What would it take to stop police killings?

On the heels of the shooting of Alton Sterling, the days-later shooting of Philando Castile has people asking – again – what would it take to stop police killings that amount to state-sanctioned murders?

With little preamble, no cute title, no personal reflections from 1989, no qualifiers, here’s some day one recommendations. To change the culture of policing you have to do at least the following things on day one:

1. You have to be honest about the nature of the job.
If we’re going to roll with the buzz-goal of “improving the relationship between law enforcement and communities they serve,” let’s begin by acknowledging that police officers don’t see their jobs as service. They see their jobs as policing.  It’s one of the reasons why you can’t get a word in inch-wise with officers until you have fully complied with their demands, no matter how unreasonable and, in some cases, defying protocol or law. In that moment there is no explaining, there is no reasoning, there is no negotiation or learning or investigating. There is only “show me your ID” or “get out of the car” or “shut your mouth” or “show me your hands.” When you see video after video of unnecessary physical takedowns, they frequently happen, not because the victim is posing a physical threat, but because an officer has perceived a threat to their authority. Not their person; their authority. The nature of the job not only attracts power junkies and control freaks, but supports their mentality and enables their actions. That’s not a few bad apples. That’s a psychological undercurrent of the job itself.

2. You have to participate in an ongoing and genuine pursuit for acknowledgment of the prevalence of black stereotypes and its effects.
This is why you see lots of videos of white people doing all manner of actual criminality in front of and to cops and not getting killed, but very few videos of black people walking away unharmed in mere interactions with police despite any evidence of having committed any actual crimes. These are largely white-generated presumptions – typically fear-based – of blackness. While the existence of these presumptions isn’t news, what would be refreshing is an honest acceptance that they exist, and that it’s not something you can turn off. It is the basis for racial profiling, which is not just something that happens right before a black person gets pulled over in a car. It’s happening in grocery stores. It’s happening in relationships. It’s happening at family dinners. Racial profiling isn’t just a function of law enforcement mandates. It’s a way of life. If we’re not going to be honest about that as a society, we can’t be surprised when we hire people with guns with the same mentality. This has to be tackled before they ever get a gun in concrete, consistent, qualitative ways. It has to be something that’s looked for, and to what degree someone suffers from it, and those who can’t navigate its effects shouldn’t be given the job.

3. You have to make police accountable.
Any fatal shooting should automatically become a federal investigation, not a local one. You have to invest in bodycams across the board. You have to punish officers who do not activate or maintain that accountability. They have to start actually losing the one thing they care about if they don’t do these things: their job.

4. You have to stop treating the job like a fallback.
We frequently treat the job of police like it’s a fallback job, something you can do if you can’t do other, more heady things, like finish college. We have to stop letting it be a fallback. This job should be at least twice as hard to get as it is now.

When you see an officer do a barrel roll at a pool party full of teens or line up as a firing squad to kill a man with a knife or slamming a pregnant woman on her cellphone to the ground or crippling an elderly man taking a walk or hopping out of a car and firing on a child in two seconds, you’re probably seeing someone who shouldn’t have had the job in the first place. You can’t keep giving these jobs to people who can’t pass the honesty tests. Right now, we’re not even trying to figure out what that means.

We’re not being honest about what the job of the police is. We’re not being honest because we’re scared of what that might mean in terms of communal safety, and many of us are scared of the cops themselves. And we’re not being honest about these things because the preeminent value in America isn’t justice or religion or even fear. It’s comfort. Everything else comes out of the American need to be comfortable, including – especially – what we let police get away with.

This is all stuff that needs to happen on day one of any genuine attempt to fix this problem, to end what has become a virtual war. What happens on day two is up for debate, but this is the syllabus for day one.

25 thoughts on “What would it take to stop police killings?

