Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Fixing our national epidemic of police violence

We do have a serious epidemic of murder-by-police in our land. A very conservative estimate compiled by the FBI puts our annual rate at more than 400, with about one-quarter of the victims African-American. Twice a week, somewhere in the US, cops shoot an African American to death. 
Militarized police confront protesters in Ferguson, St Louis, after the shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images
This doesn't count the times police beat people. And according to the reportage, this data is radically lowballing numbers because it relies on police departments self-reporting and only about 750 of the estimated 17,000 police bureaus bother to report to the Department of Justice on these matters, with entire states simply choosing to fail to report (e.g. Florida). 

Seriously. This violence is well known in African American neighborhoods. In my town, Portland Oregon, one of the premier African American newspapers, The Skanner, editorially advised their readers to not call police in case of emergency because the Portland police worsened the situation more than they helped and the likelihood of someone getting hurt or killed rose when police got involved. 

This is so wrong. What can be done?

There are many steps to take to start to turn this around, including, but not limited to: 
   Halt all military materials, equipment, and training of any local police anywhere in the US.
   Bring in de-escalation trainers who will teach and train nonviolent methods of conflict de-escalation.
   Divert $50 million from the massive Homeland Security budget to GAO to begin proper data collection and evaluation of local police trainings, protocols, and best practices.
   Divert $1 billion from the obese Pentagon budget and redirect to creation of many more Restorative Justice courses in Criminology and Conflict Resolution programs in public colleges and universities.
   Direct US attorneys to aggressively investigate and prosecute police who shoot anyone who is unarmed.
   Launch a massive public education campaign by a coalition of civil society groups to inform them of the problem, the injustices, and potential solutions.
   Make all these problems and potential solutions important issues for elected officials at all levels.
   Befriend a cop. Talk about this. Understand their fears. Help them understand that they will lose more and more public support if they are aggressive.
   Write about this.
   Demonstrate about this. Do it effectively, in ways that build a movement. Do not ironically engage in the sorts of behavior that make the average citizen more grateful for the thin blue line that protects them from you, the demonstrator. Those who protest the police using violence or threatened violence are either police agents or they may as well be, because they do the work of agents provocateurs.
I know you can image another series of fixes. We can turn this around if we engage. 

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