Police Brutality is an Issue of Unchecked Power

There is nothing more dangerous than a person with a gun . . . a badge, and no accountability under the law.  Luckily that is a rarity, right?  The truth is that police brutality and misconduct happens way more than most people, even Black folks, would like to admit.  And the saddest part is that we are all to blame because we arm and encourage brutality by our silence and/or our lack of focus.

Our community has handed over our power to a hand full of alleged leaders, the media, and a political party, which in turn has left us powerless to the police since they are organized and focused.

Yesterday, I viewed a video of an African-American man who was arrested in his own house by a white police officer that did not have an arrest warrant or search warrant that barged into the home in order to make the arrest.  The circumstances of the man’s arrest is bad enough, but what is even more disturbing is the trumped up charges that he is facing based solely on how the arrest was affected.  Instead of facing a simple misdemeanor case of disturbing the peace, he is also facing felony charges.  The only bright spot is that the man was not killed or seriously injured during the arrest (that was probably due to the fact that the arrest was caught on film).  Yet this case is an example of the dilemma that many citizens (especially people of color) face when confronted with police brutality.  Either you submit to having your rights trampled upon or challenge the police officer to respect your rights and risk being charged with a serious felony or felonies and face prosecution by the state or even worse face the possibility of being murdered with no repercussions to the offending officers.

Thousands of complaints are filed against police alleging misconduct every year.  That is probably just the tip of the iceberg.  It is likely that thousands of complaints go unreported due to intimidation and fear of retribution by law enforcement officers.  Then there are the accomplices: (1) good police officers that witnessed the incident and are willing to lie to “back-up” their fellow officer, and/or (2) prosecutors that either turn a blind eye to suspicious resisting arrest/assault or battery against a police officer charges that zealously prosecute weak or bogus cases in order to stay in the good graces of the police.

oscar-grant-police-brutality-memorial (1)Police Brutality is not just about hate or even arrogance.  It is about power or the lack thereof. Police officers have power due to their unions and the public’s unwillingness to hold them accountable.  They are blanketed with the power of their union that has organized people and money to protect their jobs and liberty even when they are dangers to the community.  By contrast our community is not nearly as organized.

Prosecutors, judges, politicians, and even fellow police officers will face negative consequences if they stand up and do what is right to punish police officers that use excessive force, violate the rights of citizens, and/or lie to “put” a case on someone.  Since there is little to no consequences for backing up a “bad” cop there is no wonder that police brutality cases are not investigated with an abundance of energy, resources, and earnest.  If police brutality is to ever be effectively addressed then we must get serious and start to fight power with power!

When an alleged incident of police brutality gets a lot of publicity either through the mainstream media or a video going viral (both situations are rare and usually the result of the most egregious case of brutality), we will then organize around a high profile “leader” to protest and demand “justice.”  What we usually get is appeasement by the political establishment.  We do not get any real changes in policies, punishments, and preventative measures that are likely to curtail future incidents.  We usually get disingenuous speeches, empty promises, and meaningless photo opportunities (and payouts to corrupt alleged “leaders”).  That is why so few police brutality incidents result in police officers losing their jobs and even fewer result in them losing their freedom.  Protests are not the permanent solution because they are reactive.  We need proactive strategies and policies.  We need an agenda!

oscar-grant-funeral-police-brutality (1)The best way to end police brutality in our community is to build power.  We can build power by being organized and focused.  We have to progress policies that can cut down on police misconduct like requiring body cameras on every police officer that has contact with the public.  We could also ask for stiffer criminal penalties for complaints of excessive force used by police officers and launch coordinated, organized, and focused voting campaigns to remove prosecutors and judges that refuse to hold police officers accountable for their actions just like everybody else.  And we MUST stop voting along party lines and start voting, acting, thinking, and organizing around issues that affect our community not issues that the Democrats or Republicans want us to be concerned with.  Finally, we also must force our political representatives to put in place a real investigative body that is not beholden, intimidated, or biased toward the police that will conduct objective, fair, professional investigations of police misconduct instead of trying to make excuses for bad police actions.  All of these potential solutions are within our reach as long as we are willing to be focused and organized to build the power to grasp it.


[Originally pposted at Common Knowledge]