People on both sides were quick to weigh in on the McKinney, Texas police officer who slammed a girl into the ground and pointed his service weapon at two teenagers. Naturally, the usual folks started screaming at each other about who was right and who was wrong, as is the case whenever a viral police video turns up on national news. Officer David Eric Casebolt has since resigned from the McKinney police force, but this is just another incident in a growing national debate over police brutality, especially when minorities are involved.
The problem is that while the much of the American public sees this as a very real issue that needs to be addressed, we can’t agree on how to solve the issue, and some individuals don’t even think it’s a problem because it has never happened to them. Then there are the people who want to harness the energy surrounding the discussion and use it for their own agendas, which often creates further hostilities and mistrust.
Here are the six groups that are making things worse, not better.
6. Racists: Whether people want to admit or not, racism and prejudice are still very much an issue in the United States. Just this morning, I found an angry message on my Facebook page from a gun fanatic who stated that, “Hitler f*cked up by not erasing your family from the face of the earth.” On local news pages, you’ll see black people referred to as “animals” and other far more hateful terms – and that’s not just here in the South, either. A lot of racists see no problem with police profiling, injuring or killing people who don’t look like them – and they often celebrate it.
5. The professional activists: All too often, political opportunists like Al Sharpton or members of Filming Cops insert themselves into the latest news story about police brutality to raise their public visibility. Sure, getting in an officer’s face or filming a traffic stop for your YouTube channel as you shout obscenities at the police makes you look cool to your followers – but it does nothing positive and paints people who want real accountability in a bad light. The person who provided the video footage of the McKinney incident filmed the scene without interfering, and this led to the charges being dropped against Adrian Martin as well as the resignation of Corporal Casebolt.
4. The media: There’s nothing the media loves more than a raging debate, and police brutality, especially when a minority is the victim, is a surefire way to get ratings and web traffic. As soon as an incident happens – sometimes before any facts outside of a short video clip are known – the battle lines are drawn. Liberal media picks a side and conservative media picks their side, and the shouting matches begin. The mainstream and quite a bit of independent media exists primarily to make profits for their owners, and as such, they’ll be sure to present a story the way their audience wants to hear it instead of presenting the facts in a rational way for their audience to digest.
3. Police apologists: Not everyone who excuses every instance of police brutality is a racist, but it’s easy to see which ones are when a white kid is involved. Then there are people who will always find something to justify or excuse the mishandling of a situation by law enforcement, regardless of the race of the victim. The usual reasons often include a need to discover the “real reason” a person was stopped by the police in the first place, so they can then blame the person who was injured or killed by an officer. We saw the ugly racial side of this with Trayvon Martin who was vilified for smoking pot, or Michael Brown for apparently stealing a cheap cigar, or with Fox News trying to blame the victim in the recent McKinney incident.
Ask yourself, for every teen of color who’s stopped for no reason, looked on with suspicion rather than with human friendliness, never mind being injured or killed–why is the concern diverted to finding the alleged crime, some crime, any crime, instead of concern for those who’ve been truly wronged? How easy it is to sweep away the experiences of these kids, the collateral damage of an arms race of white paranoia, and then later excoriate them for being “angry” and “overly” focused on race? (Source)
2. Anti-government groups: Whenever there’s an instance of police brutality, real or imagined, you’ll inevitably find someone from Cop Block, Open Carry, or other anti-government groups who try to use the situation to promote their own agenda. These people don’t want police reform and accountability – they want to smear all law enforcement, abolish the police and many would love nothing more than a society in which they can impose their own beliefs on others at the barrel of a gun. As I’ve said before, these individuals pose as police accountability advocates, but if you scratch the surface of their message, it’s the same old collection of gun fanatic talking points and anti-government rhetoric.
1. The police: Police culture (especially in urban areas) has changed from the guardian mentality to the warrior mentality and while that works well on a foreign battlefield when you’re fighting an enemy who’s trying to kill you, it’s a shitty way to deal with the general public. At the end of the day, officers have taken an oath to serve and protect, and the overall attitude of many seems to have forgotten that. Officers are not robots, they are human beings like the rest of us and they do make mistakes, sometimes very bad ones that ruin or end lives.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I wholeheartedly support law enforcement and have defended an Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain who was the target of a smear campaign by a Cop Block member, but I also equally support accountability and demilitarization of police agencies throughout the United States. This isn’t some sort of zero-sum game and the two only choices are being for or against the police. It’s not a radical idea to both support good officers and good policing tactics, and want bad officers or departments to be held liable when they do wrong. Sadly, America seems to be so bitterly divided by politics and along racial lines that we won’t be solving this problem anytime soon.
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