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Cop’s Eye View: Making sense of tragedy in the digital, social age

Danny McGuire calls for focus on what’s important in light of Las Vegas shooting.

The emotion caught up with the young police officer as he made his point about the post-tragedy rhetoric flying around in the days since the Las Vegas shooting claimed dozens of lives and left hundreds more wounded.

“I just can’t believe that someone with a job like that, (who) is responsible for things in the media that go out to our fellow Americans, could be so irresponsible and so hateful toward people who had just lost their lives,” he said, referring to a TV news commentator’s political characterization of the victims. “I don’t care whether you’re conservative, liberal, moderate, or just don’t care; this is life-and-death and no one deserves this.”

No doubt, this is a time which tests everyone whether they wear a badge or not – and the search for answers makes it even more difficult at times. As things have unfolded after Sunday’s tragic events in Las Vegas, many opinions and perceptions have been thrown out there as to “why” this happened have been tossed around in the media, on television and throughout social media.

One particular opinion – the one referred to by the officer – came from a CBS news attorney who stated unsympathetically the country music fans were more than likely supporters of President Trump. A CNN reporter made a similar statement to his audience. Politicians, as they often do, have used the platform of tragedy to push their agendas. And, of course, Facebook attorneys and everyday people have risen to a high level of expertise in all things law enforcement in just a few short days.

A major media outlet gave air time to an individual who said he was in the hotel room directly below where the shooter was perched. This person came across very critical of the police response while “demanding answers” as to why it took an hour for authorities to locate the man after being informed of his position. Obviously this individual is an expert on police procedures/policies, as well as SWAT operations. That’s sarcasm, folks!

In today’s society, information comes in seconds through media, social media and just the general technology we all have. Depending on how you view it, this could be helpful or a hindrance. Looking through Facebook, I see different accounts of why this individual committed these acts. I see different people posting conspiracy theories, nonfactual information and just lunacy in their attempts to explain “why” this could have happened.

Now, I have no doubt in my mind that the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, combined with their federal partners, will do an outstanding job to completely investigate this tragedy to the best of their ability. They will utilize every possible resource from technology to general information gathered from victims, witnesses and other sources. The truth on why and how this happened will come out, rest assured, but it may take months or even years.

Having said that, the social media attorneys out there, with their degrees from Facebook University, aren’t waiting to weigh in with their thoughts – some of which are simply disgusting and untrue. No one deserves to be violently victimized, certainly not because they enjoy the county music genre or because they supported a particular presidential candidate.

Life experience tells us that anyone who has seen carnage of this nature (whether large or small scale) would never make a comment like that. Seeing people who have killed their own children or responded to mass shootings or other tragedies know these are things that stay with them for a lifetime.

Whether emergency services or war veterans, people witnessing bloodshed and death to this proportion relive that experience daily. They see visions of victims, the smells of the moment and sometimes can even recall the taste of their own sweat and tears as they feverishly worked to save lives and find the bad guys.

Being an American citizen, former law enforcement professional, a father, a husband, and a practicing Catholic as well as a son, a brother, and a friend to many, I am utterly flabbergasted at the nonsensical rhetoric that is produced by these types of situations.

Those are the reasons it truly saddens me to see politicians, actors, musicians and media types send out tweets or make statements regarding political agendas or other competitive interests while families have lost loved ones and emergency first responders begin to suffer unbelievable mental stress that will last for years to come.

That brings me back to this young officer, only three years on the job, who had tears rolling down his face as described his disbelief at what he’s seen spewed on the internet since Sunday. After bearing his heart to me, I simply told him to remember we are doing God’s work and that his job is to stay vigilant always.

Please pray for the victims of this tragedy and also our emergency first responders. Please pray for them to gain peace in their lives after witnessing such devastation.

God bless you and your loved ones and, as always, please be safe.

Dr. Danny L. McGuire, Jr. is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at National Louis University in Chicago, IL with over 20 years of law enforcement experience. Danny can be reached at dannymcg@dancamcom.biz or dmcguire3@nl.edu.