The law enforcement “industry” has a problem

Police in riot gear walking in front of a boarded up whole foods
Photo by  Nour Chamoun  on  Scopio

[This is a post that may get me in trouble from some of my friends. If so, so be it. I am trying to listen and understand more, because I’m finding more and more that the ways I’ve thought about race in America are not always in tune with the reality. May I be ever learning and sympathetic to my brothers and sisters of color.]

If your response to the senseless brutality and killing of George Floyd and other African-Americans at the hands of police or the unexplainable arrests and violence members of the press who are just doing their job have experienced is to say, “There are bad cops, but most are good,” you’re being dismissive. The better question to be asking is, what is it about law enforcement that generates such a wide array of behaviors?

If we think for a moment of law enforcement as an “industry,” why does this industry have so many questionable incidents, particularly toward minorities? Is the problem somewhere in the recruitment and attracting of new officers? Are there lapses in training? Are those in the profession afraid to call out their offending colleagues? Does a profession that is based on power and authority know how to properly wield it?

Consider other industries. My wife works in the long-term care industry. Oftentimes, incidents of negligence or abuse send ripples throughout the entire profession, even to those facilities that were not guilty of bad care.

Back in the 70s and 80s, American car manufacturers were losing the battle to better-made cars from foreign companies. It was widely known that the imports were just better and lasted longer. So the American companies as a whole made some serious commitments to better quality, and the result has been increased confidence in buying a Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler product.

The law enforcement industry is at a similar crossroad. It is not enough to say that most cops are good cops. This is true. But the burden of proof lies with law enforcement to demonstrate that it “gets it” and is willing to take the necessary steps “industry”-wide to hire better, train better, and discipline the ranks better.

The law enforcement profession has a problem. I pray they know this and will take the necessary steps to build trust and confidence.

For the perspective of an African-American friend of mine, see my recent post.

Thoughts from an African-American friend on George Floyd, race in America

Darnell Phillip is a friend of mine, an African-American man. On Tuesday, the day after the murder of George Floyd, he posted these thoughts. This is raw, fresh, and real. At the time, all I could post was the words, “thank you.” His words have stayed with me throughout the week, even as tensions have mounted. I have tried to stay focused in my mind on the single incident, not wanting the unrest and the riots to dilute my sense of shock and horror of that senseless act. His words have further opened my eyes; I truly do not know what it’s like to be a black man in America. I asked if I could share his words, and he agreed. I want all of us to begin to see through the eyes of others.

If you comment, please keep your comments related to his thoughts. If you bring up the riots and how they may or may not discredit or minimize the racial injustice, I will delete your comment. This is not the place to discuss that.

Darnell

“Today has just been a gut wrenching day. I’m reminded of every time that I have been pulled over by police or questioned by a position in authority. I am reminded that no one had to teach me coping mechanisms of how not to appear to be a threat. I am reminded of how I have changed my body language, altered my tone, dressed differently, or walked to the other side of the street as to give you space and made you comfortable. And why do I do these things? Because this nation has taught black men that the consequences of not doing them can be deadly.

“I think of the ways that we have explained it, the lengths we have gone to demand a voice and a place within this society. When we held back our hand and refused to adopt methods of violence, we were hosed and assassinated. When we decided that we must stand up for ourselves by any means necessary, We were vilified and assassinated. We were ridiculed for kneeling during the star spangled banner when no one else would seek change.

“I remember the ways that my hands gripped the wheel each time I drove through long sections of Southern states anxious that I may have a tail light out and a reason to be pursued. And I could comfort myself with the notion that the South is the only region that I would need to avoid. The South has been the epicenter of black suffering and trauma the effects of which are still prevalent today. But that would only be a delusion. These stories of murder at the hands of those sworn to protect us hail from NYC, Baltimore, Minnesota, as well as New Orleans, Ferguson, Florida and too many other places to name. The fact is that this is an American problem. Not a regional thing. Or a blue or red thing. Or a religious thing.

“The most disheartening thing that I experience is people who claim ‘well, we were not there and it’s easy to make a judgment about a video but you don’t know what he did to provoke that kind of attention.’ Or the way that people will scour a black victims social media to find anything that would suggest that he deserved to die. It sickens me when I think that white supremacists have been arrested after killing in cold blood American citizens while black men have been murdered in broad daylight without resisting arrest. I have no easy answers for those who want to help. There are no convenient ways that we as Americans can begin to set right what is so broken within our own society. It’d be so easy for our conscience to donate to a fund because in our own detached way we could convince ourselves that we were in an active role for seeking change. POC don’t need saviors (in any non-religious sense), but we certainly could use allies. People brace enough to speak up and admit that enough is enough. We won’t have any solutions until we can admit what we as a society have done wrong. Can you see America putting down its pride long enough to make that kind of restitution? Right now to be completely honest it doesn’t seem likely. However, I have been encouraged by the people who have asked I wanted someone to vent to or asked how we can help.”