  1. I’ve been thinking about this since I’ve moved into the neighborhood I am in now, which is a lot like where I lived in Philly, a lot less suburban than previous ones.Like schools, precincts and zones are based on tax dollars.All I have to do is look at the map of the zone I live in, Zone 3, to see classism and racism, working together. It’s no accident that other zones and their precinct locations, are clustered closer together and smaller where the tax dollars are bigger, people like the cops,the neighborhoods are white and there’s more valuable property to protect.
    Meanwhile, in my zone, guns pop off daily, bodies are found in parks, and it takes an hour for cops to show up—which isn’t a surprise since the precinct office is in the gentrified part of the zone and it takes sometimes 20 minutes to cross from that side of the interstate over to where we live. And throwing more cops at the shootings is not going to work.That’s just going to mean more cops shooting,too.
    I don’t know what the answer is other than that it isn’t easy, that cops get to a point where everyone is a criminal rather than having the time to discern who in the neighborhoods are doing what, or who is passing through and okay.That people have to become more important than property and tax dollars to serve.That there has to be a way for any good cops to influence and route out the bad ones.That it doesn’t help that the temptation for cops to join drug cartels is often great (The FBI just busted cops here for being part of one). Nobody trusts anyone else.
    And why should they with the way it’s going?

  2. I agree with all of this but i mostly agree with number 4. How is anything going to change if the police and their fellow officers are not taking responsibility for their actions. If you have a friend and they ask you was i in the wrong about this situation? Until police officers start taking accountability and telling each other that they were in the wrong for this situation and it should not have gotten that far then nothing is going to change. There is this radio personality who said and this and i completely agree. The police brutality has to stop and it has to stop now.

    1. Nothing, NO THING, is going to change so long as we insist in attempts to “solve” these problems within the very system that encourages, promotes, promulgates and perpetuates a problem that can only be labeled as fascism.

      There can be no solutions, there can be no freedom when arguing within the confines of a very large box designed to imprison people. It is a trap very cleverly designed to keep its captives captive, imprisoned.

      The only solution lies within the total and absolute abolition of ALL government. There can be no resolutions to these problems within the parameters of the very system that creates and perpetuates them.

      The powers that be do not want solutions, only the continuation of enslavement. This is pure capitalism: the illusion of freedom at the same time the “customers” are told they are receiving the very best product for their money…

      The only solution to these kinds of problems is Anarchism and the total abolition of the sting of rule. Absolutely no one has the right to rule over others. Again, government and freedom are an oxymoron. Each are antagonistic one to the other. WAKE UP!

  3. 😦 #1 – except if, as in the case of Mr. Castile, those commands are conflicting? What does any (scared) reasonable person do then? “Show me your ID” “Don’t move” “show me your hands” “Don’t move!” “Get out of the car” “Show me your ID” (it’s in the car) “Don’t move!” What then? in order to not get shot? 😦 😦

  4. Agreed. Especially #1 – A police officer is not just “a gig” it’s a tremendous responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. I also think we need to WITHHOLD OUR DOLLARS. It goes without saying that money speaks very loudly in this country, and withholding our money from those that undermine our very existence is powerful ammunition.

  5. One of the things stressed in police training is to control the situation. That also means control the Subject (police lingo for suspect, or perp, or potential threat.) When an officer walks up to a vehicle he has no idea of what is in the vehicle or the mindset of the person(s) inside. When the officer gives an instruction, comply. When people talk back, try to explain, argue, or don’t comply it may well mean that they’re trying to use distraction to reach for a weapon.
    Similarly, when you’re stopped, you don’t know what that officer is thinking. There may have been a shooting and there is an APB out on the car that left the scene, which may match your car. The officer doesn’t know if he’s walking up on a Bible study group or crystal meth users.
    Not to excuse the officer, but he was probably on edge. For him to shoot four times for non-compliance is evidence of that. We don’t know yet if he was still in his probationary period or not. We’ll have to wait and see, but I doubt he’ll remain on the force.

    1. Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, 4 years service on St Anthony police force.
      – Note that Mr. Castile was complying with the order to show ID. Identification is carried in a wallet; wallets are carried in pockets.
      – Remember his partner, PO Joseph Kauser, was also there, both men allowed Mr. Castile to bleed out in front of 2 witnesses (one being a 4 year old child) without any attempt to render life-saving aid.

  6. Really ? In Chicago 62 black people were gunned down by other black people this weekend due to illegal Heroin getting over our wide open borders . WHERE IS BLM ???? NO WHERE !

    1. That’s a different and separate issue. You don’t go to a breast cancer rally and ask why they’re not doing anythings about the people dying from leukemia so please sit down.

      1. Most people dying from Leukemia in the end die from liver failure due to chemo .
        Cancer Survivor here – not a separate issue – the police here in Chi Town will no longer stop and search due in fear of being accused of wrong doing .
        The DOJ is investigating the Chicago Police opposed to the bangers with warrants and illegal guns – straw purchases .
        Have you ever walk through the southside of Chicago ?

