Understanding the gulf between news media, government, and police departments when it comes to the grievances of minority communities.
For weeks now there have been questions regarding policing in minority communities.
Ok… maybe not weeks, because it’s more like decades, but the media has only recently started to report on the issue.
It’s like when your favorite indie band finally goes main stream. The media is freaking out over the newest singles like Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Freddie Grey in Baltimore, while every other minority in this country says, “pshhh, finding out policing in minority communities was SO 50 years ago!”
That’s why it isn’t all that surprising that the Department of Justice and the city of Cleveland reached an agreement to reform the city’s police procedures when it came to policing minority communities. This comes after the tragic police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and the acquittal of the Cleveland police officer who shot him. Interesting side note, that same officer took part an arrest in which 137-shots were fired upon an unarmed black man and women, leading to Yosemite Sam commenting, “a little much, no?”
Regardless, after months of protests and calls for action, the Cleveland Police Department and the Department of Justice deciding to look inward to come up with ways to better serve minority communities is a very positive step. This is real progress here!
So what did they find?
On Tuesday, Cleveland agreed to adopt major changes in the way their police department operates after the Justice Department concluded that instances of unnecessary force were rampant within the department. The changes included more officer training, changes to officer recruitment, and how officers would be disciplined if they don’t follow these guidelines in the future. Overall these are great recommendations; however there is one glaring problem.
Out of all the issues that the Cleveland Police Department and the Justice Department talked about, none of them dealt with the idea that police are given quite a long rope when it comes to the use of force. In most cases, the use of force is perfectly acceptable when a police officer perceives a threat being present. It’s oddly given the same heft and credence as the signs that say “take only one piece of candy” at Halloween or when your dentist tells you to floss every day. And we all know how well those go over…
Now that’s where the heart of the problem lies, because countless studies have been done in that police officers are more likely to perceive black individuals as threats. This is basically THE BIGGEST PROBLEM in all of this. Because reports show these trends go all the way back to the 1970’s! This is not something that is by any mean a quick fix and could be what many researchers call a wicked problem – a problem that is very complex that constantly changes and its reasons morph constantly. Still, we do have to talk about it.
The ultimate irony in all of this, we don’t like to talk about it.
In fact, not wanting to have a conversation about race in America is right up there with how weird does this mole look to you and telling your wife Penthouse printed that letter you sent.
In fact we do everything in our power to NOT talk about race in America. We even go as far as saying we live in a “Post-Racial America.” Do you remember in 2008 when Barack Obama was first elected president? We had articles like this in Forbes and interviews even in NPR on the subject. People were legitimately asking if racism was something in America’s past.
Here’s what EVERYONE’S reaction should be when asked if racism is completely gone in this country.
Followed by this…
Now the problem with this line of thinking, it leads to statements like these…
That video was brought to you by Fox News.
Fox News. News for those, who constantly miss the point.
This is why neither side is on the same page when it comes to the topic of law enforcement and minority communities. One side is convinced that law enforcement refuses to listen to their qualms about community policing. While the other thinks law enforcement is being victimized and being put in a precarious position when they are just trying to enforce the law.
But believe it or not, there is hope. This is a TED talk from Pastor Jeffrey Brown on how he was able to reduce violent crime in the toughest neighborhoods in Boston by 79%!
The basic answer in how he did all of this, he engaged with the community. Yet Pastor Brown isn’t an anomaly per say. Similar programs like Fargo, North Dakota have police officers playing pick-up basketball games with local residents or in New York City where they are creating a program called NYC Together in which officers from the area actively try to engage with young members of minority communities to either talk about topics such as gun violence and socio-economic poverty to just helping them out with homework.
And I know what you’re thinking, “man I come to this site for jokes about Ted Cruz and for you to drop the f-bomb now and then, what’s this hippy-dippy bullshit you’re trying to sell me!?”
Well first, here’s a page from the Official Ted Cruz coloring book – from what I can only assume – is an image of him fucking an eagle from behind while he holds up a rifle and screams “Ted saves America!” Which frankly, pretty much sums up the Ted Cruz aesthetic.
Second, the idea of officers engaging the community they police isn’t just high-minded/hippy-dippy bullshit. All this is actually based on sound research. In 2002, Tom R. Tyler and Yuen Huo wrote a book titled Trust in the Law: Encouraging Public Cooperation with the Police and Courts. The book focuses on how to repair the trust between American communities with law enforcement and the local courts. Through survey research and interviews, they found that people react to whether or not they are treated with dignity and respect, and the degree to which they feel they have been treated shapes their acceptance of the legal process. It’s not just them, countless out studies have been done showing that community based policing actually works.
But we can only start to fix this problem if we begin talking about race in American society honestly.
Or we can be like this dog and keep ignoring it completely.
See, he has the right idea!
(Photo Credits: Wikipedia, Fox News, YouTube, Amazon.com, Google Images, GunShowComic.com)