|Do they have a PR firm? |
Is there a more tone-deaf image to allow someone to take?
What if we drop that pretense first? Let's even skip the bad egg theory and assume that the individual officers are not the problem. I have met several policemen who are seemingly decent people, so this might not be a false claim. Also, let's grant that some things happen because people are humans that make mistakes. (ex. That one time a cop got drunk and flipped his car killing his trained K-9 dog. Then, went to the pound replaced it with an untrained dog and tried to pass it off. Or that time cops pulled over young women and solicited them for sex in exchange for leniency on mere traffic crimes. Allegedly... Okay, maybe there are some bad eggs.)
So instead of blaming police, let's blame someone else: Americans. Each and every one of us for allowing this to go on too long. The American criminal code is complete garbage. Outside of the obvious inclination towards targeting the poor and minorities especially African Americans, does the system work for the people enforcing it? It works for judges, especially those without aspiration glad to live out their days putting away teenagers for running dime-bags. It works for prosecutors, who live off of these two-bit cases to keep stupid high conviction rates that get them re-elected; later, they can use stats to be a tough-on-crime gubernatorial candidate. It works for police towards the top, who get the kickbacks and political backwash to live a comfortable life as a "public servant". It works for the private jailers who profit while most on the streets will kill to never be part of that Sisyphean hell again.
It doesn't work for the police.
It doesn't work for the cop who walks up on a suspicious car and gets killed by a jumpy kid running a two-bit weed deal in the suburbs. It doesn't work for the cop with no back-up who fears for his life, so he inexcusably executes an innocent citizen. It doesn't work for the dozens of cops killed while issuing speeding tickets, because that's the only way your piss-ant municipality can afford a riot tank. It doesn't work for the man working overtime hours to put down a society that values him as sub-human. He's just a man following orders to shoot rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed civilians. It especially does not work for the men and women who have to pray every day that their loved one comes home from their job.
There is a reason why the blue line is thin, and it has nothing to do with crime. It's because they system is set up to make this a police versus criminal battle. I'm not an expert on these matters, but honestly no one is. There is a noble ignorance in facing ones problems by completely rejecting them as fact, but at some point, law enforcement must face its demons. The obvious upside of this for law enforcement is their deficiencies are blatantly obvious to an unbiased observer. The downside is no one in law enforcement is an unbiased observer.
One has to start somewhere positive, so let's talk about what police are good at in this city. They are good at arbitrarily handing out traffic fines and then extorting the public to pay them. This gives money to city schools (not enough to make them good) and takes money from ne'er-do-wells (otherwise known as citizens). At best, it's a genius way to increase city revenue. At worst, it's government-sponsored extortion that encourages people to take their jobs and business elsewhere. My favorite example of government is sweet sweeper fines when you still fail to deploy the street sweepers regularly.
They are good at escorting dignitaries, funerals, and standing outside of baseball games to direct traffic and deter crime in an area with thousands of witnesses. They set up helpful DWI checkpoints at noon in heavily Hispanic areas, that they let me pass unabated while slightly intoxicated. Occasionally, they engage the neighborhoods, never failing to videotape that time they played basketball with children of another ethnicity. One time they insured my safety but questioning me on what I was doing in my own neighborhood, rightfully assuming that a white man north of Delmar was either dealing or at risk for his life. I calmly told the officer to search me after he confirmed my identity, and he calmly told me to fuck off.
While these are all me twisting positives into negatives, I don't think any of these officers were insincere in their service nor that any should be blamed for it. In fact, the majority of their days are spent in mundane situations that don't inspire the populace but are good in their own right. For example, good cops frequently returned my dog despite him being a notorious menace and repeat offender. More seriously, they are there to adjudicate domestic violence calls, which at best are uncomfortable to mediate and at worst violent. I salute any one of them trying to keep heroin and methamphetamine off our streets that doesn't choose to do so on racial lines. There are so many little things police do that are good, and it's shameful you don't hear that as often.
However, when backed into a corner, police can be monstrous. Our criminal code, and the police-criminal relationship it fosters, creates these problems. Systematic racism exacerbates them. A gun is a deterrent. That is how the most staunch pro-gun lobbyists view guns. We need guns to protect ourselves and that is how they are to be used. Fear makes guns weapons; we are mortal flesh and blood, nothing more than a series of chemical responses. Fear makes an officer shoot a larger man.
Hate also makes guns weapons. Hate makes a police officer fire on a kid playing with a toy gun. Hate makes him refuse to do anything as that kid bleeds out on the pavement. Hate makes his actions dignified in the eyes of his peers. The culture of policing has too long fostered hate and too little fostered understanding. I've looked inside myself many times to see my demons and my hate. I can understand how hard it is to look at yourself and, in acknowledging your failure, have to relive all those moments you now know you were wrong. At some point, the entirety of law enforcement must come to this moment.
One would be wrong to assume that the fear is unjustified. However, police are hated, mistrusted, and and blatantly disregarded by the rest of populace. They are few, and have one of the least desirable jobs in our current state of affairs. In truth, all of those feelings on both sides are true. There is risk where there is no trust, and when the moment is split-second choice of life-and-death, they are at odds. The trust comes from us changing the manner in which we attack society's ills. For instance, why does the populace think that they should trust police when they can't keep heavily trafficked areas free of armed robbers? This isn't Nottingham. Why should we have 99% conviction rates on marijuana, a drug that were in not illegal would be responsible for zero deaths in the United States this year and we still can't treat women fairly when they come forward with sexual assault accusations? There has to be a point where police stop trying to make good conviction stats and start trying to lower bad crime stats.
Maybe trying a different approach would help. We've tried ridiculous shows of force, a modern take on Third Reich Gestapo tactics. If you want to show that they are your streets, make them better; don't chant like a sycophantic man-child. We have to at some point end the cycle of crime that ruins countless lives and makes an already tough job nigh impossible. There are already examples out there of efforts to both eliminate police brutality, jail overcrowding, racial profiling, and municipal extortion. It's not that simple, but let's acknowledge the problem first. We don't hate the idea of a protector, nor do we hate the idea of public service. There is a reason the police wear a shield instead of a battering ram, and it's about time we remembered their value and correct placement in society.
It's a complex topic, so here are some interesting articles on it.
All drugs are illegal still, but the auxiliary effects of eliminating user stigmatization through treatment are alarming. Specifically, the success in lower HIV transmission is impressive.
The relationship between African Americans and police has been well documented. It is appalling, but also the tip of a much larger problem that systematic racism has created. The culture surrounding sexual assault allegations has much in common with this, which is why I allude to it occasionally in an opinion-piece focused primarily on race. The way power and victim-blaming take precedent to a woman's suffering is atrocious, and it never surprises me how little both sexes find this appalling.
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