Police brutality: Is it out of control?

Almost every day, the news reports bring forth another case of alleged police brutality.  Whether it’s cops beating a suspect, fighting a family, or even shooting an unarmed suspect, we are inundated with these reports to the point where it seems as though there is a current epidemic.  It leads me to wonder whether police are out of control nowadays.

I have a personal stake in such events because of what I do.  Law enforcement is just like any other job where 99% or better of the workers are hard-working and trustworthy people.  It only takes a few bad actors, however, to make an entire group of workers look bad.  With police work, things get magnified because the police are the ones who are supposed to be enforcing the laws, not breaking them.

With the exponential growth of social media and cameras everywhere, it seems as there is a non-stop stream of examples of police going overboard with citizens in their interactions.  You have to consider the sheer number of daily encounters between the police and citizens to understand that these incidents are not as frequently as the media portrays.  I don’t want to sound like I’m defending bad officers as that is not my intent.  I simply don’t want people to think that half the cops out there are looking to put a beat down on everyone they encounter.

There is a growing list of names of people who have suffered or even died at the hands of the police.  Some cases may be questionable because of the lack of video evidence while others are sickening to see because of the available video.  Some cases, such as the Scott shooting in South Carolina, are even hard for ardent police supporters to defend.  It’s hard to justify tactics and techniques when you see police fight for several minutes with a family while another officer shoots a fleeing suspect in the back.  It makes it more difficult for the good officers to do their jobs because they are painted with the same brush as the bad ones.

The recent rash of cases paraded by the media makes me wonder if the appearance of widespread police brutality is a product of technology or are police really out of control?  I think it’s a product of technology, but with the weekly parade of new cases or videos, it does make me reevaluate my stance.

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6 thoughts on “Police brutality: Is it out of control?

  1. I think it’s a leap to say it’s out of control. That implies it’s at a different level than from a previous point and I don’t see anything to substantiate that. Shining light on cases that would before have remained in the dark, does not mean it’s any different than in the past, simply that awareness has increased.

    Thank heavens for the technology dispersed throughout society so those who do not uphold their oaths face action. I imagine there’ll be a period of heightened awareness, then, as those who should not be on the forces are weeded out or, if the situation warrants, retrained and reassigned, we should enter a period where it’s not as usual.

    Now… rebuilding relations in some communities? That’ll take time. Those memories, I’d guess, were shaped and embedded long before technology made the rest of us aware.

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  2. I’m at least partly with Paul. I think police have gotten away with it for a long time. When I used to volunteer in the ER at Grady, I saw people every night who had been severely beaten in the course of “resisting arrest.” I’m sure some of them really were. But some of the police were ugly, violent bullies, and I’m not certain it was the 1% you allow.

    Here’s a thing I can’t explain: in those days (late ’80s, early ’90s), the cops punched, kicked and used their nightsticks. Now they seem to be shooting everyone. I don’t know if that’s a real change or if it’s only the shootings that make the news these days. I do think there’s cause for concern in things like the Utah media study that showed a citizen was more likely to be shot by a cop than by a criminal.

    As far as rebuilding trust, I keep saying it: we’ve got to stop letting the police investigate these incidents themselves. Or go to an equally fair system in which the police simply notify suspects that they think they have committed a crime and let the citizens investigate their own wrongdoing.

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  3. Frank Serpico, remember him — the good cop that was shot by the bad cops of NY and left to die? — Well, he said that these days the cops don’t investigate anymore, they just shoot. Shooting ends all investigations if you shoot them right.

    Indeed.

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  4. Frank Serpico… What a story there!!

    I think it has been a problem for as long as we’ve had police. I also think the speed of social media and technology allows us to be aware of far more instances now than we would have long ago. It’s been 24 years since the Rodney King incident, to look at things for perspective. In that time, we’ve witnessed how many videos depicting what appears to be police brutality, and they’re still showing up.

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  5. The modern technology probably does make us more aware of this and maybe it’s worse now and maybe it isn’t but things like this have gone on all my life. In the past, it was usually more of a beat down than a shooting but that doesn’t mean the shootings never happened.

    I think there’s several things in play here. For one thing we’ve militarized law enforcement to a certain extent. Years ago, only large jurisdictions had a SWAT team and now they’re nearly everywhere. It’s like anything else, if you have these teams, they have to have something to do and they probably go on far more calls than they really need to. What used to call for a couple of cars now seems to call for a special forces raid. Another thing is that we’ve had a breakdown in society over the last few decades. For lack of a better term, things have gotten meaner and I’m sure law enforcement personnel are more on edge than they once were. That can lead to bad decisions and bad results.

    I think the move to body cams will help but that’s not going to be a be-all, end-all and it’s going to raise it’s own problems. Let’s say they come to your house and knock on your door. Having nothing to hide you let them in and it turns out through bad info, whatever, they didn’t need to be at your house (sort of like the cell phone incident you once mentioned). No harm, no foul, but still, there’s the inside of your home (which is nobody’s business) on some film somewhere. Will it be public and/or subject to the Freedom of Information act?

    We got a whole lot more questions than answers but too many people these days, in and out of law enforcement, want to play Billy Badass and situations get ratcheted up way too quick. Back in my day, we were used to having to back it up if we wanted to mouth off but nowadays, at least in my world, too many of the younger set have always been able to talk with no consequences.

    Anyhow, I’m ramblin’ again. 😆

    As to the Scott situation, as we say in my world, “They just ain’t no sense in that”. Not sure they’ll get a murder one on it but that shooter needs to build some time, some serious time. In my opinion, that was as much shooting out of anger as anything I’ve ever seen. What the anger was about, who knows, but it’s really irrelevant anyway. It’s the result he needs to pay for.

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    • So much truth there. I see things now that would have been unheard of when I was younger, and we know that’s only about 10 years ago. 😆

      We have adults driving kids to fights and getting involved in fights with kids. People are quick to pop off with a gun when it used to be a fist fight and done.

      I haven’t figured out why every single police force has to have a SWAT team. It’s highly unlikely that multiple standoffs are going to happen at the same time, so one or two teams should suffice for a county.

      I’m not convinced that the officer in South Carolina will be convicted. There has not been a single officer convicted in that state, and it is one that is conservative and supportive of law enforcement. Only time will tell.

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