Dear Police: Stop Treating Us Like We're Part Of ISIS
Another day, another shocking example of police violence.
On Friday, the Tulsa, Oklahoma police department finally released video from the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris, an unarmed black man who police say was trying to sell a gun to an undercover cop.
The video, which was captured by sunglass cameras and is about a minute long, shows Harris running from officers before they finally catch up with him and tackle him to the ground.
Then, all hell breaks loose.
After yelling out the word “Taser,” one of the officers opens fire - but with his gun, not his taser - and shoots Eric Harris right in the shoulder.
Take a look, but be warned that this is some disturbing stuff.
That’s right -“F-ck your breath.” How’s that for protecting and serving?
Oh, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it now turns out that the cop who shot Eric Harris isn’t really a cop, at least in the official sense.
His name is Robert Bates and he’s a 73-year-old insurance manager as a well as a big time donor to the Tulsa police department who serves on the force as a volunteer Reserve Deputy.
He did have to go through training before hitting the streets, but once that training was complete, he only had to work 40 hours every six months to stay certified. .
Bates was charged with second degree manslaughter earlier today, but the fact that this even happened in the first place is an example of everything that’s wrong with policing in America.
In most Northern European countries, it takes years and years of training to become a police officer - and once they’re on the force, police officers take home good, solid upper-middle-class salaries.
Here in America, though, police officers often have to scrape by on poverty wages, and don’t have to go through near the level of training that their European counterparts have to go through before they put on a badge.
Obviously, if there’s anywhere this toxic combination of low pay and a lack of training is going to show up and cause a big problem, it’s with a volunteer reserve officer trying to do more than he’s really trained to do.
If we simply raised the pay of police officers in America - and set high nationwide hiring standards like the countries of Northern Europe do - that would go a long way towards ensuring that only the best and brightest make it out onto our streets.
But making the police more professional only solves part of the problem.
We also need to change how we train them and what we’re training them for.
Right now, law enforcement agencies all across the country recruit new officers using videos like this one, put out by the Stillwater, Oklahoma police.
With a recruitment video like that, you’d think that Stillwater, Oklahoma was a war zone. And that’s the problem.
Ever since Reagan ramped up the War on Drugs in the 1980s, we’ve essentially told cops that they’re soldiers fighting a long and brutal campaign against the criminals among us.
Popular culture, with its TV shows that celebrate police violence, has only made things worse.
This is a huge problem.
Not only does this permanent war footing prevent cops from getting to the bottom of what really causes crime - poverty - it also tells them to fear the public they’re supposed to protect.
In this type of environment, police shootings aren’t just more likely - they’re inevitable. Police officers aren’t warriors; they’re public servants.
Let’s start acting like it.