The Chronic Abuse of Power

Rampant police brutality, which disproportionally targets people of color, has been in the spotlight for the past year, with tensions rising each time a new instance arises. Unfortunately the frequency of excessive force, which can lead to death in many cases, is disturbingly high; and yet there appears to be little to no reprimanding or prosecuting of the offending officers. Even when there is video evidence that directly contradicts the officer’s official story, we still see them walking away scot-free from what should be a chargeable offence. Increasingly we hear this idea that if these victims of police brutality simply followed the law then they would’ve avoided a dangerous situation. Often times though, the instances that lead to excessive force by police officers are for menial crimes that would never warrant the abuse inflicted. We enter very dangerous waters when we spread the idea that police officers have the right to resort to extreme violence because people chose to exercise their right to question officer’s reasons and motives. Watching the many videos from scenarios across the country make it impossible to ignore the increasingly militant actions of police forces.

Often times while I watch footage of this abuse, I can’t help but feel like the officers display knee-jerk reactions to a person questioning their authority or bruising their ego. In the aftermath officers scramble for reasons validating their excessive behavior, and will often resort to saying the person resisted arrest (even when no crime was committed) which many times is simply an irritated individual who is getting unnecessarily punished. The level of hypocrisy and blatant racism that arises each time a new instance of police brutality surfaces is outrageous. Being pulled over or approached by a police officer doesn’t exactly bring out the best in people. Yes, mutual respect between the officer and the citizen is preferred, but when people feel as though they are unfairly targeted and profiled because of their skin color, can we really blame them for questioning the officer’s motives? When Eric Garder was continuously heckled by police officers for no discernable reason other than “walking while black,” how can we condemn him for voicing his frustration as he is minutes from death at the hands of five police officers? If our country’s police officers become fearful of their lives (which is the only acceptable reason for use of deadly force) because of an unarmed man showing a bit of irritation then they should not be officers, period.

A mob mentality has arisen inside the police force in this country. Rather than upholding their vow to protect and serve the citizens of the United States, they seem to protect and serve themselves and their fellow officers above all else. Sure, there are moral and ethical cops who do indeed put their lives on the line every day, I don’t question that. However, why are we not seeing more of these good cops speak up against the blatant corruption and forcing the offending cops to take proper accountability for their actions? At the moment we have an armed government entity that sees time and time again that they can overreact in a violent manner and be untouchable in terms of due punishment – thus reinforcing the inappropriate behavior.  So instead of exhausting the options for deescalating a tense situation we see officers immediately resort to force. There is no doubt that this current reality we face of continuously excused police brutality attracts certain dangerous personalities to the job. We’re seeing behavior indicative of extreme narcissism from these officers. Narcissistic personality disorder is defined by a grandiose sense of self-importance, arrogance, and lack of empathy – traits that seem prevalent in the knee-jerk violent reactions of these offending officers. Those are extraordinarily dangerous traits of a person who carries deadly weapons and is given the green light to use force at the drop of a dime.  Thus, police officers who may already have a propensity for violence and narcissism have gained the right to react with force when a citizen bruises their precious ego. Those who lack empathy don’t have motivation to refrain from excessive force except the possibility of punishment; so when we grant officers infallibility in regards to the law, then we set the breeding ground for police brutality.

The old adage rings true in our current paradigm, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” An Us against Them dichotomy has arisen in regards to the police force in this country.  Instead of serving and protecting citizens, police officers have morphed into an exclusive club that primarily serves itself. We, the civilians, now feel alienated, we’re bitter towards the lack of accountability by the police. Even worse, people of color are now forced to be fearful for their lives whenever they encounter police officers. Black lives are taken and ruined on a daily basis in this country, and yet apologists will hypocritically condemn them for mistrusting the police force in this country. When a black woman gets pulled over for failure to use a traffic signal, gets arrested and physically abused for nothing more than an officer’s bruised ego, and ends up mysteriously dying in jail days later, then the anger towards the police is entirely valid. When a black man is arrested, thrown in a police van only to be intentionally driven in a fashion that inflicts injury, and later dies from those injuries, then the anger towards police is entirely valid. When a Haitian man is brutally attacked, tortured, and sodomized by a police officer who admitted a desire to humiliate the victim, then the anger towards police officers is entirely valid. The fact of the matter is these instances happen all the time, and they are happening exponentially more to black people.

