Who Will Police Our Police?

I woke up today to headlines of Baltimore in flames.  A major American city needed more resources than the mayor could – or wanted to – provide, and the state Governor fell back on the National Guard.  My reaction?  A total lack of surprise. While I attempt to remain apolitical here and equivocate on most things, or just hate politics and politicians equally, this sticks in my skin like a splinter.  I’ve watched Ferguson coverage, and I’ve seen the Scott story from North Carolina.  Still, I’m not surprised.  All of it reminded me of the Rodney King incident and the Los Angeles riots in the early ’90’s.  Even then, I felt no surprise at how one incident could unravel a city so fast.

I could direct blame at a lot of different people or problems here.  We’ve still got that nasty racism problem in America, that’s obvious.  We’ve got some elected officials who have no idea what they’re doing, but that’s another problem as old as racism.  The mainstream media don’t help much by fanning the flames of anger and outrage until they explode into violence.

I thought to myself that it’s beyond explanation that any police force in this country would not stop and review their internal policies and attitudes.  And that thought made me pause.  That thought gets closer to the problem, doesn’t it?

We joke about the feeling of fear we experience when a police car zips up behind us with lights and sirens going.  When they pass on the way to another emergency, we feel relief.  It’s sad, I think, that instead of thinking, “Cool, we’re being protected,” we have a reaction quite the opposite.  These days, a traffic stop can kill you.

The problem we have with our police – local, state and Federal – is a culture problem.  It’s the culture of, “We enforce the laws, we don’t follow them,” that’s the problem.  It’s the notion that they’re immune from scrutiny, above the law they enforce.  Baltimore just illustrates this.  That city is no different than the rest with their enforcer issues.

Who polices the police?  Given the intense media focus, police everywhere ought to wake up and realize they’re being watched, and watched constantly.  Private citizens know the deal – when a cop makes an arrest, it’s probably a good idea to whip out your smartphone and start recording.  You might just get your Andy Warhol Fifteen Minutes.

Who watches those who watch us? 

We do.

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44 Responses to “Who Will Police Our Police?”

  1. The Elite of Just Alright Says:

    I’m going to reappear from the shadows to say this is likely the most logical piece of writing I’ve seen yet on the Baltimore situation. Sadly, most of my generation (the Millennials) lacks the historical context of the Rodney King riots and the other race riots to know this is not an isolated incident and is instead a symptom of a much bigger problem. Educating the Millenials on this context will go a long way towards eradicating racism in America in the coming years.

    Long story short: well done.

    P.S. Going to grad school in NW D.C. starting in August. At some point in the hazy past I promised I’d let you know I do believe.

  2. So on board with you Rant, Canada is not much different just with a different racism style. All that power, whether dictator or a police officer, is a powerful seducer.
    An aside; “That city is unlike the rest with their enforcer issues.” Did you mean “like”?

  3. This one from my own hometown last year. The video made me a little crazy. They aren’t hurting anyone, but they could have. http://www.komonews.com/news/local/State-troopers-caught-ignoring-speeding-cops-278746621.html

  4. Rants- You voice an opinion that sounds oddly similar to how the rest of the world views our military. Not you specifically, of course.

    Elite- you will probably see my kid there year after next. He’s working his way out of high school toward AU’s film school.

    • Undoubtedly, but police and military – normally – operate in two different areas

      • Different area- same attitude.

        But just like with the military, all it takes is a few bad cops to make all cops look bad. Law enforcement is an honorable profession, and the finest of them all will suffer the worst because of incidents like what has been happening in Baltimore. I fear for those policemen as much as I do for the young black men of America.

        As someone who has literally grown up on both sides of this issue, you’d think I’d have a solution to this problem. Sadly, I don’t, except to say that rioting and violence solve nothing. At worst, they convey the incorrect message that what black culture needs is more and tighter control. I guess it’s up to the finest of our next generation to find a solution to this problem.

        Elite, you’re up.

  5. Ugh…I’ve written three comments and deleted all of them. You know to whom I’m married, so I’ll just say ‘good luck’. We are dismayed and disappointed with the riots. It doesn’t have to happen…

    • It shouldn’t, and I’m cognizant that there are a lot of good apples out there in the sea of cop culture. This isn’t an individual person issue, it’s a pervasive attitude problem.

  6. I’ll agree that the police need policing and perhaps updating their practices and training but I’ll be the unpopular one here and just say, this guy was a freaking drug dealer. I have little sympathy for him not breathing. I’m also of the opinion that the police should have used more force to control the rioting. They backed off because they were outnumbered (according to one news report I watched)? If a cop says stop what you’re doing and you don’t, force is called for in a case of rioting. Not necessarily shoot to kill but rubber bullet in the leg would work. Just my opinion.

    • I dislike drug dealers too, but what does it mean when they die in police custody without prior injury? This subverts our Constitution. Cops don’t get to do that. Eric Holder already fucked up enough.

      • I agree there is a problem, I’m just saying if there hadn’t been a crime …

        • Understood. Still, each of us – drug dealers and traffic law violators alike – enjoy protection under the law, regardless of our color, sex, flavor or Raider-fandom.

          • I’m.going.to.rephrase this. You have a child. This happens to him. What next? Now the evidence is sayong that child self.inflicts this, as news is saying… Now what? How do you disprove? What a mess.

          • I can’t help but see how this proves my point.

  7. Black and white aka racism is a distraction in some cases. Blue privilege is the crux. As someone said, if the person shot while unarmed would have not been recorded, a case like that would have been swept under too. I wonder what really happened in MD. Today them, tomorrow me or you…but probably not you.

  8. I agree with you about Smartphones. EVERYONE needs to be on their best behavior at all times (including police) because someone is always watching & recording what you’re doing. You would think this would be a deterrent to crime, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Something definitely needs to change.
    Hubby & I were watching coverage of some of the cities where rioting was happening & I said to him, “Martin Luther King Jr. would be ashamed to see this. He would be angry the problems of racism still exist & he would be ashamed of the way the protesters are handling themselves. It has been proven time & time again – peaceful protest while obeying the laws works so much better than lawlessness.”

  9. I have to disagree with the general idea that police think they’re above the law. There’s a strong brotherhood in police work as there is in the military and we tend to want to protect our own. I refuse to believe that there are that many cops out there who set out to be above the law rather when they screw up their fellow officers rally around to help protect him. You put your life on the line every day (as I have) and you might find the occasion where the end justifies the means. I’m not saying it’s right but when these incidents come to light and are sensationalized when tend to think it’s indicative of the whole system rather than the individual. The only exception to this is politicians. They all suck without exception.

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