We Need to Change How We Look At The Police

Naples protestors engaging in a peaceful demonstration on June 2, 2020. Tamica Jean-Charles/PantherNOW

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

It goes without saying that America is in a very troubled state right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has been sidestepped by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody. Floyd was killed when multiple police officers pinned him down and one kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

The video of the homicide is horrifically disturbing.  It shows that the officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, appeared to have no regard for Floyd’s well-being as Floyd pleaded for his life.  

In response to Floyd’s death, Americans of all backgrounds came out to protest in outrage over yet another unjustified killing of a black American by police, with little consequence.

Our society is supposed to be the fairest and freest on planet earth. A part of me is somewhat optimistic that an event and fallout of this magnitude will finally turn things around. However, nothing will get better until we acknowledge the issues in our law enforcement and work to influence and view it in a different light.

When injustices occur without consequence, we cannot be silent.

Generally, I have tremendous respect for our police officers and any Americans who work tirelessly to defend our country and keep us safe, risking their lives to do so. But when injustices occur without consequence, we cannot be silent.

It takes grit and capability to be a competent police officer. They may be called upon to make split-second life-and-death decisions that, diplomatically, would require much thinking and negotiation. Since cops are not given completely accurate information all the time, this becomes more difficult and increases the likelihood of fatal incidents.

In the case of Floyd and many other unjustified police killings, the victim was unarmed. Recently obtained footage shows Floyd, who may have been intoxicated, merely complaining and not actively resisting arrest, as officers claimed. Yet, the officers utilized deadly force in taking Floyd into custody for the minimal alleged crime of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit bill.

In order to put an end to the scourge of unjustified police killings of African Americans, I submit that stricter hiring procedures, better training and vigorous accountability for wrongdoing are essential.

Officers should undergo more rigorous training and evaluation that involves emotional, behavioral and mental checks. Anyone with multiple counts of wrongdoing must face consequences. The training process must seek the best and most mentally fit, with a will to serve.

Officers must be trained not to jump to the use of deadly force so readily. The unjustified killings of black Americans shows that all too often use of deadly force is the officer’s first resort to a perceived threat, actual or illusory. Breonna Taylor was killed in her apartment, Antwon Rose was shot when he was running away and Philando Castile was shot at point blank range while sitting in his car. It is hard to imagine that any of these people would have suffered the same fate if they had been white.

Finally, we must train our officers to better understand the issues faced by the communities they serve, particularly the black community. This requires the system to weed out the racism that exists within it. Proper education from members of these communities will no doubt increase open-mindedness and tap into the only reason we should have police: to keep ALL Americans safe.

Society must ask itself: are we going to tolerate injustice behind the badge of “honor?”

But training will not be enough. There need to be more robust measures in place to hold officers accountable for wrongdoing before the public needs to demand that action.

Another disturbing development is the militarization of the police. With violent crime on the decline, there is no need for large tanks or military-style weapons, especially when the money used on them could and should be redirected towards investing in our underserved communities. It can be reasoned that this trend has influenced the increasingly violent nature of our police.

Moreover, society must ask itself: are we going to tolerate injustice behind the badge of “honor?”  Perhaps we should put aside our “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” paraphernalia and start to treat our law enforcement like humans and not soldiers of God. We should adopt the willingness to criticize our police officers just as we did for our politicians. And those who have faced the worst from police should lead the fight and educate others about what is needed.

Merely saying “most cops are good” is missing the point of crucial reform.

Not to disrespect those defending our country, but this pandemic has brought to attention the overlooked among America’s heroes: our doctors, first responders, nurses, farmers and mail carriers. Maybe we can emerge from the chaos of 2020 with a better patriotism: one that recognizes the flawed nature of our country and its systems and will no longer overlook discrimination of any kind, until it has been pulled out by its roots.

Our policemen and women must stand up in the face of dishonor. They must tell their fellow officers when they are wrong. They must do the work and introspection to truly make a positive impact on our marginalized communities. They must uphold our cherished ideals of liberty, freedom, prosperity and justice.

For the public to stand aside and ignore these problems is akin to people in dictatorships ignoring brutality out of unbreakable trust in leadership. America cannot go that route.

To guarantee a better future for all, we must get to work before the “Black Lives Matter” signs have to include the next name.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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