If the next president wants to help America, start with regulating the police.

If the next president of the United States really wants to help America, which they all claim to love above anything else, he or she ought to start with cracking down on police abuse of power. It’s a domestic issue that has been ignored election after election. It’s treated as a not-important issue because it mostly concerns inner city minorities who are treated as throwaways, a sector of the electorate with the least power in terms of election contributions and special interests. There are special interest groups representing everyone and everything, even private prisons have lobbying representation to build vast prison complexes in sparsely populated states but there is no lobbying group representing the rights and voices of inner city people who routinely clash with the police.

It is important to preface this with stating that the majority of police officers are good, brave and decent people who love the communities they protect and serve. But there are also a small fraction of police officers who have no compunction about using their badge as tool for oppression and abuse.When 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed for playing with a toy gun that looked like a real gun, we have reached crisis point.Twelve years old! He was only playing in the snow with his sister, and the person that called 911 said the gun could be a toy gun and that person called the police out of an abundance of caution, not to cause the boy’s death. And of course, Timothy Loehmann, the officer involved in the shooting was a rookie officer, said that the boy startled him and he had no way of knowing if the gun was a toy gun or real gun and that the boy could have been 20 years old. Tamir Rice was not described to be a tall or large child, his face is definitely still childlike, granted, the orange safety valve on the toy gun was missing therefore making it look like a real gun, but are rookie police officers so poorly trained that they cannot tell the difference between a child and adult? Even if Tamir Rice looked older than 12, say 15 or 16, is it appropriate to shoot a 15 or 16 year old with a possible toy gun. Officer Loehmann claimed that he didn’t get the message that the gun may be a toy gun or that the suspect is a child, so again, he didn’t know, that is their get out of jail card: “I didn’t know”, “I was afraid for my life”, “I didn’t know that suspect wasn’t armed.” Cleveland police were reluctant to charge Timothy Loehmann, even though the corner declared Tamir Rice’s death as a homicide, no murder or manslaughter charges have been filed an investigation is still pending 5 months after the shooting. Tamir Rice’s body hasn’t even reached its final resting place as investigators aren’t sure if they need his body for further investigation, adding insult to injury to Tamir Rice’s family.

Ever since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a wannabe-cop, self-appointed neighborhood watch and trigger happy to boot, there seems what feels like an endless horror of white cops killing black men, young men, men in their prime and the cops seem to get off scot free as long as they utter the words ‘I was afraid for my life’, ‘I didn’t know he was unarmed’, ‘I didn’t know he was a minor’. Eric Garner, a father of 4 was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, for selling loose cigarettes, yes, it is against the law to sell loose cigarettes, but is it necessary to put a man in a choke hold because he resisted arrest? And when he says ‘I can’t breathe’ why was that ignored? Of course the NYPD blues came out in force to protect their own, blaming the victim, saying that if he weren’t engaged in an illegal activity he wouldn’t be dead. Well, by that standard, any person that commits an unlawful or illegal activity and is apprehended by the police deserve to die if they don’t do exactly as the police say? Eric Garner was selling loose cigarets, which to my understanding is common but still illegal. He wasn’t committing a robbery, he wasn’t armed, he wasn’t in a fight, he wasn’t trying to kill someone and yet he was choked to death and couldn’t breath. The Grand Jury refuse to indict the officer because the officer didn’t mean to kill him and since he technically resisted arrest the officer was well within is rights to physically restrain him. 

Mike Brown of Ferguson, Missouri was another case of an aggressive youth, unarmed, but due to his large and intimidating size, the office Darren Wilson again stated that he was afraid for his life, even though he’s the one that is armed, and that due to Mike Brown’s large size, it scared him. There seems to be a running narrative here: first, all these white officers have trouble telling what age these black kids are, second, they all use the same excuse that they were in fear of their lives even though the above mentioned people were unarmed, somehow, trained police officers have trouble differentiating if a suspect is armed or not and they are not taught a safe way to find out if a person is armed or not. They are reinforcing the stereotype that black boys always look older than they really are, and that they are all dangerous.

This type of brutal policing has to stop, the vicious cycle of arrest, incarceration and reoffending for black men has got to stop. The justice system was not designed to be a racist institution, it’s to the contrary, the US justice system is supposed to be dispassionate so that proper justice can be served. But inner city communities who do not have access to good representation and only have overworked public defenders as their only resource, each public defender has so many cases that he or she is just looking to get rid their cases off their desks, public defenders often recommend plea bargains to get rid of their cases. When a defendant accepts a plea bargain, it is the same as a guilty conviction, and now that defendant has a record. If the defendant hires his own attorney and insists on his day in court as is his right under the constitution, he may be acquitted or just receive probation.

