I have heard many of the less informed refer to Billy the Kid as a "cop killer," concerning his participation in the death of Sheriff Brady on April 1, 1878. That is an easy and modern designation. And it is always a bad idea to judge denizens of the 19th century with our modern values.

While it is true that the Kid was part of a six-man team of shooters who opened up on the Sheriff that day, there are several facts that are invariably left out of the mix. One is that Billy and the other shooters were all legally appointed constables... so, does that mean that when Dick Brewer, and for that matter, any of the other Regulators who were killed before they were declared outlaw by the governor, were also "cops," and therefore, the men who killed them were "cop killers?"

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the "cops" in the Old West were frequently outlaws who were temporarily on the side of the law. It was not as cut and dried as it is today. Things have changed.

In the 21st Century, we don't have any policemen with lengthy criminal pasts, so we know they are on the "up and up." There are stringent requirements to become an officer of the law and not just anyone can do it. (Personally, I think they should be even more stringent! Let's put all the officers through college for degrees in either Sociology or Psychology, or both, and then pay them accordingly in the six-figure area. After all, these guys are the ones putting their lives on the line for you and me.)
 

 

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