As American citizens, we are supposed to be able to trust the men and women wearing police badges to defend us, protect us, and keep us safe. What happens when the trust between citizens and the police erodes? YouTube and various online mediums are littered with videos of police officers committing illegal or immoral acts. In America, there seems to be a growing number of people becoming cautious of the police.
Sometimes, the extralegal measures taken by a fraction of the police have worn weary American citizens. Not only have these horrific stories shifted the narrative of the American response to the patrol, but they also have completely shattered the trust between the police and the citizenry. Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” From April 2009 to June 2010, 5,986 reports of police misconduct and 382 fatalities linked to police misconduct had been reported nationwide.
Throughout history, and especially during the Civil Rights movement, stories of police brutality and abuse have been prominent. However, recently, it seems that the volume of police abuse has risen dramatically. Nearly all news outlets have occasional reports of the illegality of a specific police officer’s actions. With the emergence of social media and handheld recording devices, capturing police activity is as easy as holding a cell phone. With the increase in evidence of widespread police misconduct, the American populace has subsequently decreased the level of trust we have with the police.
Action is being taken all over the country. For example, the Cato Institute sponsors a www.policemisconduct.net, where their mission is to “gather reports of credible allegations of police misconduct so policymakers (and others) can make informed assessments of the nature and circumstances of police misconduct, and consider proposals that can minimize wrongdoing.” Concerned citizens groups have sprouted all over the country, with similar goals of regulating and keeping the police in check (that are supposed to be doing the same to them). Gone are the days when Glenn Beck was labeled as the crazy man who rants about the overreach of the government and the police force, now it seems that everyone is joining Beck’s shtick. Major organizations like the ACLU have gotten behind the cause, in defense of the American people.
The trend is so extensive, that even state legislators are considering passing legislation requiring police departments to further investigate and punish individual officers guilty of misconduct. Currently, the Connecticut state legislature is considering a proposal that would have police departments “develop and implement a policy on how police departments should handle complaints alleging misconduct by officers. It also would require police departments to implement that policy, or a similar one that meets standards spelled out in the bill.” It will be interesting to see how the issue takes shape in response to the overwhelming amount of attention being diverted to the issue.
The major effect of the rising awareness of police brutality is the growing distrust of the police in general. This segment of the police force that has been publicized as being abusive has changed everything. This small number of police officers has collectively destroyed the built up trust between communities and the police force. Normal citizens are showing resentment toward the police. The loss of trust suffered by citizens shows in the way they treat the police. People are beginning to alter the way they act in front of or around the police. When pulled over, people have started recording the exchange between themselves and the police. When they see someone about to be arrested, cell phones pop out to record every action about to take place. Public distrust of the police force runs rampant on social media, from tweets sharing videos of police brutality, to Facebook statuses criticizing the methods of a police search.
On the other hand, some fear those that are supposed to protect them. Specifically, minorities, including blacks and women are among the largest group of people that show a growing distrust for the police force. Combining these groups of people together has created an almost united front against police misconduct. Protests are one of the most public ways that people have decided to take a stand against these crimes. In addition, lawsuits against the mistreatment of citizens at the hands of the police are sprouting up all over the nation. Finally, citizens in certain communities are beginning to vote out politicians who are directly related to covering up or ignoring police misconduct cases.
With the growing and overwhelming attention focused on the disgusting problem of police misconduct, abuse, and brutality, I expect to see a decrease in the number of instances in the coming years. Nobody is immune to the law; however, giving extra rights to the people responsible for enforcing said laws is not only unlawful, but also corrupt. The American people see this. We as a people have grown tired of the abuse of power exhibited by some that wear a police badge. That badge (to the shock of those convicted of police misconduct) is not a crown.
Now, for those of you reading this that are police officers, or have family and friends in the police force, please do not think that this column is solely to bash that profession. It is not. There are countless men and women who wear a police badge that sacrifice their lives day in and day out so that the country we live in can remain free from domestic threats. The debt that we as American citizens owe to the responsible members of the police force is immeasurable.
The sickening portion of the police profession that have tainted the good reputation of being a police officer should be ashamed of themselves. Those few who are not able to wield power without unjustly punishing others have essentially ruined the American citizenry’s opinion of one of the most respectable professions. Personally, I have faith that the irresponsibility found in police departments nationwide will be eradicated. I honestly and wholeheartedly believe that the American faith in the police can be restored – but that’s not to say we don’t have a long road to travel.