The feeling many citizens have when they see a cop is paranoia. Am I going to get in trouble? This is not an unfounded feeling.
The US has the largest prison population on the planet. This is not because Americans are somehow more evil than other people on Earth.
The NY Times writes: “Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.“
We have such sweeping laws that the Wall St Journal quoted a prominent lawyer as saying the average American commits 3 felonies a day without even knowing it.
Even if you don’t break the law you’re in danger…
The Innocence Project estimates easily 40,000 to over 100,000 innocent people have been wrongfully arrested, and convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. That is a scary statistic.
Further, citizens are becoming aware of the ever-present conflict of interest called policing for profit. Once you become aware of it, policing for profit is everywhere you look, from using sweeping traffic violations for profit, fines for failing to enroll in the right trash collection service, to the highly controversial practice of asset forfeiture where an officer can seize your cash, cars, real estate, and any other property – even if you’re never convicted or even charged with a crime, it starts to look very suspiciously like public safety and well being is not always the motivation for police work.
Americans understandably question the conflict of interest of enforcing public safety with a profit motive. Policing for profit is exactly what the 4th Amendment was created to prevent — the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures (written to protect citizens from policing for profit.) Many feel the 4th Amendment has been eviscerated by the war on drugs.
Then of course, we hear many people talk about the Supreme Court ruling that stated the police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm.
So as opposed to how citizens feel when they see a firefighter, many Americans are concerned that police today are looking out for a different agenda than protecting and serving the citizens.
ESCALATION TO VIOLENCE OVER PEACEFUL CONFLICT RESOLUTION
It’s insane behavior to beat someone up for endangering themselves. And it defies logic in a job this serious that this kind of extreme behavior could be isolated.
And unfortunately it is not, this escalation appears systemic in many communities. A Dept of Justice document faults Ferguson police for their aggressive response to protesters last August saying officers from Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis and Missouri Highway Patrol “violated citizens’ right to assembly and free speech, as determined by a U.S. federal court injunction.”
Applying a “comply or die” policy under the color of law rather than putting public safety and well being first make the label “peace officer” unfortunately reminiscent of Orwellian double-speak.
SWAT raids, originally created for hostage situations and barricades now occur 80% of the time for a search warrant (someone still only suspected of committing a crime).
In 1980s, there were approximately 3,000 SWAT raids in the United States. Now, there are more than 80,000 SWAT raids per year. 62 percent to conduct searches for drugs. And 50% of SWAT raids are on minorities.
There are horror story lists of botched raids where the wrong address was given,killing a US marine in hail of bullets or lobbing a flash grenade into a baby’s crib blowing open his chest.
Of course the ever increasing militarization of the police has also been somewhat alarming. Even as crime is down, the police look ever more like an occupying army without any accountability bringing us to the next topic of the day…
You’d think with all the police shooting in the news we’d have some government agency oversight to explain why but as it turns out, although the US government could count citizens killed by police, it’s chosen not to so that’s been left up to watchdog group killed by police and an ongoing study by the Guardian…
A study by University of Chicago professor Craig Futterman found that just 19 of 10,149 complaints accusing Chicago PD officers of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, sexual abuse, and false arrests led to a police suspension of a week or more. In more than 85 percent of internal investigations of complaints, the accused officer was never even interviewed.
Then there’s the centuries old racial disparity in policing, arresting, prosecuting, and sentencing all the way down the line. And while one could easily argue that the roots of the mass incarceration problem we have today is a result of our racist heritage, the fact today is if we took all people of color out of the equation, and only looked at white America, we would still be over-incarcerated, we would still have police militarization and over-reach. We would still have a massive, barbaric system out for revenge with a motive for profit.
OUR COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
Where have we been in our duty as citizens to protect and serve one another? We certainly can’t expect police or any part of the “criminal justice system” to pro-actively solve poverty, addiction, mental illness, homelessness, PTSD, unemployment, a crisis in public education, poor city planning and predatory housing practices. Half the country is in poverty or low income. That is the state we are in today. And that’s on us. Because we certainly have enough money in the national economy to change all that.
So what’s the answer? One is learning about the history (Radley Balko’s book Rise of the Warrior Cop is a great start). The other is to begin changing laws. Writing your representatives. Attending city council meetings. Engaging and organizing to restore our 4th amendment rights, end this horrific war on drugs which causes far more damage than the evils of addiction itself and putting an end to policing for profit. Most people who really want to protect and serve (whether in law enforcement or not) agree.
CLICK HERE TO PUT YOUR NAME BEHIND 10 COMMON SENSE DEMANDS. I DID. ONLY TOOK A FEW CLICKS.
1) End Broken Windows Policing,
2) Community Oversight
3) Limit Use of Force
4) Independently Investigate & Prosecute
5) Community Representation
6) Body Cameras
8) End for-profit policing
10) Fair police union contracts.