Monday, December 15, 2014

On Police Brutality

More and more lately, the subject of police brutality and killings is becoming something the bought and paid for media cannot ignore.  Millions of people around the country are constantly marching in protest over the almost constant din of what are often out and out murder cases in which police are almost universally absolved of criminal liability.

Mostly against blacks, but let's be clear - there are others being killed who are not black as well.

It would also be good to note that the issue of police brutality isn't just about killings, although those are the most egregious.  Remember the lady in California whose beating by a CHP officer went viral?  There are whole websites devoted to documenting these incidents.

And that isn't the most alarming thing about this whole thing.

What is the most alarming is the strengthening of the "thin blue line".  The police have tended, even in the past to have this "us vs. them" kind of attitude, that exists to protect each other from what they consider unfair punishment.

To an extent, that is understandable.  They exist in an ordered and very structured environment.  They are trained in discipline, the better for their bosses to control them.  After all, they are, each and every one, out in the community for eight or more hours a day, exposed to the possibility of having to confront the very worst elements of society.  People who are often armed and prepared to use those weapons at any time they feel threatened.

And police officers around the country die every year because of that exposure.  Such an environment tends to bond people together.  I understand that.

But in recent years, there is a sickness that has invaded that environment.

Militarization.  Arming and training our police with the arms and the attitudes of soldiers.

There is a meme that is making the rounds occasionally on Facebook.  It says, basically, that a country's military exists to defend it from enemies of the State.  And when the police and the military begin to blend together, the people tend to start looking like enemies of the State.

That sounds kinda familiar.

We need to remind ourselves, and our police, of the ways in which our government was designed and empowered by the Constitution to provide (as the constitution says) for the General Welfare.

First, the military is an arm of the Federal government, and is authorized by the Constitution under the authority of the President.  It is for the protection of the country from enemies of the State, generally protection from invasion.

Our police departments, of whatever level, are authorized under both the General Welfare clause for the Federal government and the "reserved powers' clause for the States.

Separately, all levels of the government are authorized a judiciary.  It is considered a separate branch of government at the Federal level.  Most States are generally designed the same way, so that judges and courts are their own authority and not under the executive power of the President or a Governor.

This is important, because the Constitution makes it fairly clear (and subsequent SCOTUS rulings further clarify this) that the Court system is supposed to be a defender and a protectorate of the people.

Police are, too, since their authority is generally under the authority of the General Welfare clause.

And when the police act against their authority and hurt members of the public, the courts are supposed to protect us, not side with the police.

Our Constitution is a document that sets forth the powers of the Federal government and allows for those powers not explicitly given to the Federal level to be reserved for the States or "the people".  This pretty clearly shows that the powers so delineated are delegated directly from the people.

WE, the people of this country, delegate those powers for OUR benefit.  Those powers are not there for the benefit of the officials so empowered.  They are there to provide for US.  For the general welfare - for everybody.

In spite of the original version having clauses respecting slavery, none of those clauses noted color of skin nor ethnicity as a condition of that status, and most certainly did not separate "the people" into differing classes based on ethnicity, skin color, sex, sexual orientation, social classes, or economic status.  It merely uses the term "We, the people".

In short, if a person works for a government entity at any level from city to State to Federal, they work for US.  They have their jobs for the purpose of providing for the General Welfare of the people of these United States.  Their jobs are there for OUR benefit, not theirs.

The police are not there to protect the government.  They are there to protect us from threats to society.  They are not there to force us into submission, they are there to protect us.

Not to shoot us, nor beat us nor subjugate us.  Their paychecks come from the taxes we pay.  WE are their bosses, ultimately.  All of us, regardless of economic status, color of our skin or ethnicity.

They should not be thinking of "us vs. them".  They should be thinking about policing their own, about getting rid of officers who make them look bad, who are not worthy of wearing the uniform.

Their "us" should include "we" the people.

Unlike in many totalitarian countries, our police do not live in guarded compounds.  They live among us, they ARE us, they are part of "the people".  They live next door to us, they marry our daughters and our sons, they eat at our backyard barbecues.  They shop at the same stores we do, they vote in the same elections we do.

It is time they rejoined us.  It is time they stop thinking of us as the problem, and realize that it is their attitude that is the problem.

They work for us, and it is time they started acting, again, like they do.

They should be our defenders, not our oppressors.


Steven Trisel said...

I agree with much of what you state. However, I would argue that it is time we stop thinking of the police as the problem, and realize that it is people with bad attitudes and behavior who constitute the real problem in our society. In the two recent cases that sparked the waves of popular protests, tragic as they were for everyone involved, the victims might not have died if they had not resisted arrest. Now that doesn't mean that an excessive amount of force wasn't used, but situations like these can easily spiral out of control when everyone is pumped up on adrenaline. If the parties involved in these altercations had treated each other with respect and had maintained good attitudes, things probably would have turned out differently. In addition to people having bad attitudes (both citizens and law-enforcement officers), it may be our laws that are at fault and that people need to be better educated about them. We should work together in a postive manner to improve the entire system for all people.

Robert Ahrens said...

I thank you for your comment.

But if you look carefully at the facts of both cases - and a fair number of others, including the case of the kid in the Midwest the cop shot within two seconds of exiting his car - and you'll see cops whose attitudes at the very beginning of each encounter were confrontational and actually contrary to normal police procedure!

Each of these cops also have had histories of confrontations with citizens, and often are known both among the citizens they patrol among and their own coworkers as trouble makers.

People WILL get defensive if they are approached by a cop with a confrontational attitude, even if they are innocent.

The cop is the guy with the gun, he is supposed to be in control. If the situation goes south, it is an even bet that the cop approached the situation wrong in the first place - especially when you've got a white cop and a black or other minority citizen, and the person being approached is not guilty of a crime.

I'm sorry, but I was raised in Texas, I KNOW the attitudes of many of these cops, and it isn't pretty.