When I was growing up, I watched shows like Dragnet, Adam 12, The Rookies and Mod Squad. I grew up believing that police officers are heroes. And, in many cases they have been. That’s one reason that being made more aware of police brutality against African Americans, Native Americans and others of a non-white skin hue has been so disturbing. Where are those heroes? Why are police so angry and over-the-top violent? Why are they so afraid?
When my daughter, Amber, was alive and in junior high, she had to take a D.A.R.E. class. She was excited. She, like me, believed police were heroes. That class taught her, and others, about the dangers of drug abuse, and how to avoid using violence in conflicts, among other things. She was so proud to graduate from the course and get her T-shirt.
If police departments and community leaders believe it is so important to teach children how to negotiate and use words instead of violence, why are there so many situations where police resort to violence over even minor disturbances? Why can’t they use the tactics that are taught in D.A.R.E. themselves, instead of violently slamming young girls to the ground for non-compliance? I have seen many people state unequivocally that the only thing people need to do is comply with police orders and there would be no problem. But, why should a police officer be allowed to demand unwavering obedience and then be sanctioned to meet resistance with brutality? That is not what trained adults should be doing with our children. Is it? That is what domestic abusers do. You say no to an abusive parent and you get attacked.
From D.A.R.E.’s own website it says: D.A.R.E. envisions a world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.
So, how are police modeling respect for others, and steering clear of violence?
Another quote from the D.A.R.E. website states — The safety and health of children is the highest priority of the D.A.R.E. program. No one deserves to be the victim of bullying.
And, again I ask, how is the police system in our nation modeling this? Perhaps there are officers who need to take the D.A.R.E. courses themselves. I don’t know what the answer is to stop the rise of police violence against certain groups of people, mainly those who are not white.
Yes, there are wonderful, heroic police officers all over the country. There are police who do make a difference, who do care. When the church where I work was burglarized, the police were extremely helpful and have been wonderful to work with. I appreciate everything they do.
But, in order to uphold the status of heroism, police have got to begin respecting all people, and if they have issues with hating people of non-white skin, then they shouldn’t be allowed to have such sensitive jobs and access to firearms and the authority of the municipality. No cities should have racists representing them as police officers. Police are sworn to serve and protect, not just some people. Who is going to protect minorities from the police if the police cannot be trusted to properly interact with them? As I’ve said before, every person of color I know has stories of police harassment, and these friends of mine are not thugs or criminals. They are citizens who deserve respect.
I don’t know what all of the answers are, but things will only change if we demand that they do. So, we all have to hold our police departments accountable. When they commit crimes against citizens, they need to be prosecuted and properly punished, not given vacations. Police work is stressful, but, that is no excuse for unbridled violence. I was in the Army, and when I was put on guard duty, against terrorists who had done many acts of violence, I was given magazine rounds wrapped in plastic. The reason they were so wrapped, I was told, is to keep us from panicking, slamming in magazines and firing on people without thought. It seemed silly at the time. After the guard shift was over, you had to account for every single bullet. If one was missing, that was cause for a full investigation. The last thing the Army wanted was for a guard to get scared and accidentally shoot a citizen.
If the Army was that careful with what it allowed its guards to do, knowing that they could have been targets of hostile violence, why can’t police departments be that vigilant?
I only pray that things improve in the future, but I don’t think they will until people in our country feel as if even the lives of black and brown people matter as much as the lives of white folks, and those dressed in blue. Police officers get paid to take risks and are trained to deal with threats. Perhaps the training needs to be better about when to respond with violence, and when other tactics can be used. But, nevertheless, it’s the job of police to protect the populace and they can’t do that if they are the threat instead of the protection. I D.A.R.E. police to learn peaceful ways of de-escalating situations without immediately turning to violence.
To read about what D.A.R.E. stands for, click here: D.A.R.E.