Fairly recently two police officers were killed in Brooklyn, NY by what reports have said was a mentally ill man, bent on avenging the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. This kind of mindless savagery is never acceptable or effective. I send prayers for healing in this horrible time to the families, friends, and colleagues of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
Unarmed men being killed by the police. I knew that one day I would write about this very serious matter, and here we are. This is an exceptionally sensitive topic; and it is very polarizing. I want to be as fair and respectful as I can to the victims of these incidents and to the police. I intentionally did not say “unarmed BLACK men” because the fact of the matter is unarmed white men have been killed by police officers as well.
I knew that I had not heard of any cases of unarmed white men being killed by the police. So, in the interest of full disclosure and comprehensive coverage, I went to Google. I did a search for ‘unarmed white men killed by police’. Ironically most of the search results were about unarmed black men being killed by the police. So, I dug deeper and I found two cases of unarmed white men being killed by police. Once case involved the shooting death of Dillon Taylor (an unarmed white man) by officer Bron Cruz who was referred to as “non-white” in Salt Lake City, Utah. The second case involved the shooting death of James Whitehead who was also an unarmed white man, killed by black police officer Robert Arnold in Orange, Texas.
There are many cases of men, usually black men, and too often unarmed, being killed by the police. I want to make it clear that the vast majority of police officers do their job well, without violating the citizens they are charged to serve. The shootings that we see in the media represent a small fraction of the interactions between the police and civilians.
If we are to eliminate these tragedies I think we have to be honest about what is happening. Generally, if a cop approaches someone, it’s because that person has done something they shouldn’t have done. While that is not always the case it certainly is for the most part true. Many men of color (black or brown in particular) have been treated unfairly by cops or know someone who has been. Many police on the other hand have dealt with men of color who have committed crimes and been disrespected by these men, or they know fellow police officers who have many such interactions. Areas that are economically depressed generally have a higher crime rate, and far too often these areas are largely occupied by minorities. Consequently most of the experiences these people have had with the police are bad ones. They’ve been arrested, or their family members or friends have been arrested. Often times these depressed areas are dangerous and cops are met with a great deal of animosity when responding to calls in these places. Police may have some really legitimate concern for their safety in some of these neighborhoods. Some minorities think all cops are bad, and some cops think a black or brown man is a dangerous man or is otherwise up to no good. So, to say there is a lack of trust between many minorities and many police is an understatement.
So, what do we do? First of all, I am not here to pretend that I’m an expert in police training and tactics, nor am I a social worker. I’m a black man with some good sense (I hope), that is concerned about what I’m seeing, and potentially may experience. I want to spark constructive debate and thought, with the hopes that more people will join the conversation and change will come. What I’ll discuss from here on in, will be my opinion; I understand that reasonable minds may differ.
“If there is ever to be a solution, we must first believe that there can be a solution.”
For The Citizens-
We have to understand that to assume all cops are bad, is every bit as foolish and incorrect as assuming that all minority men are dangerous criminals. Police officers are an essential part of helping maintain a peaceful and decent society. Cops are there to do a job, and they are every bit as deserving of respect as anyone else. We citizens have to realize the simple reality that the only way we can get respect is to earn it, and give it. Thuggish behavior is not respectable. Hurling profanities and name calling is not respectable. Being out on the street doing anything that is illegal is not only deserving of disrespect, it is foolish.
There are some simple things we have to remember if we encounter the police. Failure to act with intelligence, as we have seen in the news, can be deadly. I’m going to list several things we should all comply with if we are approached by a cop.
- Be respectful. Give the police the same courtesy you want them to give to you.
- Never show any signs of aggression, physically or verbally. Don’t move fast, and do not threaten the officer in any way.
- Comply with all demands and requests unless the police officer is telling you to do something that is obviously wrong or illegal.
- Make sure the officer can see your hands at all times. If you have to reach in your pocket or glove compartment, or anywhere else for a driver’s license or vehicle registration, tell the officer what you are doing and ask if it’s okay, before you reach.
- Never flee from a police officer.
- If you are being arrested make it easy as possible for the officer to cuff you and put you into the car. Never resist in anyway.
