Protect and Serve, A Reply
<Editor’s note: Yesterday’s post prompted numerous replies. All of them were thoughtful, but this one really stood out. We’re posting it in its entirety.>
While you do well to paint the picture of what it’s like to be a cop, and while I do agree that this perspective should be part of the dialog regarding police use of force, I also think that the police in our country have systemic problems. They have a culture of violence, extreme racism, and an attitude that they themselves are not beholden to the laws they are sworn to uphold.
To this point, I think the numbers can really speak the truth: http://www.nyclu.org/content/stop-and-frisk-data.
NYC is violating the civil liberties of its citizens. The people who are being harassed the most are vast majority black and brown young men. What happens to these young men? How will they see authority for the rest of their lives if they have been bullied, harassed and profiled throughout their youth by the very people who are sworn to protect and serve them? How can a police force have any expectation of respect in communities where they have violated people’s rights?
The onus is on the government to create, foster, and uphold a culture and protocol for the police that is deserving of the people’s respect. Respect is only earned and given freely. Trying to win the people’s respect through force is tyranny.
The thing is, I don’t think this problem is at all new. I don’t think being a cop has changed much. In fact, violent crime in the U.S. is near an all-time low (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1), And yet, it seems like we are seeing more and more violence from the police every day. What’s happening and why? If crime is lower, why are we seeing so much police brutality? It’s not because the police are suddenly out of control. Instead, it’s because we now have cheap and readily available technology to record their actions.
What happened to Rodney King in 1991 shocked white America, but not blacks and other minorities. They’ve always been treated this way by cops.
Here are two clips from documentaries that are very powerful:
The first is a compilation of cell phone videos taken in the last few years. It very clearly depicts the extreme use of violence by the police, often on unarmed and restrained citizens:
The second is about police brutality in Portland, Oregon. Oregon is considered a liberal haven now, but it has a very racist history:
Of course, there are indeed good policemen and women who take their oath seriously. They perform their duty with integrity and respect, and in turn earn the respect of the people.
Unfortunately, these stories do little to undo the decades of police brutality, racism, and corruption. Yes, corruption. A system that protects the police who have committed crimes against its citizens is fraudulent and dishonest.
We need a drastic overhaul of policies regarding police misconduct. We need to see these reforms implemented in every community in the county. People need to know that they are safe in their homes and neighborhoods. They need to know that if they are law abiding citizens, they will not be mistreated by the system. That is the only way I see police gaining any respect from the people they serve.
Thank you for considering my views on this matter.
Very truly yours,