Police Relations, Trust, and a 7 year old
“Fuck the Police!!!”
I have lost count. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have heard the above phrase in my life. In my experience, people in the hood have a distaste for the police. I am not sure of the exact reason. In the house that I grew up in, people who were involved in illegal activity (people who were victims of a less than adequate education systems, social oppression, and little to no job opportunities) saw the police as abusers of power. It could also possibly just be the history of corruption and exploitation that gives this line of work a bad name in our country. When talking to a group of young students that I mentor, they described the police as the people who “treat them like animals, taming them, before protecting them.”
It seems that due to the history of various police departments around the country, current police officers need to start initiatives to reach out to the community and try to help bridge the divide that has split neighborhood-officer relationships. (A history that can find some of its roots in Chicago where the CPD attempted to cover up the murder of Fred Hampton).
I got the chance to have a conversation with the deputy police chief in my district today and she explained how she wants to start initiatives to make police more positively visible to the community and work on police officer’s everyday manners. This sounds like a good idea to me (a small step, but still a step in the right direction). The problem is you really don’t see any manifestations of positive efforts by police officers. Instead we see headlines like…
Unfortunately, this was an actual headline that I encountered this past weekend. I automatically had reminiscent thoughts about situations like the man who was shot by police while laying on his stomach and handcuffed in the bay area, or Sean Bell who in my opinion was unreasonably killed by the NYPD. This time there can be no apologizes, no rationalization, no excuse. An innocent 7 year old girl was shot and kill by a police officer, in her own house. Of course there is more to the story, but the only thing I can think of is how this continues to confirm people’s belief that police officers cannot and should not be trusted.
In an atmosphere with violent crime on the rise, inner city communities cannot afford to continue to distrust for law enforcement. Surveys defend that when people are asked, these same communities will say they want more police officers so they can feel safe. But that feeling cannot come if the enforcers themselves do not take responsibility for their actions. Of course the police force is not a monolithic group, but they are perceived as a monolith. And a little girl getting shot by the police in Detroit is still going to confirm and validate the distrust that people have for the police in Chicago, LA, Cleveland, NYC and other cities around the country.
Police departments everywhere need to make more of an effort to reach out to the communities they are suppose to be protecting. More community service initiatives need to be started by police, and they must stop treating people like animals. To Serve and Protect? I can only hope so.