With few exceptions, police officers in America have forgotten their role in our society. Mutual respect has been replaced with an "us versus them" mentality whenever officer and citizen come in contact. In this article I will share the problems that exist in most of America's police forces, how we got to this point, and what we can do to make a difference in our local communities.
To protect and serve?
Police used to patrol on foot, and interact with local residents. They were as much a part of the community as the mailman you may see and wave to everyday. They took "protect and serve" seriously and literally. The character Barney Fife is often used as a reference for how community oriented officers should conduct themselves. But all of that has changed.
Nowadays, police patrol by car and rarely interact with the public. Due to budget problems some municipalities won't even send an officer to the scene of a crime if it doesn't involve an injury or violence. It's rare to even see "protect and serve" on a police car now, let alone to see that attitude from a "peace officer".
Due to tactical training suited more towards war time, counter-terrorism, and the war on drugs, the police have increased the tension between themselves and the public they serve. A misdemeanor warrant that a decade ago would have been delivered by a detective with a knock on the door is now a "no knock raid" at 3 am. What's worse is that they have a terrible record of getting the wrong address and even the wrong people.
These raids are dangerous for the cops and the accused. The police often shoot the family dog, and in more serious cases children have been killed. It's more rare, but sometimes the police take casualties. A homeowner could shoot them rightfully thinking his home was being invaded by a masked gang of thugs.
When the cops kill the wrong person it is unlikely that you will see them go to prison, let alone get fired. Most of the time the wronged family gets a settlement of tax payer money to make amends. But reverse the roles with a man defending himself from a perceived home invasion, and he is tried for capital murder.
How to steal from the American people
Several factors play into the sterilization of our police forces, but the primary factor is always money. Police departments rely on a city or county budget for funding. Like any bureaucracy, they always need more money. There are three sources that come to mind to get additional funding; ticket revenue, federal grants, and the ever-popular Civil Asset Forfeiture program. Of those three funding sources, two are theft of private property directly from the public.
In the 1970's America experienced an "oil crisis" which largely contributed to our ridiculous speed limits still around today. These speed limits were meant to lower the consumption of fuel, but they were discovered to be a revenue boost through speeding tickets. Over 40 years of tremendous technological improvements in vehicle safety and performance, yet, there are still interstates with a 55 mph limit. These limits have less to do with safety and more with getting your money.
In the old days, when a traveler was surprised by someone hiding on the side of the road, who then demanded payment under threat of violence, that someone was called a bandit. I have a hard time seeing the difference between those old-time bandits and modern police officers.
2. Federal Grants
Federal grants are at the forefront of militarizing our police force. Not only do the grants often include training from DHS, but the 1033 program also gives the police free equipment that was meant for war zones.
The training they receive instills a soldier mentality in them. So now instead protecting and serving the community they are part of, they act like soldiers in a foreign land. The American public now represents the hostile locals they are patrolling.
This has lead to a drastic increase in officer-involved shootings — even though crime has been declining across the country. Officers often claim "they were in fear for their life" as the reason behind a shooting. However, according to the department of labor, police officer doesn't even rank in the top 10 most dangerous jobs.
On the other hand, farmers, fisherman and roofers actually are in the top 10 most dangerous jobs. But do you see them shooting people out of fear of their own safety? If being a police officer has you constantly in fear for your life, and that fear overrides your duty to public safety, you are in the wrong line of work.
3. Civil Asset Forfeiture
A rose is still a rose by any other name. As official as "Civil Asset Forfeiture" may sound, that doesn't change the fact that it is theft. It is theft from the American people by those we have trusted to protect us.
This program allows for the confiscation and auction of anything used in the commission of a crime. This means the car driven to commit the crime, the house the crime was committed in, and the cash that is anywhere near the crime. All auction proceeds go to various bureaucracies depending on what agencies were in on the arrest.
What may be surprising to some of you is that no conviction is necessary for them to keep your stuff! This means we have armed officers that profit directly from accusing you of a crime and taking your possessions. Even if you are innocent they still make money! What else could you call that but theft?
Don't expect intelligence
Should you ever be in a position where you require the assistance of the police, if you were hoping for an intelligent officer or detective to handle your case, you may want to lower your expectations. Applicants that have a high IQ are likely to be turned down by law enforcement.
Instead, officers of average intelligence go on to become detectives that are supposed to solve murders and other serious crimes. You would think departments want the smartest people with critical thinking skills, but, like everything else, it seems mediocrity is what America strives for.
Add to this the negative impact programs like Affirmative Action have had. Competent white males are disenfranchised to join the force since any advancement opportunities are likely to pass them over due their being white and male.
It's time to expect more from our police
Law enforcement needs to be held to a higher standard, not a lower one. If a citizen breaks the law, he should be punished. But it should be considered worse when an officer breaks the law. They should be examples for us to follow. If law enforcement are lawless, then rule of law is dead. Instead of peace officers, we have a well-organized, well-funded gang in their place.
As individuals we should film any interaction with the police. They film you, you should film them back. The Supreme Court has upheld an individual's right to film police in public. This way, it isn't your word against theirs in court.
Should you find the need to sue, make sure you sue the officer personally so it isn't just the tax payers paying for their mistakes. We need to hold them accountable for their actions. If we hold them accountable for the little things, the big things will happen a lot less often.
There are good police out there, and they should be encouraged. However, I fear they are the exception more than the rule at this point. And if they're present while other police are acting illegally, then they are just as guilty by their inaction.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.