Category Archives: civic issues

What does the future have to hold?

With each passing day, it seems there is another thing that happens that causes members of the public to have a greater negative reaction against the police force. Whether it be the killing of an unarmed civilian, another form of brutality, or a simple violation of a person’s rights, something happens. This distrust is growing beyond being just between the black community and police officers. It’s starting to become civilians of all races, of all religions, of all backgrounds. We are moving towards a country in which the civilians and those that are supposed to protect and serve are constantly in a state of hostility towards each other. This type of situation is bad for all parties involved and something needs to be done to prevent this.

My current biggest fear about the police force is that they are going to grow to become a full-fledged paramilitary force. By this, I mean complete military typed gear, vehicles, guns, etc. This would cause a great amount of distress in the public. The gear that the SWAT team wore in the mid-2000s was very successful in protecting them in scenarios in which they had to get into gun fights. Now, there seems to be overkill in the amount of gear and guns that they take into situations. On top of that, these paramilitary forces are the ones that are looking at protests and other things like that. For example, some of the Ferguson protests were overlooked by a police force that was completely decked out in military gear and equipment, and this was prior to any of the looting. Could you imagine protesting something and seeing a militarized force next to you? This is especially concerning considering the situations that they were protesting. They were protesting the 1%, they were protesting the police killing an unarmed man.

If the police force grows too large, the answer then becomes who do they have to answer to? This is already showing that it is going to become a major issue in America. The police do actions and they often have no consequences of it. There have been different instances where a police officer has done something violent to a person, or a group of people, only for there to be no consequences. If this continues to happen, it’s going to create an absolutely awful pattern of expectations. They are going to believe that they can do actions, violate any rights, harm any  person and nothing will come from it. We can’t allow this precedent to happen. A paramilitary police force mixed with having no consequences for actions would be bad for us all.

Another issue, which relates back to them not having anyone to answer to, is the way police investigations are carried out. The people that investigate the officer, is the department–that he/she worked for his/her entire life. Also, the prosecutor to the officer is the prosecutor that the officer has worked with the entire career. Someone is going to be far less likely to build a case against someone if he/she worked together for his/her life. Private investigator need to come in and investigate the case, while a prosecutor from a different counter needs to be in charge with creating a case against the person being accused.

Laws need to be passed to better protect the civilian from wrongful actions of the police. One of these, that I wholeheartedly support, is body cameras. Mandatory body cameras is necessary in today’s age. A lot of the actions that happen so quickly, with many different stories, that it is challenging to know what the real truth is. Body cameras would do wonders in revealing the truth. Cameras that need to be turned on the entire time of the shift, with audio during any encounters is necessary. There needs to be penalties against the officer if it goes off during any of these times, especially if something big happens.

I think the biggest issue with police, however, has nothing to do with the officer but more with the training. I think police school is too short. Some of these people get thrown into the proverbial line of fire too quickly. These are the officers that are so quickly to use deadly violence in cases where it shouldn’t have been used. Also, I believe that the physical tests need to be harder. These people are supposed to protect and serve. They will do a whole lot better of a job doing that if they are exceptionally fit and have a lot of training under pressure.

There is a clear distrust between police and civilians. I don’t, however, it has grown to the point where it can’t be repaired. We just need to better train the officers, equip them with things that will protect the civilians, stop the movement towards a paramilitary force, and not be so quickly to use deadly actions. It’ll take a long time, but I want to get to the point where I can look at the police force with respect instead of disgust.

A South Carolina officer is charged with the death of a civilian

On Tuesday, a video surfaced of an officer shooting a man in the back while he was running away. The officer was white, the man was black. This is turning into a common situation. White officer, killing an unarmed black male. This entire thing is deeper than race. It has to due with the police officers having the liberty to do whatever they want with no one to answer to. Yes, of course, I acknowledge that there are good police officers out there. I applaud those police officers. The focus needs to be on the ones that do things like this. They are trained on how to handle situations like this. Shooting unarmed people, especially if they are running away, is unacceptable. Surely the officer could have gotten him down in a better way. If the issue was that the male was faster than the cop, well, then maybe we need stricter physical tests for the cops to pass.

