the safest it has been since World War II. It’s why it’s a bad idea to equip your police with military weapons and allow them to use those weapons on peaceful unarmed protesters. I’ve read that in Iraq, UK forces didn’t wear the armor and helmets the US forces favor, because that makes you look like Robocop and makes people more willing to attack you.
This incident is why, when an officer prevents another officer from choking and beating a suspect who is already in handcuffs, and she then gets beaten by her fellow cops, you don’t fire her.
This is why you fire police officers who make inflammatory statements on social media. Police unions are now warning officers not to mock people on social media, and not to make unnecessary arrests — that is, to follow a standard of professional behavior which ought to be part of the basic job requirements. It shouldn’t have needed a tragedy like this to get that message home.
Looking at the broader picture, this tragedy also helps illustrate why you don’t carry out Homeland Security SWAT raids for copyright violation or owning a vehicle that doesn’t meet emissions standards. It shows why you don’t carry out a full “black helicopter” invasion of a town just because one guy downloaded some child porn.
And most of all, this is why you don’t boast about your police force being an army and make them political tools.
Because if police are allowed to dress and act like an overwhelmingly powerful occupying army that can break the law with impunity, then people will begin to treat them that way. No matter how wrong it is, that’s how people respond to a military occupying force that they perceive as corrupt. The murdered who killed the two NYPD officers apparently invited people to follow him on social media and watch what he was going to do, yet nobody gave warning. Allegedly 911 dispatchers made comments that the NYPD ‘deserve it’. That should deeply worry the NYPD, and anyone who cares about the safety of police officers. When you can’t even count on 911 dispatchers to be sympathetic towards police, you have a serious problem.
Make no mistake, the people who have defended excessive use of force by police this year are not defenders of police officers. They are escalating the breakdown of law and order which will lead to more police officers getting murdered. And it should go without saying that the people who are trying to exploit the situation for partisan political gain are the lowest of the low.
Body cameras are not the solution, though they do help exonerate good cops. One problem is that bad cops seem to turn them off; but the Garner case shows that video evidence by itself is worthless unless people are held accountable.
Police need to be trained that there are other, better ways to deal with mental illness than shooting the sufferer. Seriously, there are better ways to deal with the problem of a mentally ill homeless guy with a penknife stealing a hot cup of coffee than taunting him with a police dog then firing 47 bullets.
It comes down to this: Police need to be part of the community they are serving, and they need to be perceived as being part of that community. They need ties to the community. They need the vast majority of ordinary people to perceive them as fair, honest, and trustworthy.
And let me emphasize: it’s not enough for police to merely be fair, honest and trustworthy. They need to be seen to be those things, which means they need to practice openness and accountability. They need to make sure level of force exerted is appropriate to the problem, and stop punishing cops who decide that shooting someone is unnecessary.
If the US doesn’t roll back the militarization of police and tackle corruption seriously, I suspect that assassinations are just the beginning, and that you’ll start to see people making IEDs and other booby traps. We don’t want that, right?
As Slate puts it:
Even Al Sharpton supports cops. “We are not anti-police,” he said after the Wilson grand jury concluded. “If our children are wrong, arrest them. Don’t empty your gun and act like you had no other way.”
© mathew 2017