There’s not much doubt the image of the police now is in stark contrast to say, Barney Fife and Andy Griffith. That old apple pie and tip of the hat image has been replaced by one of brutality draped in fear. Our citizens are scared, especially our minorities. We’ve reached a point that citizens are posting about how they wouldn’t commit suicide if they were jailed for a small traffic offense.
They’re afraid of being killed in jail for a small traffic offense.
It seems a bit surreal. Almost as if we’re living in the stereotype we cast on less developed nations. How did we get here?
In the nineteen eighties the American Government launched a “war on drugs” which “rages” on today. Rage in this context of course meaning talk a lot and confiscated drug money into senators bank accounts and back into the prison industrial complex. The decision on how to deal with drug crime was decided one day: through fear. Make them afraid to deal the drugs. Make them afraid of the massive prison stays, the absurdly large fines and prison costs. Make them afraid of the police. Make them afraid of being raped in a cell while the guards turn the other way.
Make them afraid. You can’t spray pesticide without a crop duster, however so they turned to the twenty four hour news networks. The message of a violent depraved world marched on and before we knew it almost every story was about violent drug war, the dangers of drugs or police raids. There was a conscious effort to make the police as imposing as possible in an effort to scare criminals. Eventually though, as the crack epidemic became an idea of history and drug crime started to move into the digital age, all we were left was this terrifying presence armed and ready.
Once drug crime was no longer such a massive presence of violence our views on drugs softened and our views on the police didn’t. We’d look at minor pot offenses and see young people hauled off to jail for a decade. All by the ruthless, unreasonable arm of the law.
Police training never changed with the times. They’re still being conditioned for a harsh and unforgiving world, ready to stab, shoot or maim them over crime. In an age where people are the safest they’ve ever been be have police as dangerous as they have ever been.In addition, thanks to military surplus and production, our police are armed with equipment and weapons that are far beyond the need of day to day interaction. Give a boy a toy, and he’s going to want to play with it. Flak jackets, high powered assault weapons. Armored vehicles. Our police have been playing soldier for a while now. The contrast alone is enough to incite fear.
This is much like the feeling any black male has felt at some point in his life- watching a young woman clutch her purse when he walks by but with one difference: he thinks the woman is just as dangerous. There is little wonder why such a conditioning has caused such unrest in recent years.
Mix in the inherit racism embedded in our society and one has little course to wonder why traffic stops end in “suicides”. When black men flee a minor offense and get shot in the back (or more recently the back of the head). It leads little to wonder how we’ve all watched a white officer strangle an unarmed, frightened black man to death and not face charges.
And we’re all to blame.
Sensationalist? Maybe, but who do you think gives this kind of press it’s ratings? Who turns it on every day with a gaping jaw. Fear sells, we’re buying. We’ll never stop the press from sensationalizing daily life, but we all do have the power to stop and interpret what they’re saying. We can stop viewing the world through their blood red filter and make some decisions and judge things for ourselves. We can educate ourselves before springing to snap judgement.