- Remember, even if a cop has bad intentions, and even if they are racist; they are much less likely to do harm to you if you are completely cooperative. If you are mistreated in any way by a police officer you are unlikely to be able to negotiate with that officer on the spot. In the case of mistreatment or abuse, try to politely get the officer’s name and/or badge number. If you can’t get that, try to get to license plate from their vehicle. Then, contact a lawyer, or if you don’t have that resource call an elected official, the local news, or even the police chief.
If you truly have been wronged you do not have to accept it. However, there is a smart way and a foolish way to have your grievance resolved. For your own safety choose your response to police abuse very carefully.
For Police Officers-
- Police officers you must internalize your mandate which is to “Protect and Serve” the citizens of the communities you work in. Officers are public servants you are not our boss. The police are not in charge of us. Citizens pay police salaries with their tax dollars. Seeing to it that our safety and security are maintained should be the paramount concern of all officers.
- In many areas police officers need additional training in how to deal with potential and actual conflict. While no one should break the law, infractions should be met with an appropriate response.
- Proper threat assessment should happen in all cases. Perceived threat is not always actual threat, and a mistake on an officer’s part can have tragic consequences. Perhaps taking cover and asking a couple of questions can help an officer determine for example if a gun is real or a toy. Officers are human like the rest of us, and are just as prone to mistakes and misunderstanding. However, because the police carry guns that can be used in the line of duty’ they must learn to take an additional moment or two to clearly understand the situation they face before using deadly force. Of course they should be trained to do this in a way that is safe for them to carry out. Cleary the life of a police officer is every bit as important as the life of a civilian.
- Police departments must do a better job of screening out bigots, and bad seeds. If an officer has any kind of bias that can impair their judgment they shouldn’t be allowed to become police officers. If an officer has a ‘kick ass and take names’ kind of attitude they’d be more suited to being a MMA fighter than someone charged to protect and serve the public.
- Many police departments must do more to reach out to minority communities for recruits and make police forces more representative of the communities they serve.
- Police must be trained and properly informed to understand that the perspective and experience of minorities is oftentimes much different than other ethnicities, when it comes to dealing with the police.
- The police must be sensitive to the communities they serve. Not only should the use of deadly force be justified in the eyes of the police and the courts, it must be seen as justified in the eyes of the community the victim came from. Police must give the respect that they want to receive.
If everybody isn’t getting killed for resisting arrest, or carrying a toy gun then nobody should be killed for doing so. We all have to live here together. We all deserve to be live with dignity, and to be treated with respect. Broad based judgments are stupid, and prone to error. To assume that one person is the same as another based on their race or occupation is an exercise in foolishness. Cops must learn and remember their proper role as protectors and public servants. The public must learn to appreciate the dangerous but extremely critical function that the police serve in our communities.
So that our police forces are more representative of our communities minorities need to apply for positions in the police force when they become available. We have to get involved. To complain about the police, but refuse to become officers will only serve to perpetuate the problems we see. Good police can be a part of the solution, they can be assets to their communities. More minorities must become police officers and the police forces must put special effort into reaching out to minority communities for new recruits.
Community policing is critically important. Diversity is a part of community policing, but it’s not the entirety of it. Police should ideally be from the areas they work in. Where this is not possible, they must get to know on a personal level the people they serve. Officers must literally become a part of the communities they work in, so they have a vested interest in whether or not that community thrives. The public must partner with the police in keeping their communities safe. Giving the police information is not selling out, it’s called being a decent citizen. The term “Don’t Snitch” is perpetuated by criminals and thugs who don’t give a damn about the neighborhoods they help destroy. We all have a responsibility to keep our communities safe.
Even in those cases where it’s justified, we cannot accept young men being shot and killed by the police. We have all lost, when anyone of us has been killed. It is true that “Black Lives Matter”, but white lives, and brown lives, and the lives of police matter too. We resist our oneness at our own peril. When we all thrive our entire human race is better and stronger. Our survival depends on our ability to live together in peace. I hope and pray, we can all figure that out before it’s too late. One Love…Really.
Stay Fly and Fly High!
I believe I was put here on this earth to teach people how to live bigger, better, and more awesome lives. I am not always right but I always have something to say…and I am here to say it. I want to change the world, and I know that I can with a little help from my friends. So, I created The MInd of KLH blog to inform and spark the imagination of anyone desiring a world full of possibilities realized.One Love...Really!
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