A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bill Cunningham: As our law enforcement officers are unjustifiably demonized, grief is replaced by anger

I’m only now able to write about the shooting death of Calloway Deputy Sheriff Jody Cash on May 16, in Benton, Kentucky. Jody and I were not close. But we were friends going back a long way. And as someone has said, if you knew Jody at all, he was like a close friend. Everything good that has been said about him is true.

But grief has not been the only emotion I have experienced with Jody’s death. There is another one that I felt almost immediately upon hearing of the tragedy.


With his untimely death and the outpouring of support for his family, I’m angry about the way our country has treated law enforcement officers over the past two years. Angry, and ashamed.

A bad police officer was responsible for the death of a convicted felon named George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. It was a tragedy, no matter what the racial mix may have been.

The officer responsible was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison for the rest of his life. That was justice.

Bill Cunningham (NKyTribune file)

What else has happened is a grave injustice to the thousands of innocent and courageous men and women who protect our streets and our homes as law enforcement officers. The organization “Black Lives Matter,” no matter what may have been its more noble purpose, became a crazed mob scene waging war against all law enforcement.

The media has been the chief culprit, breathing air into a misguided assault on all law enforcement in this country. And our leaders in Washington have shamefully joined the crazed anti-cop movement with their ill-informed rhetoric and support for lawlessness dressed up in Sunday clothes.

All of this has had terrible consequences. According to FBI statistics, 73 police officers were assaulted and killed in the line of duty in 2021. That was 16 more than the average for the previous five years.

Other reliable data reports that violent crime has gone up because of this craze. Homicides in our major cities increased by 44 percent from 2019. These numbers do not include the hundreds of officers who died from COVID because… well, cops don’t have the luxury of working from home, nor maintaining social distances when they are wrestling an unruly drunk to the ground.

Dr. Richard Rosenfield, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis suggests local factors are important, but “the social unrest after the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis very likely play a role in the increased homicides.”

There are people with blood on their hands hiding behind our First Amendment.

But all of us carry some culpability. Too many of us who know the good these people do have not done enough to defend them. We only pay homage to them when we solemnly stand mute and saddened when their coffins pass down our streets. Like lemmings, many have followed the news spin of our national leaders. Some have feared appearing racist if they pushed back and defended our police. This phobia ignores the fact that a gallant 28.9 percent of our law enforcement in the United States are non-white.

And this makes me angry.

I maintain profound respect and admiration for the Catholic Church. This is in spite of the fact that a number of bad people in the priesthood have committed horrendous crimes against young children. I’m still a proud member of the Baptist Church even though recent revelations about the hideous crimes by some of our ministers are appalling. When a plumber rapes and kills a customer in their home, we don’t blame all plumbers.

Our heroic men and women in law enforcement have not been provided that basic understanding and courtesy. And Knowing what dangers they endure, that makes me angry.

Law enforcement is a noble profession. Long before gas lamps lit the darkened streets of our cities, there were brave centurions watching in the blackness while we slept. They still do.

There are 13,217 law enforcement agencies scattered across America and approximately 653,000 sworn police officers. These agencies include Federal, state, and local officers.

Most people have no clue what they endure on a typical shift.

Do you know how many people out there in the good ole USA get arrested each day? According to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the FBI, there are approximately 29,212 arrests each day. Almost 30,000 arrests made in one 24-hour period. Incredible.

Think of this while drinking your morning coffee. From Bangor, Maine to San Diego; from Seattle to the Florida Keys; all through the night while you were sleeping, the men and women of law enforcement were out making arrests to make us safer. From the deadly darkness of a Brooklyn alley to the lonely stretch of a Texas back road, they face scary encounters with people committing crimes. They arrest dangerous fugitives running from the law, sometimes armed to the hilt.

As you were happily going about your activities on a recent Monday afternoon, a young husband and father, Deputy Sheriff Jody Cash was cut down in a flash by gunfire, leaving a home and community devastated with grief.

Countless times these peace officers carry out their daunting duties with incredible professionalism, a constraint that stretches human endurance, and patience. Yet only derision and condemnation of their group come from the media for those rare moments when one of them fails us.

We are not blameless. We do not defend them or show our respect, support, and appreciation for them as we should. Not until one of their own, like Jody, is killed in the line of duty. Only then is there an outpouring of support.

It’s too late for Jody.

It’s not fair. It was not fair to Jody Cash and it is not fair to the thousands of other police officers out there right now dutifully going about their hazardous jobs, unappreciated.

I have always believed that we were a better country than that.

And, yes. That makes me angry.

Bill Cunningham is a retired Kentucky Supreme Court justice.

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One Comment

  1. Ted coe says:

    I take it that the former justice hasn’t seen the recent VICE report on LMPD? Respect is earned…..

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