Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our relationship with the police

I recently saw video of Police pepper spraying students sitting at UC Davis, because some of them had tents nearby and wouldn't remove them and, because the crowd of people who had come to watch the confrontation completely dwarfed either group. I wasn't shocked or surprised, and that fact had me deeply dismayed. In the sort of world I want to live in, the public should have the utmost respect, and complete trust, in their Police force and that force, to the extent any human group can, should live up to that respect and trust.

Of course the state of things is not particularly either groups fault. It's a feedback loop between the two. It's hard to see now how the relationship started to break down, maybe it was the place where police were left in the increase post-ww2 economic social stratification, maybe it was that the police were too often put by their superiors on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. At this point it doesn't actually matter, it's been long enough that the original slights were by players who are no longer in play.

So what can we do to change it? The first thing is that we can recognize that there is an economic factor here, and be willing to pay more for the police, current and retired. We can't trust our legislators to represent us in that relationship, so maybe we need to start a charity that just works toward health and death benefits for first responders, hopefully with out the obnoxious fundraisers employed by most F.O.P. and with out the ambiguity of also protecting those police accused of violating the public trust. Another thing that can be done, but not by the lay men is separating the duties of the police so that domain related distrust is limited those cops working in that area, so that most cops can just do their jobs, without the collective distrust people have for all policemen. The other big thing we need to do is stop treating so many laws like we are above them. We should all be embarrassed when hearing about the violence in Mexico, that we are contributing to it. And finally as we normalize things in our relationship with the police, we will need the police to be willing to eject those that are too enamored by their own authority, and to accept that they should be the best and the brightest, and those that aren't don't belong, at least at any higher levels.

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