by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
Earlier today, I mentioned that I couldn’t muster the energy to write more words about the police murder of Philando Castile. Things have changed.
As is often the case, it was a series of tweets I composed that provided the inspiration for this piece. One tweet in particular really set things off:
Michael Krieger @LibertyBlitz
Stop saying, “cops have a dangerous job.” That’s what they signed up for. “Protect and serve.” The public, not themselves. #PhilandoCastile
I wasn’t expecting the enormous reaction this tweet generated, but I was happy to see that it really connected with so many people who had never heard of me and never read my stuff before. I continued with my tweet storm until most of my angst was out, and then realized I needed to put these thoughts into a post. So let’s start with the title of this post.
One of the tiresome things I often hear immediately after one of these inhumane police executions is that “cops have a dangerous job.” So what’s your point?
I grew up with the understanding that the role of a police officer was to “Protect and Serve,” a motto which has been used by the Los Angeles police department since 1955, and has since been adopted by police across the country. So let’s think about what that means: Protect and Serve. The first word implies courage and the second implies sacrifice. As such, we should expect police officers to first and foremost see themselves as selfless guardians of public safety. Ask yourself, do you see cops this way? I don’t.
Personally, I am and always have been very privileged, yet I can’t say my overall experience with police has been a particularly positive one. In the affluent communities in which I’ve spent my entire life, police have never acted violently or illegally toward me, but they haven’t been especially kind or generous either. My interactions with police have pretty much consisted of them taking my money for minor infractions. Moreover, in most cases they seem to take a considerable degree of pleasure in doing so. Again, this is the experience of someone who is extremely privileged.
As such, I can only imagine what the day-to-day experiences of the marginalized and poor might be like. Unfortunately, these days I no longer have to imagine since we have almost daily video evidence of what it’s like, and it’s too often simply barbaric.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but police no longer seem to view the general public as citizens under their protection. In poor communities, they seem to literally view the public as their enemy and the streets as some sort of combat zone. In affluent communities, the public is often seen as a captive audience to be abused financially. This didn’t come out of nowhere, and it’s very much a top down problem.
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