Det. Brian Johnson used to handle only “hot case” homicides. As a result, his hours were erratic and he didn't get to spend much time with his 10 and 11-year-old sons. Eventually, he switched to "cold" cases so that he could work steady hours and be able to give his sons the kind of guidance they can only get from a male role model. “It’s easier to set kids on the right path when they’re young than trying to turn them back once they’ve become teenagers,” he said.
Johnson was part of a panel discussion held on Oct. 21 in RMU's Rogal Chapel to discuss the alarming increase in violence among young males today. Called “Masculinity and Violence,” the discussion was organized by Paul Spradley, RMU’s assistant director of student life for multicultural affairs, as part of the national Week Without Violence. Sponsored by the YWCA, the Week Without Violence showcases a series of programs to help reduce violence in our communities.
The “Masculinity and Violence” panel included three members of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department: Cheryl Doubt, commander of investigations and firearms; and Brian Johnson and Sheldon Williams, both homicide and investigations detectives. Throughout the discussion, the panelists – all of whom are parents of young boys and/or men – talked about what they see as the reasons for the increase in violence. They also shared some of the steps that the Pittsburgh Police are taking to help resolve these issues.
Williams, Johnson, and Doubt all agreed that violence is becoming more prevalent and egregious because society is increasingly tolerant to it. Williams said he attributed the increasing violence to changes in societal dynamics, particularly a deviation in the standard of morality throughout the community. They also cited the importance of having a male role model to provide guidance, both in words and in action, which is something that so many young men just don't have today.
I think Cmdr. Doubt said it best, however, when she said that our own apathy is a main part of the problem. "Criminals are counting on us to turn our heads and look the other way," she said. "If we want the violence to stop, people have to get to the point where they say, enough is enough.”
I say enough is enough. What do you say?
-- Valentine J. Brkich