Society's failings are not the police's fault
One of the narratives that is alive and strong today, more so in certain circles, is that the police are nothing more than a wing of the government that is meant to oppress, tax, and murder. Usually along with that narrative is that modern policing sprout from slave catchers pre- and during the Civil War era in the US. That frame of mind does nothing but put police on the same plane as the pro-slavery supporters, Nazis and bloodthirsty communists of the 20th century, and the sociopaths that police routinely put behind bars.
More times than I care to count I have been on the scene of a shooting, usually a young man, more often than not black/African American, and normally known to us from arrests or not-so-positive interactions. Usually they are in their gang's territory, or were followed. In any case, there are usually young teenagers or young adults. Many have been in and out of bad homes, or come from single parent house holds, or even just raised by grandma. They found solace on the street and among their peers. The are what society would look to as a walking statistic.
But every time the police arrive on scene it turns into bedlam. We are MF'd, called racists, asked where we were and why we didn't stop the murder. We get the blank 1000 yard stares as the boys on the block look at their dead homie getting CPR performed on him (REAL CPR looks brutal, not that flimsy stuff from TV). We ask if anyone saw anything, and we always get the same answer.
They saw who did it, were eyewitnesses, but won't tell us. We are always told we need to figure it out, that snitches get stitches and they ain't no snitch. What they fail to understand, or learn when we tell them, is that we may "know" who did it but that evidence doesn't fly in court. Hearsay isn't admissible and while we "knew" that someone has performed multiple murders for a gang or is a hired gun, there isn't anything we can actually do about it. Our murder rate is abysmal as a department NOT because we don't try, but we can't without the community's help.
Politicians and talking heads blame a "pattern and practice" of excessive force and abuse by police, but no one has offered a solid solution other than photo ops with CAPS officers or the Commander of a district. Yet these situations don't need gussied up office cops smiling for selfies with the police, but officers who work the beat. When an beat cop shows up to one of theirs shot or killed on the street, it makes the situation more personal. I know most of the "bad guys" on my beat, they know me. They know what level of Tom Foolery they can get away with before things get petty. So when a cop shows up and sees another on of their guys laying on the ground or in the back of the ambulance, at least for me, I want to help these guys out.
While we can sit and talk about a who-dun-it, the reality is the victim's boys won't or aren't willing to go through the proper channels to get the situation legally handled. They'll tell me who they know did it, but will also tell me their people will handle it. Lo and behold we have another shooting or murder, usually of the person they told me who did it, or one of his friends or kin, and the cycle repeats. There is a "pattern and practice" to the streets; bad guy goes and shoots bad guy, other bad guys know who did it, won't cooperate with the police, bad guy goes and shoots bad guy. . .and round and round we go.
Is it the police who have failed the community or is it society that has observed wrongs and remained dwelling on them?
I'm going to be controversial here: heavy handed tactics are not acceptable in law enforcement, while they may have been acceptable at one point, they weren't then and definitely aren't now.
"Well that's the only way these people can be policed" some cops may say. I don't feel that the statement is incorrect, but in context it is wrong. If the goal is to elicit a response, just like spanking a child for every small wrongdoing, then you'll get just that. A response.
However the response will then be repeated in their response to others. Violence.
Rinse and repeat.
But here's another controversial thought: having the same 5 officers from the district CAPS office trying to engage people on the streets in song and dance routines for internet likes and retweets isn't it. Sure, they make great photo ops and it looks good on social media, but the driver's of violence aren't doing the stanky leg or cupid shuffle with cops in the photo.
Getting the officers they deal with daily involved will have a greater impact. They'll relate more, feel more comfortable around those officers (provided they aren't complete asshole cops), and perhaps we would see issues getting resolved.
I realize that is very Pollyanna of me, too naive and hopeful, but at the same time if the point is engagement and working on repairing the issues, wouldn't it be best to have the front lines, if you will, of both sides of the equation engaging each other?
I have been able to garner more info on murders through simple, daily interactions. I have talked to people on the street, interacted in the processing rooms, or when transporting an arrestee. I have enough knowledge to solve multiple murders, but again we come back to the beginning, no one is willing to testify.
The victim's family and friends have been taught to have a deep distrust and disdain for the police, some of which is warranted I'll give them that, but in our golden age of internet information at our finger tips, actors and actresses champion causes, the social media "influencers", and so on we find false narratives being perpetuated over and over.
Police are the enemy.
Police are nothing more than modern day slave catchers.
Police kill for no reason.
The "Blue Man Bad" syndrome.
That narrative, because once again if it bleeds it leads (aka clickbait), is held aloft by a lot of media outlets. Whole media companies are formulated around fear mongering, which causes the public to have a fueled disdain and distrust due. Even in recent cases like the shootout in Jersey City, a decorated officer who made observations and attempted to stop some criminals, has his use of force statistics plastered in the middle of an article. Obviously he didn't use force this time, he was killed, but once again the media proves that they publish what the public wants to read.
The public has the unquenchable thirst for the dirty. Look at what gets talked about in the news, this well known so-and-so is having an affair or dating someone new or family problems and so on.
Who would want to read a boring article about a cop killed if we can't read about his use of force stats?
Who would want to read about a firefighter killed in a fire if we can't read about his affair with a coworker?
Problem is no one would. Society doesn't want the real feel good stories. If they want feel good thats what that one page on Instagram or Facebook is all about. They post cute videos of baby animals or dogs or cats. They can get their fill of "feel good" somewhere else, something usually not involving humans. Because humans, those are the worst kind of animals, and like I said in my Unspeakable Evils blog entry, humans do some fucked up shit to each other.
That's what people read, and in turn that's what people believe. That is why there is a distrust. That's the rift that leads us to the problem.
Society failing our most vulnerable and those that need us, the police, the most, is not the police's fault. I don't think any cop signed up for these issues of distrust and disdain. I also feel society's feelings towards police aren't without some basis.
BUT we can either continue to fuel these narratives, or we can work together to break them. What that will take is actual bosses and city leaders who recognize the benefits of getting their officers involved IN the communities there patrol and serve. Whether that is done in the academy, which Chicago I know is trying to do, or incentivise their officers to engage the community. Shop With A Cop is a great program, but Chicago only opens it up to their CAPS officers. The beat cops don't get a chance to engage with the very community they interact with.
There are tons of community organizations that the officers could work with en lieu of a tour of duty perhaps. I feel once an officer engages the community they serve outside of a crime fighting role, without being preached at of all the past wrongdoings of the police profession, they will be more willing to engage the community in a positive way.
We will see things change for the better.
We will see people wanting to come forward more with info.
We will allow closure to families that need it most.
And, I feel, we will see a decrease in officer fatalities, a decrease in index crimes, and an increase in officer wellness.
But then again, what do I know? I'm just a potato that hasn't reach his salty status yet.