I remember growing up as a child and seeing fun illustrations of policemen helping cats out of trees and assisting elderly ladies cross busy streets. I was taught that to be a police officer was to hold a noble position in our society. They were guardians who could do no wrong…
Later in life I woke up.
The recent killings of young black men at the hands of cops, most recently and notably Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri (I won’t go into detail on how I feel about this obviously deplorable event and the Playskool, slipshod handling of the situation thereafter at this time) have incited rage in the hearts of many Americans. These events are only reaffirming what most African Americans and other American minorities already know and believed: American justice, in general, is a right and privilege all too often preserved, to its full extent, for white people only. However, taking a moment to zoom out from the particular situation in Ferguson (and New York City with Eric Garner, and Ohio with John Crawford III, and Los Angeles with Ezell Ford, and New Orleans with Armand Bennett), one has to ask the bigger question of why are the people who are charged to protect and serve us becoming some of the main people who are abusing and killing us? The list grows ever long…
- In South Dakota a cop excessively uses a taser to antagonize an already subdued man.
- NYPD upholding it’s usual douchey reputation while…well I’m not sure what they’re doing here either.
- Also notoriously violent LAPD dealing out alleged lethal beatings.
- California Highway Patrol beating a defenseless woman.
- NYPD being unnecessarily rough and inappropriate with a woman outside her apartment door.
- NYPD punching a woman in the face during Occupy Wall Street (pay close attention starting at 1:30).
The abuse has got to come to an end lest we, the people, become unable to distinguish cops from the criminals they are supposed to be protecting us from.
I understand that crime exists and that not all cops are bad and those who do their job correctly and effectively, free of prejudice and ill intentions, are assets to society; but whenever there is a gross breach of protocol such as the use of violent force by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo against Eric Garner resulting in his death, there needs to be a mass outcry of dissent resulting in the evaluation of whether American police forces are appropriately handling non-violent situations. There is a difference between “just doing your job” and outright abuse of power and authority. If the antagonizing police (military?) response to the overwhelmingly peaceful protests in Ferguson thus far don’t illustrate the display of bullying disguised as policing, I’m not sure how else to spell it out. How much more will it take before we are all collectively fed up? How much humanity has to be abused to incite rage that is socially productive? How many more lives must be needlessly taken and the only repercussions those responsible face are paid administrative leave? The only people who should be afraid of law enforcement are those breaking the law, not decent citizens minding their business or exercising their constitutional rights.
What can we do to combat these gross injustices, most of which are leveled against American minorities, especially African Americans? One way is to push thorough method of keeping track of police brutality and effectively disciplining cops that step out of line. Indeed, as suggested by this opinion article, should anyone seek out statistics regarding how many people are wounded or killed by cops in the apprehending process, justified or not, they would be hard pressed to find much of anything. In my own personal search, apart from a list on Wikipedia, the only material that I really found was this report compiled by the CATO institute, and while they give an idea, neither source seems to tell the whole story, at least not to me (I require an even harder, detailed breakdown of the statistics). This article published at the beginning of the year spells out how in one instance in New Jersey 99-percent of all complaints of police brutality in central New Jersey go on ignored, not investigated. How telling is it that where there is a lack of expectation of repercussions rogue cops across the country, given the opportunity, treat their charges any ol’ way, often without common decency. If those who are paid with our tax dollars won’t protect us, even from themselves, who will? This kind of thing should be addressed by our government. It’s sad to say, but it’s only befitting what with more and more instances of police brutality coming to light (due in large part to personal video recordings on cell phones and what not, cool!). If you agree that the matter should be addressed by higher ups feel free to join the push to hold police officers more accountable by signing this petition started in the wake of the Michael Brown tragedy. You may also consider organizing coalitions to reach out to your representatives on all government levels. It’s about time they start earning their keep.
Another way to help is personal advocacy. I’ve been watching things unfold in Ferguson feeling helpless in not being able to offer my help there on the ground. That’s when I was reminded about the bigger picture of worldwide police brutality, and furthermore, how racial profiling sometimes fuels the acting out of police officers. As suggested above it happens more often than we know, but if there isn’t a cell phone camera ready and rolling at the right moment there’s no way to spread the word. So I figured I would facilitate a way for people to share their personal experiences. Enter the ‘Wake Up, Listen’ Campaign. If you or someone you know has had a run in with law enforcement that you feel was unjust, feel free to share your story with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your story directly to this special tumblr blog where I will share these stories in the hopes of spreading awareness of police brutality and racial profiling in law enforcement. An example would be this story shared by one of my favorite tumblr users from New York City on his personal blog. There is no standard in submitting. You may submit your story in writing or through video or audio file. In submitting feel absolutely no obligation to include your name (make something up using the tumblr submission), though I strongly encourage you to share at the least your race, gender, age at the time of the incident and where the incident took place so I may be able to identify any patterns.
Though I hesitate to say I look forward to hearing your stories, I AM looking forward to effecting change.
Let’s do this, y’all.