Michael Slager, the 33 year old officer charged in this case, said he feared for his life because his stun gun was taken by the suspect, Walter Scott. The “trained” police officer, was unable to protect himself from the suspect, this is the first issue. Police need to be trained better. If he can’t protect his own stun gun, what can he protect? The video showed that Scott was shot 8 times while running away. 8 times. EIGHT TIMES. After being shot once, that is enough to put the man down, or at least do enough damage for the cop to be able to stop the suspect from running away. Shooting someone that is UNARMED and RUNNING AWAY eight times is something that should frighten the civilians. This is a major example of incompetency and trigger happiness.

This isn’t the first case that happened like this. Of course we had the Ferguson shooting and the NYC choking case. These events have raised the nationwide question of whether or not police officers are too quick to use deathly force. Of course I am in the party that believes that the police are becoming an issue. They are supposed to be trained in this. There is no way that they’re training didn’t cover what to do in this scenario. If it didn’t, then the entire training system needs to be scrutinized, picked apart, and supervised by someone that knows how to protect and serve.

North Charleston is one of South Carolina’s biggest cities. It has a population of about 100,000, almost half of that being made up of African-Americans and only thirty-seven percent being white. The police department, however, is 80 percent white. This is another issue that I see. Cops in urban, African-American heavy areas are going to be more scared, and thus more likely to use deathly force if filled threatened. These are the types of areas that need more black police officers. The black community in the areas feel a great distrust for white police officers. Having more black police officers to come in and calm down the people of the area would go a far way in preventing more things like this from happening. It would make the police officers more comfortable, since they won’t have that same fear, while also making the citizens more comfortable since they won’t have to worry about becoming a news story.

The most interesting thing about this is that the police officer is very clearly seen as going back where the initial scuffle occurred and picking something up. He then goes and places the item near the body. It is unclear if this is the stun gun that the officer said that Scott had, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The stun gun would have been very good protection from him seeing any legal charges. With that now in question, something else is going to be needed to prevent him from possibly facing charges.

The FBI and the branch of police officers are investigating the case, but I currently don’t have high hopes for this case. Just like the Wilson and NYC case, the prosecutor has worked with the cops for years. This doesn’t make any sense. If the whole “fair trail” thing is being sought after, the case needs to be made by someone that doesn’t directly know the person that the charges are against. An outside prosecutor needs to come in and be the one to make the case against the police officer. Logically, the prosecutor will be very hesitant to make a sound case against the people that he works with. Someone outside is necessary.

As more cases like this pop up, there will be a bigger distrust for police officers. I don’t blame the people either. Cops are way to willing to pull the trigger multiple times although the scenario doesn’t call for it. Hopefully we see justice for this scenario.

Police misconduct tracked for February 10, 2015

The police force is an ever powerful part of American society.  They are responsible for serving and protecting the people of the United States.  They are the ones that in charge of keeping citizens safe and in good care.  It’s expected for them to hold themselves to a high standard if doing so.  But it’s not impossible to expect them to be perfect.  They are human.  They make mistakes.  Here is the February 10, 2015 report for mistakes that police officers made on or before that date.

Last year, Kensington police Sgt. Keith T. Barrow had an encounter with a prostitute in a hotel room .  During this encounter, he fell asleep.   When he woke up, his badge, his gun, and two rounds of ammunition were all gone.  Although all of this happened, the officer managed to hang onto his job with no immediate suspension.  Many in the community were outraged that, even with an investigation, the officer managed to get off free.  His suspension was given out on February, 10th.  The length of the suspension is unknown.  Reno police got the gun back, but only after the prostitute’s pimp shot himself in the leg with it.  That last thing can’t be blamed on the police officer, just the idiotic pimp.

