To view police abuse of power as a race issue misses the true scope of the problem. What we have is a power problem, and a police hiring and procedural problem.
What types of people choose to become police officers?
- First, there are the best kinds of people. There are military officers who have chosen civilian life and still want to serve the community. There are brave young people who want to keep society clean and be of service to the old, the young, the misguided. There are those who have police life in their blood and consider it a sacred honor to serve. And, there are other great officers who have great reasons to serve and they serve with integrity and honor and are amazing in their selflessness and compassion. Some are interested in the science of crime and want to work toward the betterment of humankind.
- Second, there are the regular people who are looking for a career to support their family and their lifestyle. Some like the idea of a government job and when they try out, they pass the test. There are those who are physically gifted and like the look of the uniform. Some like the hours, the pay, the benefits.
- Third, there are the not-so-best kinds of people. There are those who have been bullied and want revenge. There are those who feel that they have no power and want the power of the stick, the badge and the gun. There are those whose family members have been bad officers and they are following in the family business. There are those who would be criminals but just haven’t gotten around to that yet. There are those with festering emotional and mental issues that have not yet been recognized by those around them.
These are the powder-keg people and they are our problem. The powder-keg person is on the edge of exploding most of the time and may be found everywhere in our society, not just on the police forces. But, on police forces they are given power over the citizen on the street, and possess vast opportunities to abuse power.
What people are missing in focusing on race is that these people abuse anyone they think they can get away with abusing. They abuse young people, old people, disabled people, homeless people, and any other marginalized group. The sole criterion for whether or not you are chosen as a victim is whether the powder-keg person thinks they can get away with the crime.
I understand that some of these powder-keg people will focus on race, so that makes race an issue for these particular people, but to think that is the only reason is naive.
I was a victim myself. In my youth I was a member of several marginalized groups, including being a teenager, and having emotional, mental and substance-abuse issues. As a 14-year-old I was beaten and kicked by an officer who must have been maybe 35 years old, a large man who had no business hitting a young girl, and I gave him no reason to hit me. He was a powder-keg person. He knew that he could get away with it, because I was nobody and would not be heard.
We have a societal problem that includes all of us, and all of our lives matter.
So, what is the solution? I think it’s good that the abuses are becoming public, because that which is hidden cannot be addressed. We need to take responsibility for cleaning up our departments. We need to support the great officers because these bad officers make their lives miserable too.