Baffled over attacks on police, Burns asks, ‘What are we teaching our youth?’

Being a Democrat who unapologetically supports law enforcement doesn’t get me universal support in the halls where I work, but when each day’s news seems to chronicle a fresh attack on police, how can you not sympathize with the difficulties they face doing even routine facets of their jobs?

The latest incident that left me shaking my head occurred in Philadelphia, where 500 young people who showed up for a party at a playground – without having the required permit for a gathering that large – took umbrage when police showed up to disperse the crowd.

Instead of listening to police orders to clear the premises, as they should have done, news reports say the youths reacted with violence and disrespect, throwing bottles at police and generally being defiant.

I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I was taught to respect the law and those who enforce it. Even as a teenager, if I had ever ended up part of a large crowd at an unpermitted event, and the police arrived and told us to skedaddle, the first reaction from my friends and I would not have been to start chucking bottles at them.

We’d have high-tailed it out of there, considering ourselves lucky to not have been cited for some unlawful gathering, for engaging in disorderly conduct, or worse. We’d have been terrified to the core at the mere thought that our parents might be called to come pick us up at a police station or bail us out of jail.

But times have changed – boy, have they – and not for the better. Nowadays, it seems like in too many places, lawbreakers or scofflaws are exalted and admired, while those who enforce the law are denounced, denigrated and disrespected.

How else can you explain a horde of rowdy teens chucking bottles at police? And when someone takes that route, are they not escalating the tension of the situation? Aren’t they ratcheting the emotion and threat level up, and setting the stage for a bad outcome?

The tinderbox is already primed to explode. Police, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, are on edge in an increasingly volatile society where they are targets for verbal and physical assault, and even assassination. Seriously, would you want their job today, knowing all they have to put up with? I know that I wouldn’t.

What if, instead of copping an attitude with law enforcement, we went back to the days where everyone – and particularly our young people – adhered to respect for law enforcement and, just as significantly, the law?

I’m sure that I’ll catch some flak for putting forth this last proposition, but it just might work: The best way to sidestep dealing with the police just might be to avoid activities that attract or require their presence in the first place.

State Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is chairman and founder of the Blue Lives Matter Caucus and represents the 72nd Legislative District.