    2. Ah the term racists use to reveal themselves “you people”. And by you people are you referring to bloggers? Or something more sinister? Either way you’re not worth going back and forth since your ignorance is showing.

      1. I am refereeing to clueless people that live their life calling everyone a RACIST – Your Stupidity button is beaming . I suppose you think its OK for Lavish to smoke blunts with her four year in the car ?
        I and many are tired of RACIST BS – BTW – in America history proves that there was more WHITE SLAVES then BLACK – get lost – you make me sick – you still live on the plantation of government BS !

      2. The media erupted in outrage over trucks flying Confederate flags passing by a black birthday party but continued praising the racist #BlackLivesMatter movement whose tactics include harassing white people by invading “white spaces” and intimidating people trying to eat lunch. A perfect inversion of the sit-ins at lunch counters fifty years ago. Those were a moral crusade to make a space for blacks at the table. This is a racist attack to make whites leave the table

        But in the topsy-turvy race world we have come to inhabit, it is not racism when black racists do it.

        Since the Ferguson riots, America has been suffering from a violent outbreak of anti-white racism. It’s time to call it what it is.

        If white mobs harassed black people, screamed racist slogans and claimed that even the existence of black people was oppressive, no one would hesitate to describe that ugliness as racism. When #BlackLivesMatter racists do it, it’s excused, defended and even praised as a civil rights movement.

        Racism is not civil rights. No group that talks about “white supremacy”, “white privilege” or “white spaces” is a civil rights movement.

        It is a racist movement, and anti-civil rights.

        Black racism hides behind alleged victimhood. Every act of bigotry, from name-calling to race riots to murder, is justified by the claim that every single white person is part of a conscious or unconscious conspiracy to discriminate against them. This claim, embodied by the racist term “White Privilege”, is classic racism. White people are not responsible for the fact that homicide is the number one cause of death for black males. White people do not sit around conspiring to deny black people jobs. If there is a job problem in the black community in America today it is because of the anti-business policies of a black president and the worst economic recovery on record.

        #BlackLivesMatter activists are not victims of racism, they are perpetrators of racism. That is why they reject “All Lives Matter” and insist that only “Black Lives Matter”. Every victimhood excuse made to defend this racist disdain for other races is a lie. The truth is that to black nationalists, only black lives matter. #BlackLivesMatter means that non-black lives don’t and that is the root of its racist violence.

        Americans hesitate to call out this vile bigotry because they carry the stereotype of black people as victims. The left shrieks that black people can’t be racists because racism exists only as an institutional phenomenon and black people are institutionally powerless. Not only is this wrong, it is ridiculous. The country has a black president; its justice system is run by a black attorney general (not for the first time; it is represented at the United Nations by a black ambassador (also not for the first time). The nation’s national security adviser is black; the president’s chief of political operations is black.

        Institutional racism against blacks was outlawed in the United States 50 years ago. Nonetheless in the hypocrisy that has become the civil rights movement, the federal government implements institutional racism against white people and Asians – a fact that is never mentioned.

        When Obama and Holder gave a pass on voter intimidation to the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, it was blatant racism. When Obama and Holder intervened in Ferguson to prosecute a racial agenda while trying to cover up the actual facts of the case, that too was racism.

        There is no epidemic of police genocide or even systemic racism against blacks as claimed by the so-called civil rights movement. There was no case of Hands Up Don’t Shoot. The fact that neighborhoods have more expensive homes than others is not the second coming of segregation. America does not have a white supremacy problem. It has a black racism and lynch mob mentality problem.

        Conservatives don’t like to talk about black lynch mobs or black race riots. It’s an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s one that we need to have because without it we can’t even begin to deal with the racial problems we face and because the failure to have that conversation creates a vacuum the left fills by playing the race card against everyone in their way.

        The hardest truth that we have to deal with is the fact that much of “black victimhood” is just anti-white bigotry. Race hustlers use an exaggerated sense of racial vulnerability to justify racial aggression. If white people having brunch is a “white space” because white people are not people, but “white supremacy” incarnate, then white people are already dehumanized and can be attacked for almost anything. In our classrooms in our colleges to hate white people – oppressors, genocidal zealots – is a politically correct idea.

        Black cries of racism in the absence of actual white racism – as in Ferguson – says more about black racism than it does about white anything. The underlying problem is not white racism or even black racism, but black racial insecurity. Paranoia about the place of black people and the intentions of white people is an easy gateway to racism.

