The job of a police officer, county sheriff deputy or other member of the law enforcement community is not an easy nor a thankless job. Day in and day out, the men and women who stand the “Thin Blue Line” subject themselves to the scorn of criminals, politicians, and sometimes even the everyday person, all for a pretty small payday (the starting pay for a police officer in New York City is around $41,000; by comparison, the starting salary for a schoolteacher in New York City is around $57,000). To be honest, any job that you do that you might not return home from in the evening (or the morning) deserves to have some level of respect given to it.
The problem is that Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) have pretty much pissed this goodwill away through their actions. Dating back to the days of Prohibition, when cops pretty much turned a blind eye to the wrongdoings of organized crime and bootleggers because they got a piece of the action, LEOs have frequently straddled the line between criminality and following their credo of “to protect and to serve.” While some might think it is a recent occurrence, a look back at history shows that “bad cops” have long been a problem in U. S. society.
Smithsonian Magazine looked at this ugly history and, in many instances, some of the examples they came up with could be transposed to today’s environment without much effort. The well-done article cites a 1929 study of the Chicago police force and found that, although blacks made up only 5% of the population of the Second City, they accounted for 30% of the police killings between 1927 and 1929. Further study by the administration of President Herbert Hoover acknowledged the plague of police brutality, summed up in a report in 1932 from the Wickersham Committee called “Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement.”
The advent of the civil rights movement only accentuated and accelerated the abuses by police against those they are supposed to protect. Violent race riots across the South and the usage of weapons, police canine units and fire hoses – because they didn’t have military style rifles, armored vehicles and tactical gear back in those days – became the norm as blacks sought equality, looked for the civil rights, the basic rights of humanity that were granted by President Abraham Lincoln 100 years earlier. These actions always seemed to have one note of difference – these actions weren’t taken against white offenders, usually just minorities.
It has only gotten worse since these days. It seems today that we can’t go but a few months without some sort of police shooting because a cop “feared for his life” (one of the most ludicrous things that I’ve ever heard – you don’t walk into a war expecting to find cotton candy waiting for you). The lineage of people who have died at the hands of inappropriate police shootings is a long one – Tamir Rice, a 12-year old BOY with a toy pistol; Philandro Castile, who was a licensed gun owner and TOLD cops he had a weapon in the car; Eric Gardner, choked out because he was selling singular cigarettes; and, most recently, George Floyd joined this list of infamy, having his larynx crushed because he MIGHT have passed a counterfeit $20 bill. In most of these cases, LEOs walked away with no punishment and those involved in the Floyd case are just beginning to answer for their actions.
It is time that there is change to the way that police, that law enforcement officers of ALL uniforms and organizations, perform their duties.
Some people have suggested that we require that anyone who joins a police or sheriff’s department has equivalent military experience before being considered. The problem there is that is where the “power issues” begin, in many cases. Handing a badge and a gun to a person barely eligible to drink, in most cases, isn’t the answer because they haven’t had adequate training. Others have thought that a college degree should be required, but we already have that in “Criminal Justice” majors that do not teach law enforcement.
No, it is time that there were some changes to the oversight of Law Enforcement Officers, monumental changes that are stringently held to and are completely and thoroughly implemented. First, the entirety of a police department must go through psychological exam YEARLY, from the Chief down to the newest rookie. Second, all LEO must report all their online social accounts and club memberships, both online and in their normal lives. Third, they would be subjected to a YEARLY review of their conduct professionally – arrest history, commendations, both the good and bad – and with the general public. If any LEO has a problem with these things, they are immediately dismissed from the force and not allowed to be licensed as a LEO, detective or security personnel anywhere in the U. S.
Additionally, each community, city and town would create a Citizens Review Board, a seven-member board with three people chosen by law enforcement officials, three people chosen by the people of the city and overseen by the mayor of each city. This board would have subpoena powers and could, if they deem so, force the District Attorney to file charges against those who have been determined to have done wrong. They would be a sitting Grand Jury that never recesses and holds the equivalent powers of such an organization.
Finally, there would be MANDATORY usage of body cameras by Law Enforcement Officers, and those cameras would be on 24/7. If, for any reason short of the camera being broke, that it is manually shut off (and these cameras are smart enough that they can tell when they are shut off through human action), the LEO is immediately fired. There would also be a disbandment of police unions who, although advocating for fair wages and treatment of their members, has devolved into a roadblock that tarnishes the “Thin Blue Line” into what the Mafia called omerta.
People are angry, and justifiably so. Law enforcement officers like the 57 pansies in Buffalo who resigned their positions on the Buffalo Emergency Deployment Force after two of their members were charged with assault for shoving a 75-year old man to the ground and cracking his skull open to the point he was bleeding on the concrete (and, to be honest, they should have turned over their badges right there instead of this pussy-ass demonstration) need to clean up their act. These suggestions aren’t as extreme as “defunding” police departments and LEOs across the nation and maybe even around the world should be smart enough to figure out that their shit isn’t going to be taken anymore.