Saturday, September 24, 2016

Police Violence In The U.S. Is An Institutional Problem

(Cartoon image above is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

I used to believe that police violence in this country was because of a few "bad apples". I no longer believe that. It's happening too often, and it's happening to Blacks in a ratio far higher than it happens to Whites. It is a problem that can only be defined as an institutional racial problem. Adding to this belief is the fact that when unarmed Blacks are shot, fellow officers, police leadership, and political officials are quick to defend the "bad apples". Shouldn't they be happy to get rid of them instead of defend them? That defense is just part of the institutional problem.

A friend of mine has blogged the following at Badtux, the Snarky Penguin. I agree with what he has written:

One common meme that goes around left-wing sites when cops shoot black men is that this is because there’s a lot of racist white supremacist cops. Or it’s because of widespread steroid use in police forces that result in a lot of cops in near-permanent “roid rage”.
People: Unless you think the tiny female cop who shot Terence Crutcher was on steroids, and you think the black cop who shot Keith Lamont Scott was racist, it’s pretty clear that the problem is institutional, not individual. These aren’t the theoretical “few bad apples” that the white supremacist endorsing Fraternal Order of Police is always talking about to excuse cops who do bad things. We have an institutional problem with how policing is currently organized and functions in many cities. We have a problem with how police are trained, how they are directed, and how their internal sociology works to propagate and enforce standards of (mis) behavior. This isn’t a steroid problem — there are undoubtedly cops that are on steroids, but little lady cops aren’t among their number. This isn’t a white supremacist problem — unless you think the a black cop is a white supremacist. This is something deeper, an institutional rot in the very profession that is now becoming obvious as time goes on. 
Regarding the riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, I’ll leave you with this:
“I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967)
The same remains true today.

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