Police Shootings: Law Enforcement and National Security Officials Must Protect and Serve Communities
The US, as well as the rest of the rest of the developed world, can lead on the national security and law enforcement challenges of the Twenty-First Century. Under threat, it is easy to embrace the “police state” mentality that prioritizes security over freedom. Instead of indulging the impulse to “militarize” community police and erode basic rights that guarantee human dignity, however, the US needs to confront modern threats, such as terrorism in the homeland and cybercrime, through policies and practices that modernize the peacekeeping mission of the police.
Cop killers and killer cops, including those involved in the recent examples of the Dallas Shootings, Philando Castile Killing, and the Alton Sterling Murder, reveal a growing divide between law enforcement and the communities they are supposed to serve. The manner in which police approach members of the community as presumed threats demonstrates how the police fail to support members of the communities most in need of help. Criminals are broken, dysfunctional members of their communities. For the sake of these individuals and their communities, they need constructive intervention from community leaders, such as the police.
As the enforcement arm of the Law, it is easy for the police to end up on the wrong side of public opinion while their authoritative position often makes them outsiders of the communities they are supposed to serve. Because the police are empowered by government to confront and arrest their fellow citizens, which is a dictated power not all people respect, the police are often seen as agitators. This is especially true when the police lack the legal authority to show appropriate discretion, in terms of arrests and fines, in order to favor mediation between conflicting parties within the community.
When under increased and prolonged threat, whether real or perceived, human police are going to become more defensive and aggressive, thus suspects are more likely to be treated in a far less courteous and gentle manner. In turn, officers with overbearing personalities and tendencies, whose instinct is to handling suspects in a rough manner, will find themselves in positions where they mistreat suspects, even if those suspects are actually innocent. Fueled by building resentment, this dynamic creates a divide between community and public servants that explodes when tragic events take place.
For those who watch young people in their communities grow to fear, hate, and die at the hands of law officers, who are supposed to make their communities safer and stronger, they cannot help but feel anger toward a system that is failing them. On the other hand, police officers facing public anger over the deaths of people like Philando Castile and Alton Sterling , as well as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, cannot help but feel resentment for criticism aimed at their fellow officers for trying to keep themselves and their communities safe. In many respects, the system has also failed the police by too often giving them a mission that they cannot always accomplish.
Since the September 11th 2001terrorst attacks, the police have been asked to play the role of military in the war on terrorism and the war on crime. While they may not necessarily be in a perpetual warzone, they are being trained to respond as though they are guards at an armed checkpoint. The war on terrorism has meant a boon in federal dollars and military hardware giveaways for many police departments, yet the shift in mission increases the strain on the human resources. Instead of being drafted to aid in the anti-terrorism mission of national security officials, national security officials need to be drafted to provide local police with greater material and technical support in their mission to keep the peace.
Furthermore, balance is needed, so we do not solve one problem by creating even more problems. For community development and civil liberties advocates, balance means preventing national security overreach by establishing boundaries. For law enforce and national security advocates, balance tends to mean removing barriers for investigators. Unfortunately, a superficial understanding of balance allows advocates to disarm valid criticism by simply saying there is a need to for balance without taking any meaningful steps to find an actual balance. As such, real balance must be defined and pursued by all sides.
Silicon Valley, for example, has become somewhat of a symbol in the battle to balance national security interests and civil liberties. The internet is a safe haven that offers criminals many opportunities; however, preserving the internet from the tyranny of abusive powers does far more to empower the voiceless and unite the world as a global community for the common good. Not only does information technology provide a wealth of potential leads that can be used to help protect people from crimes like terrorism, national security warriors struggle to cope with potential threats that are made possible when technology empowers people for better, or worse.
Just as the world wants police on the streets to prevent crime, discourage wrongdoing, and arrest those who harm others, the same is needed on the worldwide web. Police intimidation, censorship, bullying, brutality, and other forms of abuse are not, however, acceptable in the real or cyber world. When something does go wrong, people need to know their local law enforcement and national security officials will be there to protect them, yet they do need the police violating their privacy or brutalizing them.
Moreover, the police must be community leaders who support their communities by committing themselves to a peacekeeping mission while national security official need to provide greater support for local law enforcement.
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