The police problem

“Nationwide, video footage has played a key role in exposing police abuses during the protests that ignited over Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis officer was captured pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck.
“In Philadelphia on Wednesday, a Temple University student was released from jail on charges of assaulting a police officer during a protest after video emerged showing that a police officer was the one beating him in the head with a baton, while another used his knee to press the student’s face onto the pavement, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“A Salt Lake City police officer in riot gear was captured on video last week using his shield to knock down a man who was shuffling slowly with a cane, after ordering him to clear the sidewalk outside of a public library. He fell to the ground face-first. The police chief called the incident ‘inappropriate’ and said it is under investigation, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last Sunday, an officer was suspended after shoving a black woman who was kneeling on the concrete behind him with her hands up. That incident inflamed an otherwise largely peaceful protest, as outraged demonstrators threw water bottles, the Miami Herald reported. Police soon responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. One officer ended up striking a woman in the face with a rubber bullet, cracking her skull and leaving her bloodied and bruised about the face, the Herald reported.
“As in the Fort Lauderdale case, police tactics have regularly turned peaceful protests into violent confrontations this week. Most infamously, federal officials on Monday forcibly removed protesters from Lafayette Square using pepper balls, batons and rubber bullets, sending hundreds running, crying from the chemical agents, so President Trump could have a photo op outside St. John’s church.”

The Washington Post

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Here’s the question: do you think that if you or I had been dressed up like that, marching along with others dressed up like that, under the same orders, trained in the same way, you or I would have behaved any better? If so, on what basis do you think that?

This is part, at least, of what is meant when people say that the problem is structural. It is a matter of structure, it is a matter of formation, it is matter of using the right tool for the right job. If a foreign army invades our shores, call the people with the guns and tanks and the training in killing. If a violent criminal is on a rampage, destroying property and killing and injuring people, call in the people with the training and equipment to arrest him and confine him. But if our people are taking to the streets to protest numerous instance of brutal, racist behavior by armed and uniformed police officers, do you really want to send a battalion of people dressed up like evil-empire stormtroopers to shove them around?

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Police in this country are asked to do way too much. I don’t personally know any evil police officers. The police officers with whom I have had any personal dealings are fine people. That doesn’t give me or anyone else the right to ignore what has happened for many decades in this country: the use of police by white-supremacist authorities to dominate, provoke, imprison, and kill people of color. If you think that sounds like “liberal” talk, I think you’re just ignoring history.

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