrieved June 20, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/11/us/seattle-police-autonomous-zone/index.html
Optics. (n.d.). Retrieved June 20, 2021 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optics
Staff, T. C. R., Chew, C. M., & James M. Hingeley and Gregory D. Underwood. (2021, June 20) Officials Feared ‘Optics’ of Deploying National Guard at Capitol Before Riot. The Crime Report. https://thecrimereport.org/2021/01/11/1189176/.