Comment: Video Killed Trust in Police Officers

A good article over at Atlantic titled: Video Killed Trust in Police Officers.

“Most police officers are good cops and good people.” I’m tired of that refrain; that is simply not good enough anymore. Flip that around – what they’re really saying is “not all cops are bigoted assholes”.

All police officers need to be good cops and good people. Until that time, you’d be hard pressed to justify not fearing all of them.

Where are the Philly police

I recently returned to work for a non-profit in Center City Philadelphia. It’s great to be back in the city, it makes me feel more a part of things. Because of the cold, my walk has been limited to about seven blocks. What’s crazy is what I haven’t seen in this time.

It’s been a little more than 3 weeks and I’ve yet to see my first police officer aside from those whizzing by in their cars. Not one policeman or woman walking a beat. No directing of traffic, no standing on the corner making sure there’s no trouble.

It’s not like there isn’t a need – there is a total disregard for traffic laws by drivers, bikers, and pedestrians. There are intersections where blocking the box is the rule. And what happened to the blitz on renegade bicyclists? Seems like it lasted a day. And while they’re at it, there are too many pedestrians that could use a jaywalking ticket. And maybe a visible presence on the streets would prevent the bank robberies that happened downtown recently.

It seems to me that policing shouldn’t be limited to cars, subways, airports, and ghettos. It seems that the Philadelphia Police are only focused on anyone carrying a gun or selling drugs. That’s all well and good, but for the other 99% of situations that deserve their attention, it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves.

I am not a racist

Note to everyone – if you have to say “I am not a racist” on the Larry King show, then chances are you are a racist. It seems that many people don’t realize what racism is. There is some misguided belief that unless you kill someone or assault someone physically, that you’re all well and good. That calling someone nigger or chink or whatever doesn’t rise to the level of racist behavior. Last week Boston Police officer Justin Barrett was suspended for sending an email were he referred to Henry Gates Jr. as a “banana eating jungle monkey” three times and referred to Boston Globe columnist’s article about the Gates arrest as “jungle monkey gibberish”. Yet he appeared on the Larry King show to say he is not a racist.  Really? Then – really, who is a racist?

“I am not a racist” has become a refrain that is all too familiar in these days of the “post-racial” society. Barrett’s lawyer contends that this was private communication from a private computer, to which I say that once it became public it doesn’t matter; Bartlett is a government employee and once his acts become public, then their review is fair. It’s what you do in private that identifies you as racist or not. Racists generally aren’t running down the streets wearing white robes and masks yelling “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” Racists at least are interested in self-preservation and keep their racist thoughts and speech to the like minded. It’s when this speech is moved public where action is demanded.  His lawyer says that cops that do cocaine get their jobs back and that Barrett doesn’t deserve to be fired. To that I say that drugs are an addiction, and there are many recovered addicts that are benefits to society. Officer Justin Barrett is a racist, and as such can not be recovered to the point to where they can be trusted to protect the public.

There are enough bad cops out there that we’re not sure of. Let’s get rid of the ones we know are bad.

Racial profiling vs. the benefit of the doubt

gatesyell_01As much as I want to side with Henry Louis Gates Jr. in his case against the Cambridge police, from what has been released, it seems as if he had as much to do with the escalation of events that occurred. Putting myself in the shoes of Sgt. James Crowley, he was called to the site of a potential breaking and entering. Walking into that situation must be tense. Crowley walked into an additional hornets nest of race. Black men in America are not used to getting the benefit of the doubt.  That is the big difference between how this was handled if Gates was a white professor from Harvard. Getting the benefit of the doubt is the difference. Think of it this way – think if Crowley walked in on a pretty blonde trying to get into her house; he probably would help her. Gates probably assumed he wasn’t going the get that benefit. I understand why he might feel that way, but it doesn’t help matters. Racial profiling works both ways – assuming the white cop is out to get you is not going to get you very far. I hate to say it, but a lot of cops are about power and respect – yes sirs go a long way.

That said…

Once it was determined that Gates did live there, why didn’t Crowley eat crow, apologize for the mistake and get out? “Loud and tumultuous behavior in a public place” doesn’t seem like something you get arrested for. The arrest was made to make a point; to reinforce who was in charge. You have to wonder why you can’t be “loud and tumultuous” in your own home? Would the white professor have been allowed to be more “loud and tumultuous”?

Based on any account you read, it appears that there were plenty of mistakes on both sides. A fact that should have lead President Obama to steer clear of this controversy instead of picking sides. I appreciate his honesty, but even I waited until I had a little more information.

One more thing – the woman that called the “burglary” in must be feeling horrible. She did the right thing, but she has to wonder if there were two white men, would she have called the police?

Or would she have given them the benefit of the doubt?

BTW – before the police start getting too high and mighty – I’ll point them to the case in Philadelphia getting a lot of press where a police officer harrassed a woman, putting a gun to her neck, after the officer’s son hit the woman’s car in a car accident. The lack of trust on the behalf of the public towards the police is well earned. A history of abusing the considerable power they have over you and I has made it a “them versus us” relationship not withstanding all they do for the public.

Dishonoring the badge

Sometimes I am reminded that those that are charged with keeping law and order don’t have the common sense necessary to conduct the job.

Last week a Dallas police officer kept former Eagle Ryan Moats from going into a hospital to be with his mother-in-law, Jonetta Collinsworth, as she died. Quotes from the officer include “I can screw you over” and “I can just take you to jail for running a red light.” Moats, while understandably agitated, remained relatively calm, never said he was an NFL player, complied, but by the time the cop was done, Moats’ mother-in-law had passed. Other police officers, hospital officials implored the officer to allow Moats into the hospital and write the ticket inside to which he responded “I’m almost done.”

This cop is not human, he is an animal. Just as the thugs that run the street deserve scorn, so does this piece of crap. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to know a family member is dying while an officer is holding you for a minor traffic infraction.

My initial response was that Moats being black had a lot to do with this. While I think this was a factor, now I think it’s simply a fact of a cop being a dick. If the man that got out of the car was George Clooney, this officer still would have been a dick. Maybe not as much of a dick, but a dick none the less. I think nothing short of Angelina Jolie would have stopped him. And she’d probably have to be naked. And have a parent dying.

There’s not even a bit of remorse to take the sting away. Just a defense that he was just doing his job. That sounds a lot like the defense “just following orders” that those convicted of Auschwitz war crimes used. In this economic climate, it’s hard for me to wish for someone to lose their job, but he’d be lucky if that’s the only punishment he received.

My heart goes out to the Moats/Collinsworth family. Those final minutes will likely haunt them forever. Not just because of the fact they weren’t able to spend those final moments with her, but also because in this time of need, someone that should have been counted on to assist in times of need made things worse because of a remarkable lack of compassion.

It goes as a strong statement, that nothing that I’ve seen recently is more disheartening than this.

The following is a news story that includes excerpts from the officer’s dashboard camera.