Yeah, I haven’t written anything about this yet. The whole thing seems to be winding down now, and frankly the best analysis I’ve read about the situation comes from Cracked. But I figured I should chime in with my thoughts.
We really do need to de-militarize the cops in this country. I’d go so far as to say that for normal, day-to-day police work, officers shouldn’t carry guns. I’ve thought about this before, and now I’ve decided that, yeah, they shouldn’t. They have many other non-lethal options when dealing with suspects (more about this later), and the risks to the general public from an officer who, say, shoot someone six times, including at least once when they’re already on the ground, are just too large. Yes, it does mean a potential increase in the number of attacks on police, but frankly if you’re determined to kill a police officer, the fact that they have a gun isn’t likely to be a deterrent as long as you can shoot first.
But at the very least, all their military-grade toys need to be taken away. All of them. Including SWAT teams for various cities. Maybe individual regions or counties should be able to have a SWAT team, but overall, cities don’t need them. And, yes, police don’t need APCs or the like, and they frankly don’t really need riot gear, either. It might make them feel better and safer, but their job is to make us feel better and safer, not themselves.
Second, the police need to go back to being a part of the community. Yes, this means getting them out of their cars and on foot. This means giving them classes on how to interact with the general public (I think this is already done, but clearly it needs to be done better). They need to earn back our trust, or in the case of the black community, gain a trust they never had in the first place. Being out among us is a great way to do that.
Next, the laws need to be more equalized. Let’s say someone punched me in the face and broke my eye-socket. Ow. Let’s say as well that I have self-defense training, a taser, a club, pepper spray, handcuffs, and a gun. Let’s further say that I used the gun and shot the other person several times. At the very least I’d be charged with manslaughter, if not some degree of murder. This is because I used more force than is required to get myself safely out of a bad situation.
The police officer in Ferguson almost certainly had a club, pepper spray, and handcuffs. He may have had a taser. He certainly had self-defense training, because police officers usually do. With all those options, including an option to just get into his car and call for backup, he instead chose to shoot someone six times. Someone who was unarmed, and someone who, under the law, was innocent of any crime. Someone who he was also sworn to protect.
Now I’ll wager that he’ll be investigated, but no charges will be filed, or if they are, they won’t be much, and on the off chance he’s found guilty, he’ll serve “only” a year or two in prison (I say “only” because no matter how long it is, or how nice, prison sucks). That’s because police officers are held to a lesser standard of behavior than the general public, when in fact it should be the very opposite.
Lastly, one thing I think might actually come about because of this…all police officers should be required to, at all times, wear video and audio recording devices. This will solve a huge number of problems. It certainly would clear things up in this case.
So…yeah. Those are my basic thoughts here. I really hope some positive change comes about because of this incident, but I doubt that it will. Still, we shall see.