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Why #BlackLivesMatter July 15, 2016

Posted by federalist in Government, Social Politics.
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4 comments

First they came for the blacks, and I did not speak out – because I was not black.

The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement is about two problems: racism and policing.  Critics of BLM confuse themselves by addressing questions of racism when they should really be focusing on what race is revealing about the police.

Nobody denies that as a subpopulation black Americans are disproportionately violent and criminal.  Based on that observation, it is not unreasonable to expect that proper law enforcement will have a disproportionate effect on black Americans.

But BLM isn’t about statistics.  It’s about individuals, and the dignity that every American deserves at the hands of public servants.  And it’s a warning about the kinds of people who are allowed to work as police officers, and the kind of behavior that is tolerated within their ranks.

We know that there are people who, when given the opportunity, will exploit authority for sadistic pleasure.  These sadists will for their own amusement harass, humiliate, torture, and even kill others.  Law enforcement fosters precisely the circumstances that attract and facilitate such sadistic behavior.  BLM is trying to alert us to the widespread institutional failures to address and control such police behavior.

BLM is the canary in the coal mine.  The black subpopulation will be the first to detect a culture of police brutality and corruption, and will suffer its effects most severely.  But every American is at risk when police are given institutional protection to abuse their authority.  BLM critics shouldn’t assume that the “bad apples” in law enforcement only harass black criminals, or that collateral damage is limited to upstanding black citizens who should understand that racial profiling is an unfortunate but necessary evil in our effort to maintain law and order.

Sadistic police can and do target all citizens.  One can readily find daily accounts of abuses perpetrated by virtually unaccountable police cowards hiding behind their fellow officers, their union, and the qualified immunity enjoyed by government agents.

All those who offer unqualified support for this police institution must understand that they share culpability for every incident in which an officer harasses, tortures, or unjustly kills a citizen.  They should also realize that, no matter their race or social status, they could be the next victim of police brutality.

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Whom Do Police Protect and Serve? July 9, 2016

Posted by federalist in Government, Social Politics, Unions.
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2 comments

Police should be held to a higher standard. And they should hold themselves to a higher standard.

Every day there are beautiful stories of police who exercise admirable restraint or go the extra mile to help people in their communities. But those are overshadowed by daily stories of police who abuse their authority and their fellow citizens, and who only rarely face consequences befitting their crimes.

Pro-police rhetoric in the United States has become detached from reality. When five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas, a national police union renewed its insistence that there is a “war on police.” Politicians lauded the “difficult and dangerous work” of community policing. Never mind that by any objective measure police do not face exceptional risks. (In fact, citizens are far more likely to be murdered just by residing in dangerous cities than by working as police.)

The reality is that it is police who seem to have been escalating a war on Americans. The government has declined legislative mandates to track police assaults, but independent projects have found increasing numbers of police homicides: In recent years police have killed more than a hundred citizens every month.

When cops hurt or kill citizens, they hide behind the blue line of their fellow law enforcement officers, their union, and the shield of the government. Personal accountability for egregious misconduct is astonishingly rare.

Many demagogues reflexively refer to police as “heroes.” Police should not be lauded as heroic merely for taking the job. Heroes are people who display courage, bravery, or nobility. An officer who uses deadly force against a person who is not immediately threatening the lives of others is not a hero. Police who resort to excessive violence because they know that, thanks to their office and colleagues, they can get away with it are cowards.

Police who can’t put on a badge and gun every day without also donning an “us versus them” mindset against the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve should simply quit their job. We don’t need police who cravenly exploit their office to harass or kill.  We need police who will risk their own lives to save the lives of the citizens they have sworn to protect and serve.