Contrary to what the mainstream media will have us believe, the reason black people are the primary targets of police brutality is not because they commit worse crimes, it is not because they are inherently bad or dangerous. The reason black people are targeted is because of systemic racism and structural violence that is built into our society. In some areas of the country, police forces are encouraged to use racial profiling on the job. They make false assumptions based on false ideas about the black community, then place the blame on the often innocent victims. On top of the blatant racism we see very poorly trained police officers saddled with military equipment who apparently don’t know how to deescalate situations with unarmed citizens without the use of excessive and deadly force. Furthermore, according to a study by the Department of Justice 84 percent of police officers report that they’ve seen their colleagues use excessive force on civilians and 61 percent say they don’t always report these instances. So the misconduct and abuse of power continues in a vicious cycle, with no motivation for inside reform because there is very little sign of punishment for offending officers. When police officers are killing people every single day they are denying citizens their right for due process under the law, they are breaking the law on every level – but instead of receiving appropriate punishment they walk away with murder, and a person lost their one precious life because they committed what is often a victim-less crime.

There is absolutely no excuse for officers to actively protect or turn a blind eye on their corrupt and dangerous colleagues. The fact they engage in this negligent behavior shows exactly where their collective loyalty lies, with themselves and not the citizens. By not doing everything they can to stop the rampant brutality and abuse by certain police officers in the force, then they are really no better than the ones committing the acts. If protecting and serving the citizens of the United States was truly the concern of the police force then offending officers would be prosecuted even harsher for breaking their civil duty, not being cleared and forgiven at every turn. Police officers are now hoping for a law against citizens videotaping their actions in public. Once again they show their true colors, because video evidence often directly contradicts abusive officers’ version of events and their main goal is to avoid accountability and protect themselves. Another disturbing issue that arose recently is that police departments will purposefully not hire a person who is deemed too smart, and it’s legal to do so. They claim intelligent people don’t “fit the profile.” Well then we can’t help but wonder what exactly the profile they prefer is. My propensity is to believe the reason police departments don’t want intelligent officers on their forces is because they will be less likely to unquestionably carry out orders and swallow whatever brainwashing they’re fed.

The fact of the matter is, the police do not own us. We have every right to resist illegal action by police, we have every right to ask what their motive is for overstepping their boundaries, and we have every right to protect our lives. When we choose to exercise these rights we are acting within legal boundaries and that absolutely does not give police officers the right to opt for physical force. Rational human beings would understand that when a person is given a ticket by a police officer that they may not be in the best spirits, so any minor attitude or questioning would make sense to a rational person, and a rational person wouldn’t be bothered by that. An irrational person hears any inkling of imagined disrespect and it immediately damages their ego, so they irrationally react disproportionally to the situation. A rational and responsible person would deescalate a situation however possible, if force had to be used a rational person would use just enough to deescalate the situation, and a rational person would hear cries to stop and would react appropriately. An irrational and irresponsible person would resort to force immediately, and would not heed to cries for help because they feel entitled to take a person’s life. Irrational people do not deserve the right to carry deadly weapons and cannot be placed in a position where they are allowed to abuse power.

We must be so careful not to be apologists for this type of behavior by the officers we see abusing their power. The more we encourage the idea that we should just shut up and take whatever authority figures dole out to us, the more we instill that idea in their heads that they can do whatever they want, regardless of the confines of the law. Because if you give an inch, they will take a mile – and that is a guarantee. If we are granting a person nearly unquestioned power and authority over the masses, and on top of it equip them with assault weapons, then we better damn well be sure these individuals are highly intelligent, highly responsible, and highly accountable human beings. Anything less is a crime in it of itself, and our current paradigm is steps away from genuine Martial Law.

Kate Townsend

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