        Racial insecurity makes it easy for black people to believe the worst about white people and to react collectively. It is why so many black people and insecure white liberals are convinced that opposition to Obama is about his race rather than say his dictatorial ways and contempt for constitutional order, his determination to destroying our borders and our sovereignty, while delivering nuclear weapons to our enemies. It is why a cop shooting a black man will lead to protests and riots, while black gang members shooting up neighborhood houses and killing babies only leads to tearful funerals. It’s also why black activism remains relentlessly focused on imaginary white problems rather than on the pathologies that are ruining and ending lives in all black communities.

        The left claims that racism is based on power and blacks have no power. Absurd on its face. Blacks have a lot of power beginning with the White House. Blacks control major American cities like Baltimore and systematically ruin them because that’s what you get with a one-party system, and in urban America you can get a one-party system when you tar and feather the other party as white. Racism is based on insecurity rather than power. The #BlackLivesMatter activist screaming at a white couple having brunch and the Klansman screaming at a black family are inspired by parallel insecurities. They gain power and a sense of security through racial intimidation.

        There are no Klansmen remaining in the U.S. Senate now that the last Democrat Klansman, Robert Byrd is gone. But there are more than a few black racists on the Democrat side of the House. #BlackLivesMatter activists are already holding 2016 candidates hostage to supporting their racist agendas.

        Not talking about the problem of black racism will not make it go away. There is no reason why in 2015, with blacks as dominant forces in the federal government and in major American cities and in the national culture, we should accept the intertwined assumptions of black victimhood and white guilt. Whites are not perpetrators and blacks are not victims. Blacks are not helpless innocents and whites are not a powerful conspiracy.

        Making black people into victims and white people into perpetrators dehumanizes both races. It provides fertile soil for racism, paranoia and mistrust to grow on both sides.

        The first step to getting out of the corner the nation has painted itself in is to admit that black racism is real. It is not a minor problem. It has become the engine of racial tensions in America. It must cease to be a taboo to speak out and tell that truth.

  7. i’m meaning perfect response by marquellbb. i vote we stay on topic.

    this is a brilliant starting syllabus. my gut would have been #3 as a start… if they ever were actually punished, threat of job loss… the possibility of prison is allegedly a deterrent for other criminals, shouldn’t it work for criminals in blue too?… but after re-reading each item, each point is vital to the success of moving forward. well and perfectly stated.

    i just can’t keep wondering, when did this become so acceptable, as a means for them to respond to someone who is already down… didn’t they used to have to bring them in alive? when did it start being so prevalent, so in-your-face-we-rule-you? the extreme insult if a suspects asks a question… or is just because now we’re getting it on video that we now find out it’s been going on forever?

    and you can hear the fear and regret on that kid cop in minnesota, so you know it wasn’t hate, in his case, it was insufficient and incorrect training. and he’ll have to live with that his whole life.

    not looking to plug my own thing but i think it may be ok to share this with you guys…I had started this verse yesterday after louisiana, had to finish this morning after waking to the news of Minnesota. couldn’t focus on anything else until i got it out. https://kstanlyksays.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/darkness-at-the-hands-of-the-blue/. and me i usually just write humor verse and nonsense. so that shows how consumed i was with this. funny thing is when i got home tonight there was a cop car, twirling lights, and a few suited plain clothes guys as well… not for me… this time.

  8. Scott Woods, the only problem I have with this essay list lies at the end: ” Everything else comes out of the American need to be comfortable, including – especially – what we let police get away with.” While all Americans need to feel comfortable ALL Americans are not comfortable. Discounting & ignoring the deep unease many Americans have is society’s essential problem.

  9. Yo you are so right about comfort. We need to disturb America’s level of comfort. When we are uncomfortable we are growing. I really want to expose the stories of black men to make more people aware that our experiences do not look like those of most white people. Its important to start a dialog about this stuff. I have a blog at naturalforthis.wordpress.com and have been working on a series of black men accounts of their experiences with the police. I’d love it if you’d share your personal experiences with the police, whether that is good or bad. You can email me at naturalforthis@gmail.com. Everything is anonymous.

  10. I know this is an old post and I hope you see it. It’s been four years to be exact, but the persistent problem of police killing African Americans is still going on. It the past four years it’s been a continuing firmly or obstinately course of action in spite of oppositions and protests. Racism is a hard demon to kill.

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