“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.”
I often find myself staying quiet online, when an officer is involved in a shooting. Fearing that my words may not be enough, that knowing I am married to an officer will skew my words when you cannot hear the sincerity in my voice. No longer letting my self-consciousness get in the way, I’m going to try to give this my best shot and hopefully get my point across.
This is NOT the time for “not all officers”, “well I know an officer and…”, or “all lives matter”. This is not a time for “they kill each other more than officers”. This is a time of grieving.
Grieving the failed system. Grieving the American citizen that was unjustly murdered. Grieving the little girl in the back seat that witnessed an execution. Grieving the fact that a woman knew she had to live stream the aftermath of one of the worst moments of her life “to make it count”. Grieving that this is our America.
I studied criminal justice and political science right out of high school. I married a man in law enforcement and likely know more people in that field than anyone in your feed. I will tell you that one of the first things I was taught by Professor Schreiber at SCSU, years ago, was that people of color are stopped at a higher rate, arrested at a higher rate, and prosecuted- for the same crimes- at a higher rate. This is a fact and has always been a fact- as recognized by the criminal justice system itself. So do not say it does not happen, do not say “just do as you’re told”. Also, no “What’s going on?! This is all the sudden happening”- it’s been happening, there’s just higher public accountability due to widespread availability of handheld video devices (cell phones).
People with conceal and carry permits should be outraged by the murder of Philando Castile. He legally had the right to his gun and was forthright with the officer. If the officer was afraid he could have instructed Mr. Castile to put his hands on the steering wheel and the officer could have disarmed him and retrieved his ID himself. It is not common practice to draw your weapon on a person after being told they have a conceal and carry. Typically, “bad guys” don’t tell you they are going to shoot you before they do. The fact Philando told him beforehand should have tipped the officer to that.
Officers are taught to “shoot to end the threat”. Once Castile was shot, laying there dying, he should have been rendered aid. Not left to bleed out with a weapon still drawn on him. His girlfriend sat helpless as she was told to sit with her hands on the dash- unable to help stop his bleeding as well. He was denied the most basic right.
There is so much wrong with this from the beginning to the end. The system that failed Philando Castile happened long before that officer approached him. We’ve known about this broken system for years. Insiders have long acknowledged it. Now how are we going to fix it? Not by staying silent.
I have said it among friends and will say it again:
-departments should have their officers live in the cities/ counties they work in. Be invested in the community and accountable to your neighbors can go a long way.
-higher education. I also learned from Schreiber that officers with a bachelor degree or higher are less likely to partake in police brutality or corruption. If you want to help people, you will put in the time and effort for that degree.
-regular psych testing. I know a few officers that couldn’t be a State Trooper because they couldn’t pass the psych test. These people still are officers with other departments because a good number of departments don’t require psych testing. To expand on this, they should also have to take a psych test more than when they are newly hired. Traumatic things can happen on this job, it is stressful. We need to make sure they are coping and handling it all. (This might also help lessen the divorce rate among police, as alcoholism and domestic violence is a quite prevalent problem as well)
-ongoing training. A lot of departments are pretty ill-equipped. If they have the proper tools and ongoing training, it could go a long way. There was one instance, at an old department, where they had special training available with how to handle situations with mentally disabled citizens (autistic, schizophrenic, etc). The department didn’t have it in the budget to send all the officers, so they weren’t able to send any.
These won’t solve all the problems, but maybe they are a start? Maybe it’s better than resigning ourselves to “this is the way it is” or victim blaming. We need to talk about it in the law enforcement community. Silence is not acceptable, lack of effort or action is not acceptable. The bad tarnish the badge, it is time to stand up and change. Let’s start the change and the conversation.