In Cedar Grove, WV, the police chief, Aaron Roop, was arrested and charged with domestic violence overnight.  According to a release from the Montgomery Police Dept., they were called to a home on Third Avenue early in the morning on Feb. 3.   When they arrived they found Chief Roop on the porch of the house with a gun in his hand, according to the release.  Witnesses say Roop threatened to kill  his wife and his brother-in-law.  According to a criminal complaint, Chief Aaron Roop pointed a gun at his wife’s head and threatened to “blow her head off, so she could not cheat on him any more.”  When Roop’s brother-in-law tried to intervene, Roop hit him with the gun and threatened to kill him.  He was also in trouble for an assault charge last year.

In Detroit, a man was awarded $2.5 million dollars, of tax payers money, for being wrongfully imprisoned 26 years for rape.  The reason this is significant is because he was convicted due to the police holding key evidence from the lawyers.  There was enough DNA evidence that clearly proved the man’s innocence, but it was never given to the defense.  Imagine spending 26 years imprisoned for a crime that you didn’t commit.  $2.5 million is nowhere near enough for what that man went through.

Isle of Wight sheriff’s deputy, Alvin Wood, was charged with sexual battery of a high school student.  He assigned to patrol the county’s high schools when a high school student complained that he touched her inappropriately, resulting in him being charged with sexual battery and indecent liberties.  These claims resulted in him being suspended immediately.  It seemed to have been a truthful claim as he resigned a month ago.

James Norris, a Lexington police officer, was charged with harassment with physical contact and second-degree official misconduct, both class B misdemeanors.  It is not clear what Norris is accused of doing.  Lexington police released few details about the incident, but released the following statement: “Lexington Police leadership takes very seriously reports of officer behavior that does not meet agency standards and guidelines. Upon hearing allegations of improper behavior by Officer Norris we acted swiftly, with the guidance of the Fayette County Attorney’s Office, to investigate and take appropriate action.”

In New York City, Officer Peter Liang, who had been on the force for less than 18 months, was patrolling a darkened stairwell at the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York when he fired a single shot that fatally struck the man, Akai Gurley, as he walked downstairs.  The wound was enough to result in his death.  Less than 12 hours after the shooting, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton called Gurley, “totally innocent” and characterized the shooting as an “unfortunate accident.”  The officer was indicted for criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault and two counts of official misconduct.  This occurred before the events of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  This story was buried under the other stories that swept across the nation.

These are the people that we are to look to for safety.  These are the people that took a sworn oath to look out for citizens.  A sworn oath that they took that is to keep them doing what is right.   I am very well aware that stories like this happen to such a small percentage of police officers.  I am also aware that there are a lot of great police officers.  However, these are the reasons why there is a great amount of distrust for the law force.  They are here to serve and protect, not to threaten their wives or inappropriately touch a female.  They are especially not here to keep a man wrongfully imprisoned when the person that actually committed the crime is still out there.  People want to defend the police, to support them for stories like this.  Me, like most people that I know, will defend the police when given a reason to.



The death of three unarmed men

404.  400.  320.   In 2011, 2012, and 2013 these were the, highly estimated, amount of civilians that were killed by police officers.  Of course 99% of these  were rightful deaths.  The police officer was in a gun fight, the life of the officer was threatened, or the person showed some act of physical violence against the officer.  I respect the officers that put their lives on the line each day to keep this nation safe.  I respect the good police officers that do everything in the book, the ones that try to keep themselves safe and the people around them safe.  It’s a shame that an officer is sometimes forced to take a life solely to save his/her own.

Amadou Diallo.  Oscar Grant.  Eric Garner.  These are three people that were killed at the hands of police officers.   They are also three cases that I believed not to be rightful deaths.  All three were African-American and resulted in detailed investigations against the officers.  Since two of these are very unknown cases, I’ll give a rundown of them.

Amadou Diallo was murdered in 1999.  A couple of NYPD officers confused him with a violent rapist.  A violent rapist that was already in custody.   He ran up to his porch, where they told him to put his hands up.  On his porch, he pulled out a squared object.  Believing it to be a gun, the police started firing shots at him.  One of the cops slipped and fell on the porch, making the others believe that he was shot.  At the end of the “shootout”, the cops fired 41 shots at him, with 19 hitting him.  The cops had zero shots fired at them, with zero shots hitting them.  The squared object that he pulled out of his jacket was his wallet, presumably with the intention of showing his idea.

