At the writing of this post it has been about a year or so since the two police related incidents in Staten Island, NY with Eric Garner and in Ferguson, MO with Michael Brown. From mid 2014 to mid 2015 there have been a flurry of police related incidents that have been caught on camera and breaking news stories in what sometimes seems to be back to back to back. What have we learned? Where are we now?
We have learned a few things:
- We found that much of the media will almost immediately insinuate that any interaction between the police and a suspect is racially influenced especially if the officer is white and the suspect is black because sensationalism gets ratings. Having said that, we learned ( based on the US DOJ report on Ferguson ) that there are some in law enforcement that have practices or procedures in place that are racially biased which is disgraceful.
- We have learned that “Hands up, don’t shoot!”, an anti-police rallying cry, was a farce and never happened.
- We have been told that “Black Lives Matter” but based on many who have said so in the black community, only seems to apply when their lives have ended during an interaction with police but few raise an eyebrow during black on black crime which happens at an extremely higher daily rate than in police related interactions by far.
- We’ve learned that many people with little to no knowledge of police training or law enforcement experience will immediately vilify an officers actions by watching 30 seconds of video with no facts, investigation, or corroborating information.
- We have seen politicians who will be quick to throw the police under the bus. In the case of Eric Garner in Staten Island, the NYC mayor inferred a fictitious underlying racial bias to hide the fact that his oppressive governmental laws and directives from city hall direct the police to enforce “quality of life” infractions which cause these types of confrontations between police and low level criminals. While calling Eric Garner, a career criminal with over 30 arrests a “decent man”, and insinuating the police over-reacted due to race, while at the same time had his legal team file a federal lawsuit to go after those who would supply cigarettes to those who would sell them without paying taxes, lent himself out to be a hypocritical phony pandering to his voting base.
- One of the biggest common denominators in nearly all of the fatalities of suspects who engaged with police is that there has been some level of non-compliance, resisting arrest, or outright violence against the police. This has forced the police to use a higher level of force than would have been originally used had suspects simply listened to the lawful orders given to them by police by submitting to the arrest.
So where has this left the police and the community and how millions of daily interactions occur?
- There have been an increase in the number of killings of police officers across the United States including two officers assassinated in NYC during the Christmas holidays of 2014 by a mutant who was inspired by the “What do we want – dead cops, when do we want it – NOW!” “peaceful” demonstrations taking place after the non indictment of the police officer in the Eric Garner case.
- Some police officers are becoming reluctant to take force out of fear for their being unfairly brought up on charges due to a knee jerk reactive department and elected officials which is partially responsible for a rise in crime since they are taking a “hands off” policy unless they absolutely have to get involved.
- Public perception about policing has been terribly skewed with many believing that the majority of police are dishonest, racist, abusive storm troopers who can’t wait to oppress peoples rights and walk over the US Constitution and Bill of Rights at will. Nothing could be further from the truth as the overwhelming majority of police officers are honorable, courageous, lawful protectors of our society. There are approximately 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States who have millions of contacts and enforcement actions on a daily basis. If there was a deep, systemic issue of illegalities we would hear nothing but a 24/7 litany of endless complaints which is not the case.
- There were a ton of great things done by police on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis in which from time to time were actually broadcast by the mainstream media. It is important to see an increase of reporting of these incidents, or at least an even reporting with the negative stories so while there are bound to be officers doing wrong or acting unprofessional, it is imperative that the daily positive interactions between police and the public are treated as importantly because they are important.
- Training has continually been questioned and been looked over as the main reason that police are being scrutinized in the way they do their jobs. I have said many times that there is ALWAYS improvements in training and that you can never have enough of it. One of the six pillars of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing Report is all about Training and Education. One of the theories is that police don’t necessarily need more firearms, taser, or baton training but more “social interaction” type training consisting of cultural diversity, verbal deescalation tactics, and creating a positive change in the police subculture. There is a new exciting training being conducted across the country and was adopted by the NYPD earlier in 2015 by a company called Blue Courage. The concept behind Blue Courage is for officers to push a big reset button in their lives and return them to the idea that the nobility of policing revolves around officers seeing themselves as guardians and not warriors in the fight against crime.
The road ahead is very long for police to regain the respect of a large portion of the public. There will undoubtedly be more police – public / suspect related incidents with an increasing number of them caught on video. People are recording the police and now the police (via patrol car dash cam and body cams) are now recording people, so everyone is responsible for their collective behavior. Only time will tell how all this plays out. With any luck, the police will act as professionally as possible and people will remember they have a responsibility to act appropriately and LAWFULLY when interacting with the police as they do their jobs. If the police do not do their jobs in the way they should then people will have multiple levels of recourse to address that. The street will not be the place to argue that point when the police are trying to do their jobs so be sure to know when to pick and choose your battles on either side….just do so safely.