Are We Going in The Right Direction or Can We Do Better?

Two words have evoked the ire of a growing contingent of our society: Law Enforcement. It’s almost painful to say the word police without feeling collective guilt about the actions of a few bad eggs.

It boggles the mind that a police officer with an itchy trigger finger has the power to take life when the policeman’s job is to preserve and to protect. The issues we face are complex in nature. The very fact that police happen upon the scene is an indicator that the situation is about to spiral under control. We often hear that an officer had a few seconds to act, and that any reasonable person would not be expected to act differently, under the circumstances. 

But we cannot accept that logic. We must not accept that logic.  Either we are going to allow officers to use deadly force, or we’re not. Society cannot afford to have a situation where the use of deadly force is justified at times, and unjustified at other times. Where do we draw the line? Is a white police officer never allowed to use deadly force against a black individual? Or, is a black police officer never allowed to use force against a white individual? We’ve come to a point where it doesn’t seem to matter what the perpetrator was doing to precipitate the police officer’s use of deadly force. It appears that we can no longer justify the disproportionate use of force, or lethal use of force by police officers against the people they are sworn to protect. 

How often have we heard about a hapless victim just going about their daily business when they were roughed up by police officers? These types of incidents occur with increasing alacrity. We have situations where curfews are put in place while cities go on lockdown after fatal police shootings. People are expected to comply. We are told to stay put while the mayhem of the moment passes. 

Our justified obsession with racial justice is now a movement that the whole world understands.

Many petty crimes are about money; those who don’t have it, want it. Folks are often left with no choice. But should these people pay for it with their life?  In a utopian world, everyone would be able to splurge and enjoy. We wouldn’t have crime; you wouldn’t have to steal lottery tickets in the hopes of winning some money. If you were a video gamer, or a casino player, and you wanted instant access to play 24-hour games and win real money, you would be able to do what your heart pleases, with no let or hindrance. And you should be able to play and enjoy. You should be allowed to live free, without fear or favor. Of course, you can do precisely that – but we can’t have a society where a black parent fears for the wellbeing of their child, because our policing system is inherently racist. That’s unacceptable. 

We are at a crossroads – where are we going? 

This is a watershed moment in history, and one which we should be cognizant of. Clearly, there is a need for police officers in society. Whether you call them peace officers or police officers is beside the point. Their job is to enforce the law, using any means necessary. Until that job description changes, that’s what they have to do. But, there are caveats to bear in mind. If a knife-wielding suspect or a violent offender is behaving in a threatening manner, a police officer is no longer safe regardless of what he or she does. If the officer reacts and attempts to restrain the individual by getting into fisticuffs with them, the officer could lose his or her life. If the officer retreats, the offending party may cause harm to other people or themselves. It’s a no-win situation for the police officer. Now, a police officer who decides to use a firearm to preserve and protect the community by targeting the offending party is no longer safe either. 

It’s a case of you’re damned if you, and you’re damned if you don’t. It comes as no surprise that police officers are leaving their posts en masse. Why would you want to put yourself in a position where a violent individual may threaten your life, and you may be required to defend your life? Or, why would you want to put yourself in harm’s way as a police officer when you know the consequences of your actions? Sure, we could have a situation where all police officers are only allowed to carry tasers and pepper spray. That would certainly eliminate many of the problems we are seeing been perpetrated against minorities. Again, we are not assuming the innocence or guilt of anybody – perpetrators or law enforcement – we’re simply focusing on the fact that once a police officer pulls the trigger, there’s no coming back from the dead. 

If we strip police of their weapons, what about the criminals? 

Is this where we want to be? We can’t have young people’s lives snuffed out because of a rush of blood to the head of a police officer acting as the judge, jury, and executioner. That’s unacceptable. It’s also unreasonable to expect a police officer to back off when crimes are being committed, and the perpetrator has been identified. Non-lethal force may be a better option. We may have to revise and rethink policing. Perhaps we will require that squad cars carry 3 or 4 police officers of different racial and ethnic groups? Maybe no lethal firearms on their person? That way, there is sufficient manpower to restrain an individual without having to resort to the use of a firearm. The flipside of the coin is the idiocy of this very statement: if we strip guns from police officers, only criminals will have guns. Police will become sitting targets. That’s unacceptable too. 

We are definitely at an impasse, and things may have to get worse before they get better. American society needs to take a position on where policing is headed. If you wish to abolish police and have neighborhood watch systems in place, so be it. Actions have consequences. It’s a terrible dilemma to be in, and one which the brightest minds in the world are struggling to make sense of. We have to be sensitive to minorities, since they have disproportionally suffered at the hands of police. But we have to have a society that maintains law and order. If you break the law there must be consequences. Unless it’s a capital crime, death should not be the price you pay for your actions. That is unacceptable too.