Sunday, August 31, 2014

We have a problem

I try to be nice to the police, I try to be as understanding and nonjudgmental as I can when it comes to how they do their job.  I understand that they work long hours, often dealing with the most wretched of humanity, people who would rather cut your throat than look at you.  They do with with little respect for the potential danger they face, and for crappy wages.  Its a crappy job, and for our part we are wrong to look down at all police officers, because we hear about all the bad ones.

That said, we have a slight issue here.  We have a police force becoming more militant, they have moved past protecting and serving the public.  Many are becoming a paramilitary unit for the state, one that does not care about protecting the people.  We have police officers who are bullies with guns and badges.  That is not right. 

To some extent we will always see police killing someone, it is one of those ugly facts of life that we will deal with until non-lethal methods can be fully effective.  Until that day, you will have people who want to use the police to kill themselves, they will push the envelope, and police will respond, with the force required to protect themselves and the public.  But what is starting to happen is the over use of force.  I have heard estimates that police in the US have killed an average of four hundred people a year, and that is way too many people, nearly a person a day if you want the numbers.  For a country of over three hundred million people, that isn't a lot.  For the people reading this, its not a large number, its rather small, unless you know one of the people killed by police.  Then it is a huge number. 

But that number is incorrect.  I counted over 90 police shooting deaths in August of this year.  I didn't break it down into the shootings that were legitimately justified against those that weren't.  I just tracked down a number to show the point.  Police are getting a bit heavy handed (and I am saying that very loosely).  So far the count is 222 this year, and that does not include people tazzed to death, or other assaults resulting in death.  It also does not include incidents where excessive force was claimed but did not result in death.

 Those are just the shooting deaths.  And its not a black or brown versus white problem.  This is an everybody problem.  Regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation this is a problem that we all face today.  The problem is, when a white cop shoots a black child it makes national headlines, there are riots and protests, but when it is reversed it is largely ignored.  When a gay man is killed by a police officer it doesn't even make the news.  But it still happens, and we should rally around people who protest against the white cop killing a black kid, because we could all become that black child one day.

But there is something more to this.  You see, I have seen the police force when it works right, when it is doing its job, and I have seen the reverse.  The solution is to start removing the bad coppers, and really holding police officers accountable for their actions.  We hold surgeons and doctors responsible when they screw up.  We hold members of every profession responsible when they screw up, except it seems the police.  No, we seem to give them a pass, and when all is said and done they were justified in their actions.  These deaths are really just a drop in the bucket, they happen daily in the US, but the deeper you go into the bucket the more problems you will see.  Most of us are still at the surface level, the large amounts of excessive force used.  Some of us are at the militarized level of the bucket.  Fewer of us are at the level where your basic rights are outright ignored, just because.  Its time we all get our backsides down to the bottom of this barrel and fix the things wrong.

Because if we refuse to, if we ignore the problem, we become the problem, and ultimately we will find our own families brought into the fray.