With two recent killings of black men by police and a mass shooting of police by a black man, the conversation of police brutality is back on the table in America. You have groups such as Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter arguing two very different things. The truth is, the propaganda and rhetoric is rampant on both sides.
Black Lives Matter is a group created after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. They have brought the conversation of police brutality into the national spotlight and advocate for police reform. Although Black Lives Matter has created a conversation in this country that needs to be had, it makes some questionable claims.
For example, on its website the group claims that every 28 hours a black man, woman or child is killed by a police officer or some other form of law enforcement. Police departments are not required to submit this data to the federal government, so anybody claiming they know how many people die at the hands of the police should be met with skepticism. However, the Washington Post has been taking a tally and around this time last year, 155 black people were killed by police out of 607 total. That is not nearly one every 28 hours.
Also, less than one-tenth of that total was unarmed, 24 being black. It is important to differentiate between “murder” and “killing.” To murder someone means to kill someone with a malicious intent. A police officer ending the life of someone who has a weapon, in fear for their own life, should not be considered a “murderer” and that person shouldn’t be considered to have been murdered. Yes, 607 people killed by police is a lot, but 85 percent of them were armed. That makes a difference.
That being said, the idea that police officers are murderers runs through the website. On the “National Demand’s” page, for example, they called for the immediate arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. A grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to indict Darren Wilson. Actually, the grand jury found that Michael Brown did in fact try to grab the officer's gun, so Darren was acting in self-defense. Even though a grand jury decided not to prosecute him, Black Lives Matter still wants him arrested.
Overturning the rule of law is a very, very dangerous way to win reform. The people asking for this violation of the rule of law are the ones who should be absolutely against it. You started a movement to protest against the disrespect of rule of law for your own people (that black people are being arrested and unfairly treated by police) and to fix that you’re going to overturn the rule of law for someone else? That makes no sense and completely shatters your argument. Also, police shooting black people isn’t just a matter of prejudice. Roughly 29 percent of Americans killed by the police are black, but so are about 42 percent of cop killers whose race is known.
With all this being said, something still needs to be done. This level of police violence is unique to the United States. In 2013, England and Wales had virtually zero deaths at the hands of police. The Black Lives Matter movement would argue for less police in minority neighborhoods and put that money into improving the community. However, these communities do not need less policing. These people desperately need the police. It should not be considered a right-wing talking point that far more black people are killed by other black people than police officers. What these communities need are less-confrontational, less-institutionally racist policing.
First, America needs to fix its gun problem. Police have to be more careful because there are more guns on the streets of America. In 2014, 46 cops were shot dead and the year before that 52,000 were assaulted. Cops being shot is also unique to the United States. Simple fixes like universal background checks, preventing people with restraining orders filed against them from getting guns, and banning assault rifles could be a huge help. With fewer guns on the streets, cops will be less confrontational.
Second, police precincts need to be more transparent. As of right now, police precincts do not have to report to the federal government how many people died at the hands of their officers. This needs to be changed. Reporting this information would give the federal government a better picture of how many people actually die due to police action and locate where it is unusually high. The federal government could also locate where it is unusually low, find out why that is, and use that information to help other cities. Body cameras should be put on all officers to help both sides. If a body camera was on Darren Wilson, we would all have immediately knew what happened.
Third, police need to be held more accountable. It needs to be easier to fire bad cops. Many of the 12,500 local police departments are tiny and interdisciplinary panels consisting of three fellow officers, one of which can even be appointed by the officer under investigation. If a cop is accused of a crime, the decision of whether to indict him lays with the prosecutor who often works closely with the police, attends barbecues with them, and depends on the support of the police union if he/she wants to be reelected. To be held accountable, complaints should be held by independent arbiters who are brought in from the outside.
Lastly, and hardest, is reversing the militarization of the police. Too many officers see their job as a war on criminals and too many poor neighborhoods see their streets occupied by police. There needs to be more training and less weaponry. A good start would be for the Pentagon to stop handing out military kits to neighborhood police.
In 1980, the amount of raids done by high-security SWAT teams was 3,000 per year and that number has climbed to 50,000 a year, yet crime has fallen over the same period. Police precincts need to understand that their job is less about settling violence but more about social work. In the era of relatively low crime which we are experiencing today, cops are needed more to settle domestic disputes such as house-egging, rather than violent crimes.
Force is also used in low-level offenders. At least half of all Americans shot and killed by police each year are mentally ill. Police officers also spend a lot of time dealing with drug addicts and the enforcement of civil penalties against people who have not paid motoring fines or child support. Such people are not killers or rapists, yet cops often treat everyone as a threat.
Changes are being made. Sue Rahr, the director of Washington state’s police academy, says, “When you approach a situation like RoboCop, you’re going to create hostility that wasn’t there before.” Since 2012, Washington State’s training has emphasized that people can be persuaded to obey commands, not just forced to. Military-style drills have also been ditched.
Ideas like this need to be made in police precincts across the nations. Training police officers to properly adjust to today’s crime climate is a win for individual freedom and we the people. Once again, society works better when people are generally left to their own devices...not living in a police state.