In an article posted on the Northwest Florida Daily News’ website, dated July 15th, it was reported that members of a local social club accused Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley of saying he believed the Black Lives Matter movement is a “terrorist organization.”
Let me start by saying that I humbly disagree with Sheriff Ashley. I consider myself to have a good working relationship with him. I’ve had him on my show multiple times to promote charity events, to discuss the current state of affairs of the Sheriff’s Office, and for various other interviews. When I worked for two years at WEAR Channel Three, I interviewed him many times – often, at his request – to speak out about things. When Deputy Bill Myers was killed, I covered the funeral live and narrated the coverage of the memorial ceremony itself, and was given accolades personally from he and various members of his crew. We have worked together many times, and I am honored to have had those opportunities.
That is why I feel I can humbly disagree with, and have a conversation about, the BLM movement with Sheriff Ashley. And I hope to do so in in the next few days on the show.
But I also want to make one thing, maybe the most important thing, very, very clear:
I understand why Sheriff Ashley said what he said. I get it. I know where he’s coming from. I get his point of view. And even if I don’t agree with him, and I want to talk to him about it, it doesn’t mean I don’t understand him. And I am very much NOT upset with, mad, or angry at him for saying what he said.
Sheriff Ashley is a man of the law, dealing with a world that seems less and less appreciative of those who wear the badge.
Sheriff Ashley is a man who oversees scores of deputies, while their brothers and sisters in arms are being shot and killed in the streets around the country.
Sheriff Ashley is angry, upset, and hurt by the men and women behind the badge who are being murdered in cold blood in Dallas, Baton Rouge, New York, and the rest of the USA. And he has every right to be. And I am too. We all should be. What is happening is uncalled for, unacceptable, and un-American, and it must stop.
But to say there is no long-standing issues with law enforcement is also incorrect. Unarmed black men are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white men. Black men make up 40% of the people shot by police, despite representing only 13% of the population. I know those statistics are repeated so often that they’re beginning to become monotonous. But if you’re a black person having an interaction with the police, they still mean something.
There are problems within some law enforcement communities, and I think even Sheriff Ashley will agree with that – though I don’t want to put words in his mouth. And those issues must be addressed.
But there absolutely are also issues within the Black Lives Matter movement that are being handled inappropriately, and even I will acknowledge and admit that.
And a discussion needs to happen about those of those groups and their issues, without either side labeling the other as entirely wrong and not worthy of discussion. It is harmful to label law enforcement officials as all terrible people – they are not. It is wrong to label everyone in the BLM movement as thugs or terrorists. They are not. And to do so pushes both sides further away from any resolution to the problems that we are having.
I understand how Sheriff Ashley feels, though I can’t imagine what he’s going through. I have friends who work as deputies and investigators in his own organization. I have friends who are deputies in Miami, officers in Tampa and Washington DC, and other locations around the country. And every time I see another event like Dallas or NYC or Baton Rouge, my heart breaks for them. I am worried sick that one of my friends will be next, and their families will have to live with that.
But the correct reaction to an emotional response is NOT another emotional response.
The correct reaction to violence and name calling is not more violence and name calling.
The correct response is to figure out WHY this is happening, on BOTH sides of the debate, and figure out what the answer truly is. It’s out there, somewhere in the middle, and we need to find it.
I hope the Sheriff will be willing to sit down and discuss this with me on the show.