The Broken Trust by American Police
There are times, like the past several days since my last post, that one should stop and observe what is happening around the country. Between mainstream media and internet news organizations there is a wealth of information to look over on just about any topic.
With all that is happening in the US, from Black Lives Matter protests to the devastation being caused by the coronavirus to American lives, the economy, and the loss of faith in the actions by the federal government to get the coronavirus under control, we are lost and struggling to see a path of safety.
President Trump has released his “dogs of war” of federal law enforcement agencies on cities in the United States. In at least the city of Portland, these officers have taken unconstitutional actions, snatching people off the streets without probable cause. It has been observed that there are officers without officer and agency identification visibly displayed on their uniforms. People taken were placed into unmarked vans and driven away. This is not the way law enforcement is suppose to operate.
But it just isn’t just federal law enforcement that has been working outside the boundaries of law. There has been reporting, a lot of reporting, on the excessive use of force and brutality by police agencies around America. From the NYPD to the LAPD and in between, police officers have acted as if they are free to act as they please without repercussions.
The trust that a large portion of US citizens have in law enforcement has been broken by the methods being employed by police around the United States. It seems though that any Republican elected to state or federal governments are doing their best to distract Americans from these excesses by pointing to the violence of protests around the country. They call anyone exercising their 1st Amendment rights anarchists and criminals. The general broad brush that is used to justify unacceptable behavior by police in America is like excusing the lynching of a Black man.
There is a fairly visible record of these excesses, or more accurately brutalities, being committed. Besides the many deaths of Black Americans here are some examples from this year alone:
- Police pull 15 year-old teenager off his bicycle by his neck.
- Six Atlanta police officers charged in forceful arrests of college students in car.
- Buffalo police officers shove 75 year-old at protest.
- Louisville police officer fired pepper balls at journalist.
- Fairfax, VA, police officer charged with assault over stun gun used on Black male.
Is there any misunderstanding about a lot of police behavior going on in America? The above behavior isn’t to be expected of every law enforcement officer in America though. There are good cops, right?
We constantly hear that these “bad” cops are just a few rotten apples. Using that premise, we should believe that all the “good” cops, who regularly remain silent about the actions of bad cops, is an honorable, law abiding behavior. If a good cop remains silent, isn’t that good cop then being a bad cop? In fact, it happens all the time. Cops remain silent about the behavior of those of the “thin blue line,” to include supervisory officers. Where is the honorable behavior in that? So, telling us it’s only a few bad apples is a lie. Any and every officer remaining silent to actions of brutality or misconduct are just as bad as those “bad apples.”
Why should citizens trust the police to “protect and serve” when police officers won’t even protect the rights of an arrestee, or serve the public good when they use excessive force? Why should citizens trust the police when “bad apples” are continually protected by their department, the district attorney, and the police unions who insist their officers do no wrong?
There are nationwide calls for defunding and dismantling police agencies. While dismantling police agencies is not a reasonable idea, defunding police is when tied to the ideas of removing responsibilities from police agencies and shifting them to other agencies. I have written of this issue before, you can read it here.
Changing the dynamic of policing must occur in order for trust to be rebuilt between the police and public. The largest change is the stopping of abuse and brutality by police across the country, including federal law enforcement. Anyone stop and arrested by police must be done using the minimum amount of force necessary to make the arrest, which means starting – generally – with verbal deescalation. Further, once in police custody, the police must protect the arrestees’ life from all harm or death. The police must insure that the arrestees’ rights are also protected.
Police agencies have the responsibility to weed out bad cops, not protect them. Police unions have the duty to help weed out bad officers, if for no other reason than to protect the reputation of the good officers. Individual officers have the responsibility and the duty to turn in officers violating department rules & regulations and those violating the law.
If any officer can’t do their duty honorably and lawfully, then they should resign and find a new career.
Until the police are forced off their high horses and brought back to reality, we will continue to see the behaviors of excessive force and brutality.
Until next time