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Sat Jul 9, 2016, 09:44 PM

"Officer, Can You Help?"

A friend of mine who's now long, long retired from a police force told me once that those words were why he chose to apply to become a police officer.

He wanted to help.

He wanted to protect.

He wanted to make neighborhoods and communities safe and strong.

I asked him, "Was your life ever at risk?"

A few times, he told me. But rarely because of "bad guys shooting at me." Cops get exposed to a lot of dangerous situations.

Once he dove into a lake to free a dog trapped in a sinking boat, which was the only thing close to a bona fide 'hero story' he'd ever tell about working as a cop.

I suspect he could tell more.

He is white. There were "black neighborhoods" in his city and sometimes he was assigned there. He said he didn't feel extraordinarily alert or threatened or risk-conscious there. He was just doing his job.

He knew there was racism on the force he worked for. He knew there were racial tensions in some of the areas he worked. He did what he could to address that, including spending off-time in some of those neighborhoods, volunteering at community centers, participating in pick-up basketball games, eating out at local joints, getting to know people.

But that was then. Forty-plus years ago, when SWAT teams hadn't yet migrated eastward from the West Coast, before President Nixon declared "War on Drugs", before the manufacturers of military hardware decided domestic law enforcement was a fruitful new profit center, before the Endless Oil War supplied police departments with so many recruits with military training and rawly traumatic urban warfare experience.

Forty-plus years ago, when the Civil Rights movement had just accomplished a series of victories and the assassination of Martin Luther King heightened consciousness of just how dangerous racism was for all concerned. No one wanted to set off more Long Hot Summers. De-escalation of racial tension remained a priority even in an essentially racist mostly-white police force in an oh-so-politely racist white northern city.

I've been trying to parse out what I know about the corner law enforcement has backed itself into, with its increasing militarization, paranoia, hyperactive threat assessment reflexes, and above all, racism. How all of those things have combined into a powerful bunker mentality, an us-versus-them stance, empowered by good-old-boy unions complicit with City Hall lawyers.

It's not going to be easy to change.

The present calls for unity, for de-escalation, for finding common ground, for making change, etc., aren't exactly unprecedented.

But the reality is that until the police departments of America take steady, consistent, and observable actions to change their culture, their recruitment and training practices, their operational doctrines, and their willingness to be accountable to ALL the people in ALL the communities they serve, the spiral will continue in the wrong direction.

wearily,
Bright

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Reply "Officer, Can You Help?" (Original post)
TygrBright Jul 2016 OP
Chemisse Jul 2016 #1
Bernardo de La Paz Jul 2016 #3
sheshe2 Jul 2016 #2
TygrBright Jul 2016 #5
SCantiGOP Jul 2016 #4
TygrBright Jul 2016 #6
sheshe2 Jul 2016 #8
TygrBright Jul 2016 #9
NobodyHere Jul 2016 #7

Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Sat Jul 9, 2016, 09:50 PM

1. You are exactly right on this.

But the reality is that until the police departments of America take steady, consistent, and observable actions to change their culture, their recruitment and training practices, their operational doctrines, and their willingness to be accountable to ALL the people in ALL the communities they serve, the spiral will continue in the wrong direction.

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Response to Chemisse (Reply #1)

Sat Jul 9, 2016, 10:28 PM

3. Can't argue with this point. Spot on. Start at the top, the leadership. . . . nt

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Sat Jul 9, 2016, 10:26 PM

2. Sighing wearily.

Thanks, TygrBright.

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Response to sheshe2 (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 10, 2016, 12:46 AM

5. Thank YOU, sheshe...

My heart is just breaking, breaking...

Keep speaking out, keep these difficult truths in the light.

sadly,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Sat Jul 9, 2016, 10:50 PM

4. Regretably,

Your analysis of the problem is correct. Most police are now military vets and there must be some causal relationship there.

You do end with some suggestions that would help; I just hope the people overseeing the system see this situation like you do.

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Response to SCantiGOP (Reply #4)

Sun Jul 10, 2016, 12:50 AM

6. Thank you...

There are things the institutions must do-- for that, leaders of courage must rise within those institutions, and leaders of courage from outside those institutions must continue to demand change and confront their communities with unpleasant truths and realities to increase the momentum toward change and the support for the leaders within the institutions who will work for change.

There are also things individuals within the institutions can and must do-- and thus become the leaders that are needed.

It starts so simply, one-to-one, heart-to-heart, listening and learning from one another. Getting to know those who look different from ourselves. Getting to see the humanity behind the difference.

There are some who do, and more who will, this I know.

hopefully,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #6)

Sun Jul 10, 2016, 01:13 AM

8. Hopefully...

Hopefully,

Tygr Bright.



By William Blake
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?


And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?


1794
http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/tyger.html

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Response to sheshe2 (Reply #8)

Sun Jul 10, 2016, 01:47 AM

9. Yes. Always. Thank you. n/t

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Response to TygrBright (Original post)

Sun Jul 10, 2016, 12:57 AM

7. In the past 40 years

 

violent crime rates have been spiralling in the right direction.

Society has been deescallating.

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