Scott Schannon: You can’t always tell who the bad guy is

(Photo courtesy Scott Schannon) Officer Scott Schannon in 1978.

I understand how difficult it is to be living in these times. COVID-19 has most people legitimately scared to go outside as well as getting cabin fever by being inside too much. There are people who are not taking this pandemic seriously who are putting other people at risk.

The politics of our nation are making people angry and confused. The information and misinformation coming from our “leadership” makes one wonder who’s taking their medication as prescribed and who may be over medicating themselves.

I am 67 years old and never in my life would I have ever thought things here and around the world would be so troubling.

Now the world has opened both eyes to see racism staring back at them. I think what really upsets me is the fact that this is not new. I am pleased people are finally talking about racism and how this affects everyone, and this conversation should have started eons ago. How sad this conversation finally came to the surface by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. How sad that people seem to think that being prejudiced is centered around the police and African Americans and nowhere else.

Racism and discrimination is so entwined in our society that it becomes invisible. People of different backgrounds, the color of their skin, the way people talk, religion and the age of someone are just a few ways. There are truly good and bad people in the world in which we live. In every country, state, town, school, workplace or wherever you may be. Your neighbor down the street or even a relative.

To say that all African Americans or all Hispanics or people of a certain religion are one way or another is just so removed from reality and yet it is still heard today. To believe all accountants are dull, all politicians are crooked or all police are racists. We make the problem worse when people say things like this and worse still when we don’t confront statements made like this.

Many years ago, while a police officer in Salt Lake City, I was involved in a situation while off duty. My brother, who was visiting from another state, and I were walking down State Street one afternoon. A half block away three individuals came crashing out a check cashing store and began fighting on the sidewalk — two white men in suit and ties and an African American dressed casually.

I ran down the street and identified myself as a police officer and wanted to know what was going on. A hand came up from the struggle with a badge and identified himself as FBI. I said “great, who’s the bad guy?”

I asked the question because I didn’t know. I didn’t assume the African American must have been the bad guy because he was African American.

Please, let’s stop here for a moment: I’m not perfect. I don’t have a halo over my head. I’ve seen a lot in my 67 years on this planet. I just didn’t know who the bad guy was.

Not all police are racist. Not all police just want to beat up on people. People decide on their professions for numerous reasons. I became a police officer to help people. Some people become police officers for other reasons. You can’t say all police officers are racists anymore than you can say all Hispanics are drug dealers and rapists.

I am not denying there are problems all around us, but to say one group over another is the problem and start making all these new rules and watch groups without first knowing what the problem is and where it comes from, may not be the answer we’re looking for.

Scott Schannon

Scott Schannon, Cottonwood Heights, is a retired police officer.