There is a pandemic. The black motoring public needs to stop scaring white police officers. Incidents are being reported nationwide; white police officers are saying, “I was in fear for my safety”; code talk for, "I need to justify the excessive/deadly force I just used." As a retired Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, responsible for investigating allegations of police misconduct, I am familiar with the “canned responses” an officer can use when trying to justify an action that is unjustifiable. Phrases like, “I couldn’t see his hands”; "The suspect was reaching for his waistband” or “The suspect was acting suspiciously” have been spoken in an attempt to avoid administrative discipline.
Whatever happened to police officers enforcing the “spirit of the law” rather than "the letter of the law"? Why not, in cases of a minor infraction like a traffic stop, use a little common sense and compassion. As a traffic officer for five years, I understood that issuing a traffic citation was discretionary. Sometimes, a stiff warning and a few reasoned words could be an effective deterrent in slowing down a speeding motorist.
Many municipalities seem to have a code section that generally affords an over-zealous police officer the opportunity to “hum” a person to jail. "Hum" is slang I often heard used in the halls of the Los Angeles Police Department whenever a police officer wanted to be creative on the pages of an arrest report. Especially, when -- before the days of video car cameras - the officer's version of an arrest was the only version offered.
Creating probable cause or manufacturing reasonable suspicion appears to be a thing of the past. Now, all a police officer has to do is articulate that he or she felt “threatened”. I recognize that there are inherent dangers in being a police officer. Sure, there are some real bad guys “out there”. But not every black or brown person poses a serious threat to a police officer’s safety. I suggest, if you are scared day-to-day working in a black and white police car - perhaps a career change is in order. Go work in a library, on a farm, or in a flower shop.
And what about the travelling public? Citizens are saying they, too, are fearful of police officers who are supposed to protect [us] and serve. We have seen examples where staying in the car [while black], exiting the car [while black] or walking down the street [while black] can invoke fear in a pistol-packing, baton-wielding and taser-toting street cop. So much fear, that police officers are routinely beating, shooting and arresting anyone who 'scares' them.
Whether you are John Q Citizen, a former superior court judge, or a university professor -- you are equally positioned to find yourself on the back-end of an "interfering or refusing to cooperate with an officer" arrest. And of course, with that trumped-up charge comes a trip to jail; a duty to post bond or “three-hots-and a-cot” if you can’t make bail.
There is something inherently wrong with this system.
The notion that “hand-hiding” reasonably causes “fear” is ridiculous; that refusing to exit a car justifies the use of a taser, or displaying your driver’s license -- for god's sake -- when asked results in your being shot several times.
The notion that “hand-hiding” reasonably causes “fear” is ridiculous; that refusing to exit a car justifies the use of a taser, or displaying your driver’s license -- for god's sake -- when asked results in your being shot several times. Police officers receive an inordinate amount of training before they are turned loose on an unsuspecting public. Police officers are trained to recognize signs of trouble and respond appropriately. Police officers are trained to identify and assess a potential threat prior to the use of force. Police officers are trained to escalate and de-escalate when force is used. Police officers are trained to use only that force necessary to overcome the resistance of a suspect. Police officers are NOT trained to lie on an arrest report; that’s learned. And when that happens, the penalty should be swift and decisive. Those dishonest individuals give all of law enforcement a black eye.
In-car video cameras (dash cams), body-worn cameras, and so forth will do little, in my opinion, to dissuade an errant officer from abusing his authority - as in the unlawful arrest of Marcus Jeter in New Jersey. Those officers were fully aware of the dash-cam in their vehicles and in their arrogance created a situation where unjustified force was used. Those officers exacerbated the situation by falsifying an arrest report.
As a mother of young, black men, I “fear for their safety”. I’m concerned that each time one of my sons leaves the safety and sanctity of our home there is a real possibility that he could be killed; not from a falling tree or a dangling electrical wire -- but at the hands of a racist police officer.
I am waiting to hear one of these [white] officers say that they feared a white motorist who refused to exit their car; whose hands the officer could not see or someone who made a furtive movement which resulted in excessive or deadly use of force. I'll wait.
I am waiting to hear a police agency proclaim that a white driver had been stopped for not wearing a seat belt or talking on a cell phone or because there were no gloves in their glove box. I’ll wait.
Clearly it would appear that there needs to be additional training provided to these street cops; maybe a little diversity training, some sensitivity training and then let's throw in some common sense training for good measure. I'll wait. In fact, we are all waiting. Maybe it’s time for the US Department of Justice to mandate continuing education in the area of cultural sensitivity/diversity and intermittent physiological testing for police officers who are still patrolling in a black and white.