Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Selffulfilling Prophecies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published (6/15/15) an article called The Criminalization of Black Children in McKinney, Texas, and schools across America” about the police and teenage African Americans that said in part: This brand of “justice” for schoolchildren is anything but colorblind. Study after study show that black children are treated far more harshly than white kids. And the racial disparity has grown dramatically over the past four decades, a period that roughly coincides with the integration of public schools.

I did a Google search and found that in 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than 1.1 million persons on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Out over 700,000 sworn officers, only a few actually act like this. 

The question is how many times does it take for black teenagers to distrust ALL police and become argumentative and aggressive when confronted? I am a 70 old white, Vietnam veteran who plays by the rules so I don’t have many interactions with the police. In fact most are traffic violations and my license, registration and proof of insurance are ALWAYS in good order so there is little to discuss beyond the immediate question of was I really speeding or did I really run a red light.

In the few interactions I have had with the police, I have noticed that there is a serious spread in how I am treated. Many times the officer will be so focused on “achieving and maintaining command presence” that he (yes - generally a man) will be rude and discourteous. If they will be confrontational and discourteous to me, I can only imagine how bad they would treat a typical teenager. Couple a typical teenager's attitude (including me when I was 16) and the distrust of blacks for the police that has built up for many years and we shouldn’t be surprised that black teenagers automatically assume the cops are out to get them.

During the Rodney King beating in LA, the then police chef Darrel Gates said that he didn’t pay his officers to get down in the mud with the likes of Rodney King. It stuck me at the time that “getting down in the mud” is exactly what we pay them for. To get down in the mud instead of beating anyone like a piñata.

If I, as a citizen, am expected to trust someone out on the street with a gun and the authority we grant to police, I have to be able to trust them to make good judgment calls between a real, dangerous criminal and a teenager acting like a teenager. If any individual officer can’t make that call when under the stress of the situation, do I really want them out on my streets?

Remember that the police are supposed to be our representatives. Do you really want your representative acting like this?

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