Both Sides Of The Police Debate Have True And Faux Points

Both Sides Of The Police Debate Have True And Faux Points

Rhetoric is used on both sides of the aisle.
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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.

Cover Image Credit: Boing Boing

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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It's Hard To Stay Friends With A Kavanaugh-Lover, But It's Possible

Or hater.

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If you don't have your head buried in the sand these days, it's impossible not to realize how viscerally raw most people's political emotions are. And unless you live in a bubble, you likely have friends or family who have very different political beliefs with you. If you want to cut off those relationships, read no further. But if you view your relationships more T. D. Jakes style—"I like to see myself as a bridge builder, that is, me building bridges between people […], between politics, trying to find common ground"—then play on.

Before beginning a conversation with a politically-differing friend, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself: what aspects of their life might have influenced them in this way? Accept that you just don't know what their experiences have been like. Maybe your gun-supporting friend had her house traumatically burglarized when she was quite young; maybe your friend who believes the government should solve all our problems was only able to get hot lunches at school because of government aid. View it as a thought experiment if you will: imagine a sympathetic reason (rather than a judgment-worthy reason) that your friend has this differing viewpoint.

We have two ears and one mouth. Ask them questions and then genuinely listen. As humans, we often listen to respond, not to understand. Try to understand without demonizing or judging your friend. David Livingstone Smith, author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others, said that when we dehumanize or demonize others, it acts as: "a psychological lubricant, dissolving our inhibitions and inflaming our destructive passions. As such, it empowers us to perform acts that would, under other circumstances, be unthinkable." Try to accept that your friend's point of view—no matter how much you disagree with it—is (in their eyes) just as valid as your own. Your goal is to listen first, persuade later, argue rarely (or never).

It's not about you. Your friend's support of Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court means just that: they think he should have been confirmed. Or if they are angry that he got confirmed, it means just that: they think he should have not been confirmed at the time. Use our earlier thought experiment: perhaps the supporter found fault in the accusations against Kavanaugh or genuinely viewed it as a false accusation, and (whether that happened here or not), we can agree a false accusation is concerning. It doesn't necessarily mean that they think the assault he was accused of is okay—perhaps they think any form of sexual assault is utterly appalling and should never be tolerated, but just didn't happen here. Your friend's view is not personal to you, no matter how personal it may feel.

There's a difference between supporting a politician and supporting an action. If your family member voted for Trump, that doesn't mean they support his personal behavior. (If they DO—that's a different story.) It's like watching Lady Bird (great movie) and someone saying that means you think all children should treat their mother like Lady Bird treats hers. The two could be equated but aren't necessarily. Have you ever gone to the theaters and seen a movie that had elements you didn't agree with or like? The same can be said for politics.

If it seems appropriate, when they are done sharing and seem receptive to conversation, share why you may disagree with them. Times to NOT share: if they are angry or closed off. (Observe both their words and their body language. If their voice was raised or their arms are crossed, not the time.) If they just shared something vulnerable with you (eg. they are vehemently pro-choice because they've been assaulted and got an abortion), now is not the time.

Remember, your goal is not to argue, but to listen and then to persuade. If they're not in a place where they can listen to you being persuasive—then let it go and try again some other time.

When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game. However—sometimes you shouldn't always maintain these relationships. Politicians your friends support don't necessarily fully reflect who your friends are, but political views are an aspect of who they are. To use the above analogy: when you see a movie at the theater, you are supporting it. Even if you disagree with it and warn your friends away, you still paid for the ticket.

And sometimes you don't. Understand when you need to disengage. It's okay to have some things you can talk about civilly and rationally and some things that you just can't. If my friend thinks communism is the way to go, for example, I am able to speak respectfully and rationally about it. But if a person tries to support child abuse, I absolutely cannot have a conversation with them where I try to understand where they're coming from and listen to them without telling them how wrong they are. It's okay to have some topics that mean so much to you that you can't engage with all of them or respect every differing point of view.

When you win, be gracious. And lastly, if you supported Kavanaugh, your friends who opposed his quick confirmation are crushed right now. It's okay if you think that's silly or not a big deal. But go back to the first point: put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if some political issue you felt really strongly about was dealt a crushing blow? You'd want the people on the winning side to be gracious, or try to understand, or at least not rub it in. Maybe you didn't like how the situation unfolded, but your guy's in now. Think of the golden rule and be kind to your friends who are struggling with this.

Just remember:

"Be sure when you step—step with care and great tact. And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft—and never mix up your right foot with your left."
Dr. Seuss.

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