THE POLICE AND THE COMMUNITY : TRUST CANNOT BE ONLY ONE WAY

1 Ron JohnsonFerguson protesters

Without ^^ this (captain Ron Johnson at Ferguson) we get this ^

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Because of the events that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri, and aggravated by protests all across the nation, proposals for reform of police practices have arisen loudly enough to command our attention. Some proposals make sense; others do not.

The Ferguson events make clear that its police and the citizenry distrust one another profoundly. The Michael Brown matter should never have happened. A policeman who didn’t view his patrol as an mass of fear and danger would probably not have sassed Brown the way a prison guard barks at an inmate. Had Brown not acquired a distinct dislike of police, he probably would not have responded as recklessly as he did.

We have all seen the vidclips; seen the militarily-geared Ferguson police treat protesters as the enemy; seen them wreak war on peaceful citizens and on the media — a foolish move, and one that went far to put all police forces at odds with citizens. It is not surprising that we, the citizens, now demand that police practices reform big-time.

The President has suggested that police forces no longer arm themselves with military gear. that seems common sense to me. Just as our Armed Forces may not be deployed for police duty, so should police should not be outfitted as Armed Forces.

Unhappily, many police forces face criminals who are also armed militarily. Our utterly unjustified “Second amendment” chickens have come home to roost. We cannot have 310 million guns, of all kinds, loosely on the streets, with no public safety controls, as the NRA and its hate-mongers demand, without forcing police to take up even stronger arms. The police of no other first world country face anything like the gun mania that holds much of America in thrall. Police in many European nations went about, until recently, completely unarmed. Terrorism has changed that, yet even now European police hardly ever look like the 101st Airborne Division, as do many American police forces.

Thus the President’s suggestion — and I repeat that it’s a good one — cannot advance unless at the same time the nation moves to collapse the trafficking in guns and ammo that infects so much of this nation.

Other suggestions make no sense at all. Of these, I especially object to body cameras for police people. If we ask the police to trust the community they sleeve — and we should and must ask this — then likewise the community must trust the police. It’s not a one way street.

Which brings us to the real issue in all this : racism. I don’t buy the mantra that most police are racists. but I do buy that they see a lot of Black crime. The number one cause of death among young Black men is murder. Black men have a very hard time in America, almost no matter who they are; can we blame them if they become angry about it ? I’m glad they get angry about it. But their anger often infects every other Black man’s life with danger, real and present danger..

The police see this going on and, because police are trained to be suspicious of things going on, they draw the conclusion that all Black men must be seen as suspects. It’s a wrong conclusion to draw, and often a deadly one, but it’s not a senseless conclusion for police to make, given the violence that murders so much of Black America.

The best trained police forces understand that the violence they deal does not inure to being Black and male; that it arises from poverty and racism; and that it cannot simply be policed out of existence. The best police forces have many Black oficers on staff, even Black captains and supervisors. And this is a reform that is in our power to make successfully. The mayor of Ferguson now promises to make his city’s police force representative of a community that is 70 percent Black.

That won’t be the sole answer, but it will build mutual trust between police and people. On that, all else in police work utterly depends.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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