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Police Responsibility and the Justifiable use of Force
Crime statics in Chicago
According to the Chicago police, there were 203 murders in Chicago through July of 2014.
This number is down from 2013, where in the same time period there were 215 murders.
Since 2008 the FBI estimates that there have been about 400 justifiable police shootings a year.
Militarized police in Ferguson
With great power comes great responsibility
Those words, first seen by me in a Marvel comic, is brought to mind when I think about the recent rash of police killings. The police, who have been empowered by the citizens they serve, are there to protect the public from criminal elements and to be the "force" of the criminal justice system.
I don't begrudge them this responsibility. I don't take it lightly, nor do I try to downplay how hard, stressful and grueling it can be. You truly get to see the worst of all people, and it can bring you some very negative reflections on the people you deal with. I never said it was an easy job, nor is a job that I'd ever consider having personally.
However, with that being said, I feel that there is double the responsibility for them to use this power properly, to be stalwart in their defense of liberty and to ensure they are not falsely criminalizing an entire community. It seems to me that the presumption of guilt will often exist in an officers mind and this leads to tragic results when it occurs. We get people shot for j-walking or theft, we have people choked out for selling illegal cigarettes or we have people gunned down in parking lots for...not quite sure why Dillon Taylor was shot.
There are those who decry the protests and riots that occur as a result of these incidents and justify the killings by pointing to crime in other places. I can't count the number of times I've heard from conservative media sources that there are more black and brown people killed in Chicago in one weekend over the summer than have been shot by police all year. This is true, and those shooting and killing in Chicago are criminals, the people police are supposed to be protecting the people from. What their comments tell me are this, we expect the police to behave like criminals. Is that what we've come to expect from our public servants? Are we really justifying their behavior by pointing to the fact that they are only doing what the criminals are doing? Aren't the police supposed to value human life more than a drug dealer or a common street thug?
If I thought they were right, then I wouldn't be writing these words. If I felt that this is really the case with police, then I wouldn't be writing these words. If I agreed with these comments, then I would just roll over and leave well enough alone.
I however, don't believe this. I believe that the majority of police do have our best interests at heart, that they do want to serve us justly and that they do deal with a very stressful job. I believe that they know there are bad brothers in their ranks, however just like anyone else, they are remiss to do anything about the man who is supposed to watch his back. I can also respect this as well. There is an expectation to believe and trust people you know over people who aren't known to you. You want to believe the best out of the people you work with and don't want to snitch on people who work with you who are known to bend the rules. Particularly when those in charge may already know about their offensive behavior but don't take any action.
I think that every officer should be offended when they mention that the police aren't too bad since there were 40 shootings in Chicago over the weekend. I think that every cop should hear the message in those words, if criminals can do it, then why can't cops. I think that every American should be offended and hear the underlying message, if criminals have no value for life, then why should law enforcement, particularly black life. I think that every person should speak out about those callous words when they are spoken and that the 99% of police who are trying their best to do the job cleanly and keep everyone safe should not be afraid to out officers who are giving them all a bad name.