Here are some more observations from my perspectives of “how to fix racism.” If you have been following this series, you’ll note I am not really giving answers but exposing pieces so that you can understand things from what I have gathered.
One of the issues in our society is how our police react in tough situations. Their actions and the results from them allow a lot of the racism to fester today. As representatives of the government, law enforcement officer are also- The Man, the Establishment, and the Enforcer. Those are not good monikers. With the increase of violence in our society, police have become more militaristic. I think this has been necessary for the survival of the officers but it doesn’t help public relations.
When I was in high school during the summer break. a 15 year old Bladensburg, MD teen named Terrence Johnson shot and killed Officer Albert Marshal Claggett IV and Officer James Swart with Officer Claggett’s revolver during a brutal beating that he was receiving in the booking area of the Hyattsville District Police Station. Johnson was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Officer Claggett and not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of Officer Swart. The Manslaughter conviction would get the 15 year old sentenced to 25 years in prison. His story tragically ends but this thing continues.
In the early nineties, Los Angeles Police were videoed beating an unarmed black man without mercy. This sparked a riot in LA that burned buildings, injured hundred and killed people. The riot lasted six days after a trial jury acquitted four Los Angeles Police Department officers of assault and use of excessive force. The mostly white officers were videotaped beating Rodney King, an African-American man, following a high-speed police pursuit. That is the part everyone remembers. There are also tons of jokes, memes and cultural anecdotes as a result.
What was not remembered or known was that Rodney King was an ex-Con, who was on parole from prison on a robbery conviction and who had past convictions for assault, battery and robbery. When LAPD tried to pull over the 6 foot 2 man that seemed to be under the influence of some drugs that night– he scared the officers. They knew they had a potentially violent man that was not cooperating. King, knowing that if he surrendered -an arrest for a DUI would violate the terms of his parole. He tried to prolong the arrest. After being tasered, hit repeatedly and exhibiting a move similar to a ground fighting technique learned in prison police officers beat this man with night sticks (PR-24) that was caught on film for the world to judge.
As a former law enforcement officer that has taught the use of deadly force, this subject in particular has come up. There are many things that happen when police “interview” a person that they have to pull over. Many of the details are not visible even when recorded on film. Perception, fear, and the state of mind of both the officer and the citizen are crucial in understanding what really happens. It comes out in trials. It comes out in police classrooms but it doesn’t make it to public opinion. And when a police officer is acquitted of a crime of malfeasance the public doesn’t understand. Racism is just easy to say. It’s one of those low hanging fruits I spoke about. It isn’t always so.
Police officers technically have steps of non-verbal and verbal control that are in use before taking of a life is justifiable. The use of force is a standard that provides law enforcement officials with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. In certain ways it is similar to the military rules of engagement. The purpose of these models is to clarify, both for officers and citizens. It is complex and judgements must be made in seconds. Using, pepper spray, tasers, night sticks and open hands are just a few things that have to work with before pulling the sidearm. Every case is different and the firearm they carry is actually only for self defense. You wouldn’t know that by how it is portrayed and displayed in our culture.
There are so many cases of police abuse, misconduct that are suspect and open to interpretation after the fact. There are racist police officers as their are racist any other profession. All of them are like bad ghosts that haunt new cases like the one in Ferguson, Missouri. They are all open wounds that are agitated and left to fester.
The below video contains profanity.