Reflection on Standoff
Last Monday, as most of you are already aware, we attempted to locate a suspected gang member who is wanted on felony and federal arrest warrants. Not only were we not successful in apprehending the fugitive, but during the course of the arrest attempt, the home we believed him to be hiding in sustained damage.
Since that time an online group has posted what they portray to be a news article. I was surprised to see this article, not only because I had never heard of the organization that posted it (let alone do an interview with them), but when I read it, I saw it was filled with quotes and statements attributed to me that I had not made. Now, in all fairness some of the quotes were from interviews I had done with legitimate news outlets, but some of it had been taken out of context while other parts seem to have been pulled out of thin air. Naturally, as with any sensationalized and embellished story, some people believed what they read and became outraged, as they should have, if only the article were wholly truthful.
After the article was posted online, I began receiving a lot of communication from people outside of the Midwest who to be completely honest, had incredibly vile and evil things to say. However, I have also received a large number of calls, texts and emails from people who live here, expressing their appreciation for the job done by their local law enforcement officers and the efforts made to keep our neighborhoods safe. Many of you have let me know how upset you were when you saw people not from around here, who don’t know us, making vulgar and illogical comments. As a law enforcement official, I understand and can appreciate that the public will scrutinize our actions. Scrutiny is part of the job and is necessary for me to be held accountable. Sometimes that scrutiny is based on facts and other times it isn’t, but it’s nonetheless part of the job I am honored to have.
In our society, there are people who have justified distrust in law enforcement based on personal experiences and there are others who accept what they read online as the truth and that forms their basis for distrust. It’s those same people who may read this and find some issue with it and try to spin it into a narrative that furthers their agenda, whatever that may be. This letter is not directed towards them. I’m done with those people. There is too much work to be done and quite honestly, I don’t have the time to attempt to counter every ridiculous assertion they make.
I am writing this letter to the citizens of Cherokee County to say how proud I am to have had the opportunity to develop such a strong relationship with you over the years. It’s the strength of our relationship which allows you to recognize and question the validity of hateful and uncharacteristic allegations towards our office when you hear them. I’m proud that we have a strong enough relationship that you are comfortable questioning our actions knowing that we can have a conversation of mutual respect. I’m proud that many of you have shown your compassion by being concerned for the children involved. I’m proud that you all know me well enough to realize that while I was happy no residents or officers suffered physical harm, I obviously was not entirely happy with the situation last week. I’m proud that you didn’t demand an apology to the homeowner be posted online, recognizing that expressing sympathy is something I would have done (and did) that afternoon, in person, face to face. I’m proud that you knew we would (and did) offer short term assistance, which was declined, while the homeowner was awaiting a more long term solution. I’m proud that most of you know me well enough to know that despite what agency did this or what agency did that, as the sheriff, I accept responsibility for what occurs during operations within this county. Most of all, though, I’m just incredibly proud and humbled that so many of you have felt the need to defend me, our office and other local law enforcement agencies. I’ve been moved by those of you who have come up and shook my hand or gave a hug saying how hard you were praying that our officers would all be safe and that you appreciate us working to help make our neighborhoods a safer place.
During the past few days, I’ve been thinking about a quote someone sent me. It’s been attributed to Paulo Coelho and goes, “Don’t explain. Your friends do not need it, and your enemies will not believe you.” I’m grateful that our office has such a relationship with Cherokee County residents that this letter was not necessary for most of you. However, being a public official, who needs to be held accountable to you, whether this was necessary or not, I felt you deserve to hear it.
As for those outside of our area who want to continue to have hate in their hearts, all I can do is pray for them. For Cherokee County residents, I already pray for you each morning, but I want to express my heartfelt thanks for your showing of support, not just this past week but the past several years. As always, if I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Sheriff David M. Groves