Back on August 5 I published a post concerning the Eric Garner case, the black man who died as a result of a choke hold put on him by a NYC police officer. In that post I talked about race relations. I’d like to expand upon what I said in that post in light of the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri. I believe the following suggestions are good ideas, but I don’t know how you implement them. That’s for somebody else to figure out.
I believe that one of the main causes of police shootings is resisting arrest. In the course of the struggle that is involved when a person is resisting arrest, the suspect is often perceived by the cops as having a weapon (and often he does). I believe we could make significant progress in police-community relations if a person being stopped by a policeman cooperated, didn’t resist, and kept his hands visible at all times. These should be done even if you believe you are being unfairly stopped. Better to stay calm and cooperate than face the possibility of things turning violent.
If you cooperate and don’t mouth off to the police, they have no basis for mistreating you or harming you. But as soon as you resist, become hostile, or don’t keep your hands visible, then you run the risk of bodily harm and arrest.
If the police are treated with respect, they will respond with respect. If the person stopped cooperates and keeps his hands visible, the police will not feel it is necessary to use force. Eventually there will be an atmosphere of mutual respect. Community members may say that it is up to the police to show them respect first, and then they will be respected in turn. I would respond to that by saying respect has to start somewhere, and since the police are putting their lives on the line to keep neighborhoods safe, they should be shown respect immediately. Moreover, they should be respected by virtue of their position as police officers.
Needless to say, dangerous suspects will have to be handled differently because they will most likely resist arrest, are often armed, and pose a danger to police and the community.
We have to remember that police officers are human like the rest of us, subject to emotions such as fear and anger. They see the worst of the worst every day, and it gets to them. They are putting their lives on the line in many neighborhoods where they patrol, often feeling they have a big target on their back. They are trying to protect and serve, yet are treated with distain by many of the people they are trying to keep safe. So of course emotions are going to come to the surface when a suspect resists arrest or insults them.
Change Community’s Attitudes
Most people living in the community want a police presence because the alternative is chaos and anarchy. The community, especially its leaders, must develop a better attitude towards the police. Parents should teach their children to respect authority, especially the police, and not to resist arrest or give the cops a hard time. If parents don’t teach respect for authority to their children and modify their own behavior, then these problems will just perpetuate for generations. The black community must also respect black policemen and not treat them as turncoats or Oreos.
I believe police departments should invest in cameras which can be mounted on every police officer dealing with the public, and every police cruiser should have a dash cam as well. Having recordings of what happened protects all parties and allows the truth to come out.
Most Crimes by Black Males
In addition to the above suggestions for improving police-community relations, there is a more fundamental problem. The problem is that a significant percent of crimes are committed by young black males. Why is that? It is because many are drop-outs and don’t even have a high school diploma. They either can’t get a job or don’t want a job, and they have entirely too much time on their hands.
In addition, for some young black males their role model is the local drug pusher. He’s got the fancy car, the jewelry, and the pretty girlfriend. He’s the epitome of success in their eyes. On the other hand, you have those kids who have graduated from high school and went to college and now have a decent job. Sadly, they are often viewed as “too white” and are considered Oreos (black on the outside but white on the inside). These attitudes have to change.
Low Education Means Low Expectations
Along with changing the attitudes of young black males is the need to improve education for inner city kids. If a kid drops out of school, he then has very low expectations for himself and will be more likely to join a gang and lead a life of crime. So slow learners should be given help, learning must be made more relevant to life, and more scholarships should be made available for kids going to trade school. We’ve got to have more black males graduate from high school at a minimum, and preferably go on to a trade school or college.
Substance abuse is a problem in all communities in the US. Law enforcement needs to be more effective in arresting pushers and interrupting the supply chain so these drugs become almost impossible to get. Cities should establish more community-based rehab centers and support faith-based and other charitable organizations working with inner city youth and adults to get them off drugs.
Crack Down on Criminals
If the law-abiding community members do what I suggest, then the police will be able to concentrate on getting the criminals off the streets. If the community helps the police to identify the bad guys, the community as a whole will benefit. The police can’t do it alone.
The criminal justice system must do its part to keep these career criminals and gang members off the streets for a long time. There are those in the neighborhood who have a long “rap sheet” who should be behind bars for a long time. In sentencing, judges should consider the person’s criminal history and sentence perpetrators to the maximum if he has a long “rap sheet.” Why keep putting these hard-core criminals back on the street where they commit more crimes?
Community members shouldn’t have to live in fear of a stray bullet hitting them, or being the victim of a crime. Their neighborhoods should be safe. But as I said above, the police can’t do it alone. The community must be committed to doing its part as outlined above.