When the results of an institution or criminal justice system disproportionately affects a certain minority group, that system or institution has become racist, it may not have started out that way and that may not have been the intent behind our criminal justice system to be racist, but as it stands today, it’s very safe to say that it is racist and unfair to those that are financially disadvantaged. A balance must be struck with effective policing and making sure communities are safe and the police overreaching and abusing their power because they have a gun and badge. Since all police carry guns in the United States, it’s safe to say that in any random probability, the police will be better armed than any suspect they meet.

The American people do not care that much about what happens with the Iran Nuclear Deal or what the erratic Iranian Regime says about Israel or which rebels they are backing militarily this month. The Ayatollah can mouth off his crazy talk or tweet his crazy words, Americans don’t care. Americans care about issues at home, health care access, contraceptive access for women, basic health care for all people, police brutality and abuse, jobs, education, everything that affects us here at home, right now.

So all the ladies and gentlemen running for president now, they need to pay attention to issues at home, it’s easy to divert the spotlight away from what’s important with what’s going on overseas and make it seem more important than what’s going on at home. It’s not going to work this time, the American public is sick of it, we want our next president to clean up our own backyard, to invest in our roads, to invest in our education and our children.

2 thoughts on “If the next president wants to help America, start with regulating the police.

  1. I’m glad that you wrote about this – it is very good to see people taking notice. I would say that there are some fundamental problems with regulating the police. That is, due to the very nature of law enforcement it becomes inherently difficult to regulate. This ties in to two things that you wrote:

    1. “The majority of police officers are good…there are also a small fraction of police officers who have no compunction about using their badge as tool for oppression and abuse.”

    2. “When the results of an institution or criminal justice system disproportionately affects a certain minority group, that system or institution has become racist, it may not have started out that way and that may not have been the intent behind our criminal justice system to be racist, but as it stands today, it’s very safe to say that it is racist and unfair to those that are financially disadvantaged.”

    Many people are starting to question if the majority of police officers are, in fact, good. This is because the bad police officers cannot act alone; they don’t operate in a vacuum. For one police officer to break a law, for one to be corrupt or violent, it necessarily implies that all of those beside him or her are assenting. In essence, it’s very hard to commit crimes in the middle of a police station unless the entire police station is going along with the crime.

    Moreover, as you said, the institution and system itself is bad. In fact, it was always bad: modern policing, as we know it, has its roots in the slave patrols of the American south. It has always been bad, and racist. We’re simply seeing more media attention right now.

    Now, these two things taken together make regulation very difficult. It’s because, regardless of what law or regulatory efforts are proposed, no one trustworthy is left to enforce them. It’s the old “who watches the watchers” problem. And the answer is: no one. When the watchers misbehave – when they don’t enforce the rules upon themselves – no one else exists to do it. It’s a flaw in the way the system is designed.

    I’d say that the whole thing is beyond saving, beyond reform. We should probably begin to look not into regulation, but into full alternatives. Models of law, enforcement or order which are radically different from modern policing as we know it.

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    1. John, thank you for commenting. This issue needs to be discussed, debated, dissected ad nauseum by all strata of society. It is totally abnormal to have just one sector of the American population (brown and black mostly) to have this sort of close and frequent contact with police. I believe police should be sort of invisible, they are there to protect us, as citizens we know that they are there but we shouldn’t be seeing them on the streets stopping every other person asking them what they are doing, where they are going etc. To abolish the whole ‘police’ system would be extreme as well, one never abolishes one system without having another to replace it.
      Police departments have a policy of ‘watching each other’s back’, which is code for cover up and I’ll take care of you, wink wink nod nod. However, I have personally met some very good police officers and detectives and I refuse to paint an institution as large and diverse as the collective police force with one broad tarred brush. That is like saying ‘All _____ are _____’ and we can fill in the blanks with anything. As a responsible citizen, I refuse to give into that. It’s easy to paint all police as bad or corrupt or the whole thing is rigged, and I am sure we can find many cases to justify that line of thinking, but I refuse to do that, simply it’s unfair to the police officers that do good, who aren’t corrupt and who actually saved lives in their tenure as police officers.
      As for ‘regulating’ the police, it has to start somewhere, perhaps in the blogosphere where everyone is taking notice and speaking up about it, not just the mouthpieces on television. There are many ‘alternatives’ to law enforcement, like an organized neighborhood watch (not the ad hoc ones that exist now and not the kind that George Zimmerman was a part of) where the citizens involved are trained to spot real crime versus the ones in their head, where citizens learn basic policing, crowd control before situations get out of hand and of course all unarmed, any sign of trouble, they call the actual police. Thank you for your input.

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