23 December 2014

What We the People talk about when we talk about Police Reform

Welcome back Dear Readers, and a happy [Solstice Holiday] to you all.  

In case you haven't read the op-ed "Blue Lives Matter" featured in the Atlantic yesterday.  Do yourself a favor and read it.  Ta-Nehisi Coates is a skilled wordsmith and handles the underlying issues that dog police reform and racial reconciliation with incredible compassion for the victims and for Police Officers.  In a time when people are shouting on both sides that such a view is impossible, Coates reveals why compassion for victims and police is inseparable.  

A lot of what Coates discusses reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad just a few weeks ago.  "My dad told me to be careful about making laws – any law.  Because as soon as you pass a law, you've told someone with a gun to go enforce that law.  If you're not comfortable with the real possibility that someone might be killed for that law, then maybe it's not such a good law."  

And that premise is what Coates calls out: police are in fact public servants.  They are bound to the will of the majority, and it is their burden to enforce all the laws that our representatives pass at the behest of their constituents (that's us).  Police brutality and other abuses of power happen as an outcropping of the beliefs that we as a majority have put into law.  I've known several officers – all good, honorable men and women – and there are laws that they are bound to enforce which they completely disagree with.  Police officers aren't free to enforce according to their consciences, but according to the conscience we created through legislation.  

So what we need to accept when we call for "Police Reform" what we're really calling for is a hard look in the mirror.  We need to change ourselves and our laws, and if we can do that, then the servants of that law will change.  If they don't, then we can say that the police need reform.

As always, thanks for reading.  

No comments: