Police In America: Friend Or Foe?

Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.
Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.

In the middle of my morning regimen -- which consists of browsing news articles online and playing piano -- I kept running across something I found disturbing: law enforcement related violence. Since I'm going to be talking at length about those that uphold the law, forgive me if I repeat words you'll hear in a court room such as, "allegedly" and "reportedly."

It seemed like every other story was about someone being injured, shot or killed by the police. I saw a story about police reportedly chasing a 10-year-old boy with their guns drawn because he matched the description of a robbery suspect. Allegedly, the child's basketball rolled into the street leading into an encounter with police. The next one was about a deaf mute man that was reportedly shot to death by police. Allegedly, the man was trying to communicate with a state trooper with his hands when he was shot just outside of his vehicle. Then the latest, a man who called the police when someone attempted to carjack his wife at their home. Upon their arrival he ends up getting a bullet in the torso. In a statement the police said, "it was a very tragic, unfortunate situation that happened this morning."

The substance of the word "justified" is becoming diluted. Accidental shooting? Justified. Wrong suspect? Justified. And it's very commonly followed by "pending investigation" or "administrative leave."

In their defense, the majority of cases involving law enforcement using lethal force are justified. When you hear about the police shooting an armed and violent suspect, it's justified. But the substance of the word "justified" is becoming diluted. Accidental shooting? Justified. Wrong suspect? Justified. And it's very commonly followed by "pending investigation" or "administrative leave."

Today, I made a post on social media about the three events that reportedly happened within the last week. I had a friend comment and ask, "in your opinion, what solution do you have that would end police brutality and over escalated use of force?" The answer seemed so simple to me that it scared me. My response was a small list consisting of these ideas.

  • Hands on community policing/making police work their own neighborhoods.
  • Revamped less-than-lethal arms training.
  • Extensive training to deal with people with mental health issues.
  • An incentive program for police that point out the bad apples.
  • Scrutinizing every filed complaint on an officer no matter how ridiculous.
  • Body cams that can't be powered off that are placed somewhere on the body where the view can't accidentally be obstructed.
  • Longer class times for BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training), not just a few weeks/months.

If you don't resist...just comply...shouldn't have been running

To me it seems simple enough, but there's this divide in America when it comes to the police. You've got those who think police practices and policies are fine just the way they are. You know the type of people I'm speaking of. The ones who say things like, "if you don't resist...just comply...shouldn't have been running," etc. Somehow in their minds that summarily justifies what many would call an execution at the hands of those sworn to serve and protect you. You've got another group of folks, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, who want police to be held accountable for the undeniably disproportionate killing of unarmed black people versus other racial demographics. The last is usually those that say, "all lives matter". In my personal experience, these people are regularly quiet when a white person has the same injustices done to them that are done to a person of color. But the moment when a black person dies they scream out, "all lives matter" and start bringing up black-on-black violence as a counter argument.

But enough about race. Where did this culture of what seems to be trigger happy "shoot first, ask questions later" police come from? Why is seeing someone being killed by the police on a news chryon the norm now? Have we become that desensitized to the loss of human life? Have we become so quick to judge that we fail to realize that some of these "victims" were actually guilty? Or on the other end of that spectrum fail to realize that some these "criminals" are actually victims?

The fact of the matter is, there needs to be an overhaul on the entire United States law enforcement system. It is flawed, it's dangerous and it can kill you. When we're losing more U.S. citizens at the hands of police than we are at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's a problem. When foreign nations are issuing travel advisories telling their people to exercise extreme caution in "their interactions with the police," it's a problem. These things hit closer to home for me not just because I'm black. Not just because of where I grew up. But because of personal experiences that have deeply affected me and I still carry with me to this day.

I've dealt with the police on many occasions. They haven't always been great experiences. I've had more than my fair share of legal troubles. Almost all were due to my own irresponsibility and actions. Keyword: almost. I've been roughed up on more than one occasion. The worst was when I had a member of the law enforcement community place me in a choke-hold, spray a can of OC into my eyes, then literally put a cocked pistol to the back of my head. This wasn't on the street or in some back alley. This was at a place of business I regularly attended in front of several dozen witnesses consisting of my friends and strangers. I don't know what bothered me the most: having my pride broken as a man or knowing for once I did absolutely nothing wrong to provoke it. I'm not going too far telling you that I could have easily been killed. And if you will, imagine three phrases you would have heard if I would have tried to defend myself.


"Pending investigation."

"Administrative leave."

We are members of a broken system that needs to be learned from, reviewed and renewed. A lot of people have the unfortunate burden of not understanding the importance of this until it happens to them. Because in reality, it can happen to you.

Take my word for it.