NOT JUST POLICE BRUTALITY, POLICE MENTALITY
Except for the Good Lord, everybody has someone or something to “check” him or her. Unfortunately President Obama has an unresponsive Congress to check him, and Supreme Court to do the same. Elected officials are checked by voters (when they vote), and the Securities and Exchange Commission usually check corporate crooks. Reputable media sources correct their errors and plagiarists lose their jobs. Everybody has to answer to somebody. There are consequences for everyone except the police. At least that’s part of the story Sunil Dutta tells in an article he wrote for the Washington Post:
“If you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don't argue with me, don't call me names, don't tell me that I can't stop you, don't say I'm a racist pig. Don't threaten that you'll sue me and take away my badge. Don't scream at me that you pay my salary, and don't even think of walking aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it cooperate for that long?”’
Dutta, who served on the LAPD for 17 years and is now a professor of homeland security, acknowledges that cops can be wrong, and suggests that those who have “a beef” -- “ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint, or contact civil rights organizations. Feel free to sue the police!” he writes. Did he spend his LAPD years assigned to the Disneyland precinct? Given his demand that people should just shut up and put up, Bugs Bunny would be sitting in the back of a blue and white.
People of color have been gagged by the put up or shut up form of police brutality for far too long, being forced by fear to close eyes and ears to the beatings and killings of our people for any reason. Law enforcement officers moonlighted as Klan members (or is it the other way around) from the post-Reconstruction era until the end of the civil rights era. People don’t forget.
When African American southerners came west during World War II because work was plentiful, Oakland was among the cities that looked south for their new white police officers, officers so adept at harassing black people without reason that they didn’t need to be trained. One of the reasons the Black Panther Party was started was in resistance to police brutality. At one point Panthers and others legally armed citizens with books of law, chosen to help them evaluate police officers by following them as they so-called patrolled the streets. This did not stop police harassment, but it put a spotlight on it. It didn’t put enough of a spotlight for a group of rogue officers to beat and frame more than 100 people, and to cost the city millions to settle lawsuits that resulted from their actions. In 2003 OPD agreed to reforms, but they have come so slowly that a federal judge is now supervising them. Ten years AFTER a reform agreement, a judge has to step in? Oakland is not the only police department that is deficient, but what ties Oakland, California to Ferguson, Missouri is police mentality, not just brutality.
How to stop the mentality that leads to brutality? REQUIRE every police officer to have a body camera, and invalidate the arrests of those who do not wear one. REQUIRE every police vehicle to have a video camera. I can already hear people objecting to regulation and requirement. I can hear others saying we need to talk. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “the law will not make you love me but it will keep you from lynching me.” Talk later. Stop this madness by requiring electronic police supervision now! The police should be policed, they should have a system that checks them and protects us.