Monday, March 26, 2012

Things are tough all over...

Okay, I understand that the police have a difficult job. They have to make spit-second, sometime life-or-death, decisions. They are tasked with protecting the communities which they serve, and preventing crime and bringing justice if a crime is committed.
So why is it that so many people don’t trust the police? Why is it that so many people are afraid of the police? Well, I think that we as citizens fail to recognize that police look at the world from a completely different perspective. On-duty police (and even many off-duty police) look at the world and see potential criminals. If someone is doing something they deem to be out of the ordinary, they think there is justification for investigation. But what is “out of ordinary”? I supposed that depends on the individual officer, and therein lies the central problem. Sure, I think it’s important for officers to use intuition to monitor someone they believes is up to no good.
But why is it that in our country “up to no good” all too often means young black men? Are young white men never up to no good? Are you women never up to no good? Or is it that the police are hyper-focused – as the rest of society is – on young black men (and black men in general) as being suspicious and potentially dangerous? We can look at numerous examples where the police were following “suspicious” individuals (interestingly most of these individuals happen to be black men), the police sometimes undercover or in plain clothes, and wonder why an individual would run or react when the individual that was following them (ESPECIALLY when they’ve done nothing wrong), starts to run after them or pulls out a weapon. I know as a white male, if somebody starts threateningly walking toward me, and especially if they started to pull out a weapon, I would run as fast as I could.
The police never recognize that someone would feel this way, because they know they’re police officers. Never does it occur to them that the individual may not speak English; may not understand what they say; may start to run or walk away quickly as a precaution as soon as they see someone eyeing them suspiciously. Just because you run or walk away quickly from someone, it doesn’t mean that you’re a criminal. In fact, it usually means you’re probably scared yourself. The police need to recognize this, and act accordingly.
However, what the police – and society – above all need to recognize is that a young black man in a hoodie is not automatically suspicious. A young black man in a hoodie can be suspicious; but in the same way that a young white man in a hoodie, and young Asian woman in a hoodie, an old Hispanic woman in a hoodie, or anyone else in a hoodie, is suspicious. They’re only suspicious if they’re doing something suspicious. Walking down the street is NOT SUSPICIOUS. While George Zimmerman, and unfortunately man other people in this country, think that a young black man walking down the street in a certain neighborhood is suspicious, they’re wrong; and too often they’re dead wrong – although the death is that of the [non-]”suspicious” person, not themselves.
George Zimmerman has yet to be locked up, and that is a miscarriage of justice. I will reiterate what I’ve said in previous posts; I’m not trying to declare that George Zimmerman is guilty, but this shooting death should be treated like any other murder that takes place. We have his statement that it is self defense; he needs to be arrested, taken in for questioning, and the burden of proving self-defense will be on him just as it would be on anyone else in a potential murder investigation.

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