As thousands of officers gathered in Washington, D.C., for National Police Week, it was hard for participants to escape the shadow of the anti-police protests of the past nine months, NPR reports. A memorial bicycle ride was rerouted away from Baltimore to make sure the nearly 2,000 officers participating in the ride wouldn’t become targets. Sgt. Steve Staletovich, a 30-year Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department veteran who was at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to watch the riders arrive, says the public mood is ugly.
“I’ve seen lot of changes, lot of ups and downs,” he says. “I’ve gotta tell you — the current situation is about as bad as I’ve seen.” As you talk to cops, one word keeps coming to mind: “disruption.” Police are quick to point out the technologies doing the disrupting. “Social media has made stories that never would have been heard or seen before, national news,” says Staletovitch. Seattle Police Detective Cloyd Steiger compares the disruption to the arrival of TV news cameras during the Vietnam War. “Everybody was shocked at the violence,” he says, and he thinks Internet videos of police using force are similarly shocking to Americans today. He adds, “Use of force looks ugly — but that’s the way it’s always been.”