Posted: 12/27/14 09:18
by Dave Mindeman
Being a police officer has always been a tough job. But in today's climate, it has become combat duty hazardous. The vast majority of officers try to do their jobs in a professional manner, quietly getting things done.
But let's face it, there are some bad actors within every department that make the job difficult for everybody else.
But it's not just the police force, it's the police administration and the municipal political establishment. Over the years the relationship of police and the African-American urban communities has deteriorated to such a level that each considers the other, the enemy.
The Michael Brown and Eric Garner investigations did not instill any confidence in an ability to improve those relations. The damage done is extensive. The facts in each case warranted some kind of indictment - even a minor charge that would have led to more public facts and examination that might have been sufficient to avoid the hopeless feelings of a lack of justice.
And it isn't about these cases in isolation. Police have become accustomed to racial profiling, black suspect suspicion, razor edge shoot first mentality in black neighborhoods, and a basic "us vs them" drawing of lines.
Part of this is a ridiculous drug war that has less and less reason to exist. Part of this is racial poverty lines which lead to desperate measures and need to be addressed. And part of this is a lack of community dialogue made difficult by mutual mistrust --exacerbated by a lack of minority representation in police personnel.
Dragging police activity into a political divide is another big mistake. This isn't about conservative support for police or liberal support for the African-American community.
The reality is that it is all about right and wrong. And until we deal with facts rather than stereotypes, we will always be lost in the emotions of past mistrust.
On the one hand we need to stop "protecting" police officers from their own behavior. There is no excuse for a Cleveland police officer to kill a 12 year old boy for holding a toy gun. I understand the need to protect oneself, but with no warning and a shoot to kill confrontation?... there was no just cause involved. On the other hand, the black community needs to evaluate what they can do within their own "family" to build a bridge to the local police departments and work to find ways to pull their young people out of that violent spiral fueled by hopelessness and frustration.
All of it just feels bad. There are few hopeful signs. The political dynamic worsens it. The lines are stark and drawn with rigidity.
The killing of two police officers in New York was tragic. It feeds the division. It adds to the hopelessness. But the first thing to do is to not turn a tragedy into politics. This was the lone act of a deranged individual - not some response to legitimate protest. Anyone who would suggest such a thing is part of the problem, not part of any solution. And anyone who would remotely suggest that the killing of these two officers was justified revenge has no business partaking in civilized society.
It is NOT the police vs the black community. Unfortunately, it almost seems that way in how we react to these tragic situations. We have to find better methods of training, better avenues of dialogue, and better leadership on both sides.
This is a cancer in our society and we need to fight it. Fight it hard. And we need transparency from all aspects of law enforcement.
Someone needs to step up and lead.