Not a day goes by without news of another case of police brutality or the abuse of power by officers, which begs the question: is this the new norm? There was a time when it was not so common to hear about abuse by the police, let alone see actual footage of the abuse taking place. But now in this age of technology, camera phones, video cameras and even squad car dash cams have made it possible for the general public to have access to the rampant abuse of power by law enforcement. As police brutality becomes more commonplace one is left to wonder if the public can ever really feel safe and protected by the very ones supposedly charged with that duty.
It has been said that the supreme court indicated it was not an officers job to protect the public but only to enforce the laws. If this is in fact the case, then those false “To Protect and Serve” logos need to be immediately removed from every surface they exist on. If citizens cannot depend on those who are charged with the responsibility of peace keeping, who then will keep the peace? How scary is it that often times in situations that are initially harmless, if the police show up, that situation has an increased chance of possibly getting much worse by them becoming involved. An innocent person is more likely to end up with something life changing happening to them that will definitely be painful in one way or another. It is no secret that this scenario is especially true for minorities and has been for a very long time. When viewed from the point of view of minorities, police brutality and the abuse of power by the justice system is not a new norm at all, but has always been the case.
Presently, there has been a noticeable shift in the nature of this long standing abuse. There are now more cases of the police abusing any and everybody be they young, old, black, white, human or animal. They are bursting into homes (often the wrong ones) shooting and killing residents, but then claiming somebody had a weapon or made a sudden move causing them to fear for their lives. They are shooting people in the back then claiming the person again had a weapon or came at them threateningly. In many of these cases the police have been found to have falsified reports, planted evidence and flat out been the aggressor. There was a time when they could and did easily get away with this behavior. Even with incriminating video evidence they still are known to get off without so much as a reprimand. Why is this, and what can both the public and honest law enforcement personnel do about it? The answers may not be easy but the current vibe between average citizens and the police are troubling to say the least.
The rampant and heinous abuse of those officers who operate outside the perimeters of their sworn duties has become much more than just troubling. The problem is heating to a rapid boil as the recent events surrounding the homeless man who was killed by police in Albuquerque have shown. It is sadly not far fetched or extreme to think that it will come down to hand to hand combat in the event of say, marshal law. It is already happening all over the globe. When you can kill with impunity the balance becomes lopsided making a very dangerous recipe for disaster. It seems that with all the gun violence going on, both the police and the public have become jumpy and nervous and much more likely to shoot first and sort out the details later. Trust is rapidly dwindling and the “us” versus “them” syndrome is becoming ever more pronounced and noticeable. Interestingly, when officers are not actively on duty, they tend to lead normal lives just like the rest of us which makes it difficult to understand the animosity and division between them and the public when the uniform goes back on. It has been said that the police are a “gang” unto themselves and that many of them over time develop a genuine sense of superiority over citizens and view them as disposal collateral in the so called war against crime.
These days, people are just downright afraid and distrustful of the police. Even senior citizens are at risk of being killed by a nervous cop, as in the recent case of the elderly gentleman who was tragically shot after exiting his car as he reached over to retrieve his walking stick, which the officer mistook as a shotgun. There were two victims in that situation because the officer who mistakenly shot the man is said to have broken down with abject remorse soon after the shooting. It really shows that things are spiraling out of control when an armed officer has to feel that he can’t even trust the intentions of an elder. Yet it would seem that neither can the general public trust the intentions of an officer. You just never know if you’re going to have the awful luck of coming into contact with a cop who has an evil agenda. If police contact does occur even under mundane circumstances, the immediate reaction might be to panic and start thinking things like “maybe if I act this way or that way, or say this or say that I can avoid an altercation and not end up getting a bs ticket, going to jail or even worse, getting killed!” What an awful way to have to feel when dealing with the police in minor situations. The threat of police brutality and the abuse of power becoming the new norm is proving to be a deadly combination for both citizens and those charged with policing them.
Someone once shared a theory that the reason so many officers have abusive personalities is because frequently, the types of people who are attracted to law enforcement are usually types who were bullies to begin with. They went on to state that many of them harbor borderline psychotic and deviant personalities and are somehow able to get past the vetting process. It stands to reason that the promise of power and the lack of oversight is appealing to these types. Maybe the vetting process should be vetted! It appears that all too often many officers go well beyond what is required as far as violence is concerned. What ever happened to aiming for non lethal targets when firing on citizens? And why is it so common to see a large number of officers swarm on just one person? Understandably situations can and often do escalate quickly, which is why it is important for officers to get thorough and effective training in how to deal with the public. Because clearly there is a vital component lacking in the process.
It must also be said that obviously all officers are not corrupt or out to kill. Certainly the actions of bad police make it even harder on those who genuinely wish to do an honest job and be upstanding in their privileged positions. In all honesty, the actions of officers who are either corrupt, badly trained, trigger happy or just scared and or inept are making things bad for decent officers and everyone else as well. Something has to give and more dialogue has to start happening or we will simply be doomed to more of the same. If things ever get so bad that this country finds its citizens facing off against any branch of law enforcement, hopefully those in uniform will realize in time that, they are us, just as we are them. Here’s to hoping that true healing can begin and that the abuse and brutality will rapidly become a thing of the past.
Commentary By Mai Nowlin