Gateway: Opinion

Commentary: Changing attitudes toward violence starts at home

The Citizens Academy “is is a great way to bring awareness to the community about what we do,” said Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey
The Citizens Academy “is is a great way to bring awareness to the community about what we do,” said Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey Staff photographer

Last week, the Gig Harbor Police Department responded to two different incidents that involved a verbal or written threat to one of our schools. In each of these instances, a teenager was upset for a minor reason and lashed out with words that indicated an intent to violently release their anger upon an uninvolved school population. We have seen these incidents far too often. Sadly, they have now fallen to the third or fourth story on a news broadcast.

Thankfully, these students were identified within hours and the threats were addressed. In the first situation, the person making the threat was in the state of Georgia and was never in a viable position to act upon his words.

In the second situation, the student was local. After investigation, he was booked into the juvenile detention facility and faces criminal charges. I hope any consequence includes professional counseling.

I am proud of the work done by our officers to seek out the suspects who made these threats and to neutralize them in a timely manner. One of these cases was resolved in the overnight hours while the rest of our community slept. We prioritize these situations at the highest level and take even the slightest hint of trouble seriously.

I appreciate the parents of the two individuals who took appropriate action beyond the criminal justice system to address these behaviors within their own families. That is not always the case in our line of business. In each event, the parents were wildly surprised by the actions of their child.

The disturbing part of these incidents is how quickly these teens resorted to this type of behavior. How can such a short line be drawn in the minds of our kids to communicate a greatly evil intent against uninvolved people when faced with a small life obstacle? And how has the pattern of similar violent actions against schools become the common response?

Many focus on gun control laws. In my estimation, we are about 150 years too late for that. Yes, some gun laws need to be modified and sanctions against perpetrators need to be enhanced even further to the point that a violent act involving a firearm is considered so breathtakingly egregious that it is met with stunning consequence. That is only the reactionary side of this conversation.

What we can influence is the way our higher-quicker-stronger-faster-more dominating society invites this aggressive behavior.

We are inundated by displays of power and aggression in almost all aspects of our world. Our movies invent more audacious ways of displaying violence. Our video games desensitize our view of death. Sportsmanship is all but lost at the highest level of athletics at the expense of human decency. Our media features violent acts daily with the mantra of “If it bleeds, it leads.” Social media allows one to spew hatred anonymously.

We are largely the product of our environment. You can make a difference on an individual basis by incorporating the smallest of adjustments in your daily life. Don’t compromise the value of human life by allowing your 9-year-old to purchase M(ature)-rated violent video games.

In fact, go the step further and explain why you won’t allow them to focus on hurting other people.

Youth coaches can push harder for compassion and sportsmanship on the athletic field while still maintaining a high level of achievement. Choose your television and movie programming with these thoughts in mind. When a news story displaying violence appears, don’t just sit in silence. Talk with your family members about the severity of the incident and how there is no room for violence in our society. Look around your neighborhood or school and invite the kid who fades into the background to join you in a healthy activity. Demonstrate kindness in view of your children. They will mimic your behavior, good or bad.

It is time to eliminate a reaction of widespread violence from the inventory of options available to our youth when they are faced with daily struggles. As evidenced in the recent events affecting our schools, none of the parents saw it coming. It is time to take off the blindfold.

Kelly Busey is the city of Gig Harbor’s chief of police.