Monday, May 11, 2015
Today, contemplating Justice System Reform In America, would slice Thought into four portions:
1. Some newspaper Reader Comments that can offer perspective
2. Exploring the option of handling drug problems in a non-punitive fashion
3. Nonviolent protest
4. Citizen effort to not "pester" police with stupid stuff
First, Reader Comments from N.Y. Times article titled, "Police Struggle With Loss of Privileged Position"
In an interview last week with NPR, Darrell Stephens, former chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina and now advisor to both police chiefs and government officials, ended with this quote, which is quite telling: "The police cannot control society without the help of society." CONTROL SOCIETY? I thought their job was to PROTECT and SERVE, not control...
Jason Shapiro Santa Fe
Let's be clear, the police did not "lose" their privileged position, they threw it away with their own violence and arrogance.
Jeff Los Angeles
I think what has been lost, or forgotten by too many, and should be remembered above everything else, is the notion that police officers are, first and foremost, public SERVANTS.
Long overdue. Modern-day Americans, beneficiaries of the vigorous citizenship of their forefathers, have been astonishingly slavish in their relationship to anyone in a uniform. It is precisely because we have vested extraordinary powers in police that we must scrutinize their conduct continuously. It's called democracy.
John C. Chicago, IL
We heard some of this disconnect when, after the Michael Brown shooting, numerous police officers and representatives commented that these shootings would not happen if civilians simply "obeyed the officer's orders".
The mindset that civilians must obey officers is more suited to a police state or dictatorship than America. In a free society, there must be limits on the power police have over regular citizens.
The fact that nationally, Police unions are recalibrating to higher levels of accountability, shows that too much public trust had been taken for granted. Trust, like respect, is earned through deeds, and law enforcement have been operating on assumption that their profession inherently merited both.
Now, communities are unequivocally saying that [policemen], like citizens, will be held accountable for standing on the right side of the law.
Exploring the option of handling drug problems in a non-punitive fashion --
This headline from The Atlantic:
"Any Addict Who Asks for Help Will Not Be Charged" ...The police chief from Gloucester, Massachusetts, explains how his department is going beyond arrests to fight drug addiction.
Third -- Nonviolent protest
As reported in The Flat Hat, the College of William and Mary's Student Voice since 1911 --
"Students Organize Protests Against Police Brutality."
College of William and Mary students and Williamsburg community members participated in a march to "Shut Down Richmond Road" Monday, May 4 as a protest against police brutality. The event was organized by Nadia Ross '17 in light of the most recent death of a black civilian caused by police in Baltimore, Md.
...Student organizers coordinated the march with local police forces to ensure safety for participants.
..."People are getting away with murder and that is what we should all have a problem with," Ross said. "We march because we want to show our impressionable youth that, even though they are constantly being told that they do not matter, we want them to know that they do. We march because black lives matter."
...Ross contacted both the Williamsburg and William and Mary Police Departments during the planning stages. They helped her obtain a permit and plot a safe route to march down Richmond Road. Officers from both departments were stationed along the way for security measures and to help direct traffic.
----------------------- [end excerpts]
See, that's how you do it: the police are helping you, & cooperating; that's nonviolent protest in the tradition of MLK.
And a fourth thought, today, is something all citizens can do, all the time, in Simultaneous Support of our policemen and our civil society:
Resist the temptation to pester the police with stupid stuff.
I asked a guy who was a former policeman, one day, "Do people bother the police with silly complaints?" and before the question was even all the way past my lips, he went, "Oh, GOD!!! Do they ever! It's unbelievable...!" And I believed him.
Years ago when I had first moved into a house on the main street, I was cleaning and doing laundry, one night, and playing music on my stereo:
Aretha Franklin singing the Rolling Stones hit, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (which she sang for the film of the same name that introduced Whoopi Goldberg).
Vacuuming, ironing, I was in a flurry of energetic homemaking, when the doorbell rang.
I open the door, it's a tall policeman, looking kind of like he feels bad to be bothering me, and he says kind of shyly and politely, could I turn my music down, "your neighbor complained" -- he had this apologetic look on his face, as if he was thinking, "Yeah -- I know it's stupid..."
I was very startled and surprised -- I mean, here I was, not in a dorm room or an apartment, but in a house, a separate structure, and someone's complaining.
Well -- I said Yes to the policeman, and he left...and it turned out, as I became accustomed to living in this neighborhood, that this particular neighbor was just always going to be fussing about something.
I didn't have time to pay much attention...when she called me up on the telephone one morning at about 4:00 to say she could hear my TV, I just started unplugging the phone every night before going to sleep and didn't plug it back in until I left for work, approx. 5 a.m.
(Later she moved away and was replaced with an excellent neighbor, yay)
I think wisdom which can be drawn from this anecdote is twofold:
1. Leave the police alone, don't call 'em with silly-fussing about your neighbors, and
2. People who work as peace officers also must maintain a certain patience with the fact that there are always going to be some people who have little emotional maturity or self-awareness, who are just going to pester.
(Like -- "They are, therefore they pester.")
A certain patience and tolerance must be developed; everybody can't be perfect, and some people are "pills" and you just have to develop gentle deflection tactics (unplug the phone)....