Reform policing, now

If you want to understand why black people in America are mad and fed up with policing read on. Most likely it’s because of the random, unnecessary nature of police’s interaction with the African-American community. Every day you can find examples of how police without any reason whatsoever interject themselves into the life of America’s black citizens. Even when police are dispatched to look for and apprehend normal, known criminals police will avoid doing that when they come across black citizens and begin a level of interaction that makes it clear to all involved they consider a black skinned individual a criminal who must explain to the satisfaction of the officer standing in front of them why he is occupying a particular space at a particular time. Why they are standing in front of a place or in a store; why they are sitting behind the wheel of a car; why they are walking or running on a particular sidewalk and on and on. Those civilians who are lucky can come away from such encounters unscathed, without being fined, their lives intact so to speak and free to live another day. There are some unlucky ones who when innocently minding their own business when confronted by police die or are killed. In such instances, asking for police reform is the least a society should do in order to ensure police’s contact with citizens doesn’t result in unnecessary death or injury to all parties involved.

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be addressed is the issue of profiling and why police automatically assume black skinned Americans are criminally inclined. This presumption of guilt or that something must be wrong is inbred in policing where there is an us against them mentality taught at the beginning of one’s police experience. That gets elevated when the variable of skin pigmentation is added in the mix between the two parties. No recent example underscores this dynamic of police naturally assuming pigmentation corresponds to guilt or innocence than this example out of Ohio where 60-year-old Eric Lindsay was confronted by police on suspicion of shoplifting.

If you watched the video you might be able to understand his outrage at being approached by the officer. Being black and experienced in how to get around in black skin you probably heard Lindsay refer to seeing the police enter the store BEFORE he did and if they were looking for someone based on a description given to the police BEFORE they entered then it couldn’t possibly be him. You probably saw him look warily at the approaching officer and how he responded to ‘take your hands out of your pockets’. The very command is akin to a threat. No doubt you heard the certainty in his voice when he said he would sue because he knew he did nothing wrong. That was not an empty threat. If you watched the video you probably heard that the description of the shoplifter was that he was young and white. The police had no business approaching Lindsay at all, so why did they?

Who is the greater threat in this encounter? Lindsay has gone on to sue the police department and he should win. Are the citizens of that town helped by the fact that a police department will have to pay a large sum of money to a plaintiff because their officers mistook a black 60 year old man for a white, male 30 something shoplifter? Will they understand the reason for increased taxes because of arcane and illegal policing practices performed by their officers who are sworn to serve and protect?

America is a mature democracy. It’s been around for a long time and with age should come wisdom and responsible practices in how people in society should deal with one another. If one can’t leave their personal prejudices aside during the performance of their duties as a law enforcement officer or find the stress of the job clouds their better judgement, they shouldn’t be police officers. If one is driven by an American age old prejudice to naturally assume people of color need to be reigned in, controlled, monitored, profiled, dispensed with judiciously because of their skin color, then they shouldn’t be police officers. America must do better than this or else more citizens will be brutalized by police and the trust of the community at large towards police will continue to erode into a toxic cauldron of violence and mayhem. That’s really not a choice, so do better America. Reform policing.

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