Oscar Grant January 1, 2009.  Two officers got called to the train station because there was an apparent incident between twelve people that were described to be “hammered and stoned” on the police call.   Grant and two friends were involved in the incident.  The officers detained Grant and his friends.  This is when some of the disagreement comes in.  There are different views of whether his hands were behind his back or not.  According to court filings from the DA’s office, Grant had his hands behind his back during the time of the shooting.  With his hands behind his back, an officer announced that Grant was struggling and that he would “tase” him.  Instead of tasing him, he pulled out his gun and fired a shot into his lung.  The bullet resulted in a punctured lung, leading to the death og Grant eight hours later,  The officer responsible was charged with manslaughter.   These events are chronicled in the film Frutivale Station.  Actor Michael B. Jordan plays Grant.  I highly recommend it to all as it is an absolutely excellent film.

The third of these deaths is undoubtedly the most well known as it was the most recent one.  On July 17, 2014 officers approached Garner.  After Garner expressed to the police that he was tired of being harassed and that he was not selling cigarettes, officers moved to arrest Garner on suspicion of selling single cigarettes from packs without tax stamps.  When an officer took Garner’s wrist behind his back, Garner swatted his arms away.   The officer then put his arm around Garner’s neck and pulled him backwards and down onto the ground.  After the officer removed his arm from Garner’s neck, he pushed Garner’s head into the ground while four officers moved to restrain Garner, who repeated “I can’t breathe” eleven times while lying face down on the sidewalk.  After Garner lost consciousness, officers turned him onto his side to ease his breathing.  Garner remained lying on the sidewalk for seven minutes while the officers waited for an ambulance to arrive.  The officers and EMTs did not perform CPR on Garner at the scene.  According to a spokesman for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York, this was because they believed that Garner was breathing and that it would be improper to perform CPR on someone who was still breathing.  He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital approximately one hour later.  The most significant thing about this case is that choke holds have been banned in the NYPD for the past 21 years.  Also, all of this was filmed.

All three of these deaths led to major backlash against the police forcing.  That reaction was absolutely deserving.  In all three of these, the person that died was unarmed.  In two of these cases the police officer wasn’t indicted.  There are far more cases showing the brutality and unnecessary procedures made by police officers.  As another case pops up, the growing distrust in the community grows for the police officers.  We’re getting to a point where people are just not going to trust the police force.  I’m still in the middle.  I know there are good cops out there, I know these cases are one in a dozen, but they are hard to ignore.   The action of civilians needs to change, but the actions of police officers need to change even more.  They are here to look after us, to protect us.  I know that these people were involved, or accused of being involved of something.  But if we are moving to a nation where looking like a rapist, not following an order, or resisting is enough an officer needs to fire the gun, I don’t want to live in that nation.  I’m not going to get arrested, so these are things I don’t want to worry about.  I just don’t want people to die without an actual cause by the people that are supposed to prevent that.



Civic Issues ideas

Civic issues play a large role in the every day lives of almost all of us.  Whether it be involving race, religion, gender, politics, or any other sort of civic matter, our lives are directly effected because of it.  When thinking about different ideas, many came to mind so it was hard to narrow it down to just two.

The first civic issue that I considered blogging about deals with the police force.  Of course we all know about the issues in Ferguson and Eric Garner, but I want to go deeper than that.  I want to discuss those two events and other lesser known events.  I would also talk about things that are being done to help prevent this, as well as include a few stories of good police officers.  This would definitely be classified as a government issue as the police are government forces and its the government that is to take action against them.

Another civic issue that I would discuss has to deal with education.  This would deal with the schooling system, specifically elementary school and middle school.  It would discuss standardized testing,  the lack of creativity encouraged in schools, and the overall, in my opinion, awfulness of the public schooling system.

Both of those ideas would be interesting for me to blog about.  The schooling one doesn’t play as large of a role as it once did in our lives, but the one dealing with police does.  I’m unsure which to discuss but I know that it will be fun!