Police Brutality and Riots
No one can escape the onslaught of coverage about the riots in Baltimore just turn on any news station and there will be coverage about some city seeing an outbreak of protest from citizens over some police incident. It is easy for people to sit back and judge the protesters, and it is also easy to call the police brutalizers who harass people of color. This issue, (like any issue) is not answered by simply stating that the rioters are violent thugs, or that the police are evil and they are out to get people of color. What needs to happen is to find out what the root problem is. The problem, the causes and the solutions are not simple and they are not always going to be popular, but maybe if people listen to each other, it might help find a solution to the problem. Since the protestors are not going away, and neither is police brutality and it is time to recognize the problem instead of ignoring it.
First, when a new elected official takes office, people voted them in with a mandate for some sort of change. When New York voted in Bill De Blasio, the voters were wanting more action to be taken against the police who had shot and killed a man named Eric Garner, who was also unarmed when he was apprehended. The public had grown tired of what they saw as police brutality and Blasio was voted in to change all of this. Well, as people found out, causing a real change in the political spectrum is not an easy task. Yes, De Blasio did pass some laws (10 million in subsidies for homeless families and opening a pre-kindergarten for 4 year olds), but De Blasio who promised to crack down on police violence was suddenly meeting up with police union members because a man from Baltimore shot and killed two police offers because of how much he hated cops. De Blasio has not done as much on this issue as he promised New York voters he would on this issue. But, with police unions breathing down his neck, how can he make real changes, when those changes might alienate some potential donators (Jaffe, 2015).
Someone did a study on this problem and how its effects. First, the article showed how many misdemeanor acts have been committed by the police and what kind of punishments they face. From Springer Science & Business Media,
“April 2009 and June 2010. During this time, there were 5,986 reports of misconduct, 382 fatalities linked to misconduct, settlements and judgments that totaled $347,455,000, and 33 % of misconduct cases that went through to convictions and 64 % of misconduct cases that received prison sentences. The average length of time convicted officers spent in prison was 14 months” (Chaney & Robertson, 2013).
Think about that, there are people who get caught smoking pot who do about the same amount of (1 year compared to 14 months) time in jail than one of the police officers who was punished for police brutality (Clarke, 2015).
When some police officers do commit these horrible acts, it will have an effect on their image with the public, or the community they are serving. This can cause mistrust and fear among the citizens if they see the police force not as the protectors of the community, but as a threat to their liberty and to their safety. From Springer Science and Business Media, “The “contempt for law enforcement” theme was indicative of individuals who used words and/or phrases that represents their disdain (dislike) for law enforcement” (Chaney & Robertson, 2013). The man who shot the two police offers in New York was yelling “I HATE COPS!” That kind of fear and paranoia can cause a lot of harm to a community.
But, for the people who are support the riots, remember that if you think you are the victim of oppression, destroying other people’s business and property will not help your cause, it will make things worse. The reason why a lot of people riot is simple, they feel like the cops are not helping and they feel like they have no voice, so they create one with brute force. They want people in authority to listen to them and they are tired of no one listening. The problem is that when you destroy other people’s property, they are not going to be on your side. When people see smashed cars and buildings with broken windows, a lot of people are going to get the wrong impression and the protestors will lose support for the cause. Some people have said that rioting like this will get results, but do people remember the Rodney King incident? There was riots over that and sadly nothing got accomplished. Even if it did, as Martin Luther King once said, from American Press: Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible” (Press, 2015). If the people protesting are trying to say that they will stoop to the level of the people who they deem as the “oppressor” then they will send mixed messages to the middle of the road people who are on the fence about this issue.
All of that being said, how do we address these issues? Riots don’t work, 20+ years after the LA riots because of the Rodney King beating and nothing changed in the police department. Quiet protest have not worked, so what are people going to do to fix this problem? Here are some solutions that might work:
1: Don’t assume all cops are like the few bad apples. If you see a cop who is harassing or hurting someone for no reason, tell an honest cop that you know. If that does not work, go up the ladder until someone does listen and if that does not work, go to a local newspaper or news station. Because they want a big news story that will sell papers or get viewers on the TV.
2: Try to appeal to the people who are on the fences by appealing to their self-interest. Tell the business owners to think about how much business they will lose if their city gets a bad reputation for having a corrupt police force. Appeal to the church leaders in your community by telling them that the people’s moral will be hurt by all of the unnecessary violence and crimes that are committed against innocent civilians.
3: If someone is arrested, don’t just assume that they were wrongfully accused of a crime. For every injustice that happens because of police misconduct, there are people who do commit crimes and do not want to go to jail. Therefore, some police officers are left with no choice but to take brute force just to try and curb the situation from getting worse.
4: Unite people, a lot of times people don’t think that their neighbors and community will be on their side. That is not always the case, have a town hall gathering and invite people to hear about the problem that needs to be addressed so the community can get back to normality. Tell personal stories and gather evidence that shows that there are some cops who are giving the police force a bad name. Tell them that a corrupt police force will hurt your community morally and economically.
5: If the situation gets out of hand, stand up and speak out against the situation. Then get people to see that if a problem is not solved, it will only get worse and escalate over time.
6: Have the police wear a camera; why not? It would prove without a shadow of a doubt what happened instead of a he said, she said instead, the camera can capture the whole incident.
For people who support the police (or work for the police):
1: Don’t be silent; if something bad happens at a police department, don’t think that it is wrong to turn in a police officer who has abused their position. Stop treating the police department like some sort of secret fraternity. The police are funded by the tax payers and if the police are abusing their power, the taxpayers deserve to know if they are pay rolling someone who should not be on the pay roll.
2: Don’t always assume the police are innocent; that goes for the people who support the riots, the worst thing someone can do is jump to conclusions and make assumptions about the situation. Always, ALWAYS get the facts before making any judgment on the situation.
3: Try to tell the rioters that you are on their side. Tell the rioters that you are listening to their demands and that the only thing that people should worry about is solving the problem. Do not dismiss their needs because it could turn out to be a real problem.
4: Don’t demonize the protestors; even if they are doing things that you do not approve of, remember, these are people’s daughters, sons, cousins, wives, husbands, etc. Get to know these people on a personal level and try to make some friends and see what they are so upset.
These are just some suggestions, but it might go a long way in healing the damage that a corrupt police force and the protestors who are rioting are doing to local communities. For the people who feel oppressed, there are media outlets to help get the story out about the corruption that does go on in some police districts. For the police; don’t ignore the problems that the people in the communities that the police swore to protect, are under attack and a lot of the people feel helpless, and they will lash out in violent ways as a last resort to get people to notice their plight. Riots don’t work anymore, and neither does ignoring the problem, talking, listening, and learning might work this time. Educating people on the problem might be the best way to go in this modern day and age.
Chaney, C., & Robertson, R. (2013). Springer Science+Business Media. Racism and Police Brutality in America, 28. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.indianapolis.libproxy.ivytech.edu.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=1c20bde0-deb7-448d-bac4-9adef4e8165b%40sessionmgr4002&vid=29&hid=4109
Clarke, P. (2015). Legal Match. Federal Marijuana Laws, 1. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/federal-marijuana-laws.html
INC., A. P. (n.d.). American Press INC.
Jaffe, S. (2015). The Nation. Can A progressive govern New York City?, 3. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.thenation.com/article/195681/tale-one-city
Press, A. (2015). American Press. The Streets of Baltimore, 2. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.indianapolis.libproxy.ivytech.edu.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=1c20bde0-deb7-448d-bac4-9adef4e8165b%40sessionmgr4002&vid=5&hid=4109