Police - Community Relations
and Police Brutality
First of all, our society needs police. We can't just abandon law and order.
This, by itself, should not be a controversial statement.
No matter what issues you care about, and no matter what kinds of progress you believe in, you need a stable, functioning society around you in order to do your activism. There is no feminism, no food stamps, no Medicare-for-All, and certainly no safe-spaces, in a Mad Max world. You need police to exist.
(And that word, "to", can be read both as an infinitive of the verb "exist", and as an abbreviation of "in order to". If you catch the subtle hint there.)
But, at the same time, something has obviously gone very, very wrong within the institution of policing. It has mutated into a monster, and it's time to figure out what's causing the problem, so we can fix it.
And there are two principle misunderstandings that our society has about the nature of policing: one mistake from the Left, and one mistake from the Right.
The Left's Mistake
What the Left Is Getting Wrong
The movement of BLM is making one key mistake: failing to recognize that you already have the world's attention, and the people you're trying to reach already support your goal.
They already know that the lives of people with black and brown skin matter, and they already share your central goal of eliminating violence by police against innocent people. Many of them already support the concrete policy reforms that make up the core of BLM's demands.
Small government conservatives - the people you might assume are your enemy - already believe that military-grade weaponry doesn't belong in the hands of local police departments, and they support reforms to demilitarize the police.
Conservatives already understand that community relations are the foundation of a healthy and balanced police force, and they support the idea of community policing (i.e. having officers patrol their own neighborhoods, so they know people, and don't view everyone as a hostile potential combatant).
Conservatives and Right Wingers are the first to bemoan our modern industrialized world's abandonment of the traditional social units of humanity's evolution - like the Village and the Township. Since we no longer arrange our communities with any acknowledgment of natural units, all sorts of havoc ensues, including the policing of communities by people who are not members of the communities they're policing. And Right-Wingers are the first people who want to fix this. They're ready to help.
Many people on the Right have already developed an awareness of the evils of mass-incarceration, and the profit-motive behind it. They're already aware of the way the private prison industry functions as an excuse to continue slavery. And they're already aware of how the "War on Drugs" is the Trojan Horse through which this modern slavery crept its way back into our society. Many of them support ending the war.
A lot, actually. The trend of favoring herb-decriminalization has accelerated within the past 5 years, among the Right Wing, at a speed that you might not be aware of, if you only get your news from Left-Wing partisan sources, and don't spend time talking to people on the Right to find out what they actually think and feel. A lot of Righties are fully aware now, of how wrong it is to arrest people for using herbs and herbal derivatives, and they're ready to help you end the war.
They're ready to help you. With all of this.
But there's one thing that's getting in the way of cooperation - and it's the conflict that the issue of race brings into the equation.
When you make the issue about race, you insert a wedge between yourselves and those on the Right who were ready to help you.
It may be true that police are more likely to be violent and brutal towards people with darker skin. (Then again, it may not, as Leonydus Johnson has analyzed).
It is, however, definitely true that racism plays a role in the failure of many officers to avoid escalating situations unnecessarily. People with dark skin are fully aware of the way police officers stare at them, and how easy it is to "make a wrong move" that leads to more than a stare.
But the thing is... people with lighter skin also face danger from unbalanced police officers. Lighter-skinned people get brutalized as well. When an officer has a psychological issue that's causing him or her to seek out physical conflict on purpose, and he or she is a loose cannon, ready to use any excuse available to escalate a situation - that cop is a danger to whomever they interact with, no matter the skin complexion.
Now here's where a specific miscommunication comes into play.
BLM activists, and most people on the Left, will usually interpret this as an attempt to minimize or trivialize the suffering of people with darker skin, by saying "oh it happens to whites too."
But that's not the only way to interpret it. That's not what's meant.
There's another message here. There's something else. Something good. A message of good news:
White people have a reason to solve the police brutality problem too.
Since police brutality is a danger for white people, there is a fully functional incentive - even for the most selfish among them - to want the problem solved.
This means that white people want the same thing you want. They want to reform policing. They're ready to work with you.
They're ready to make changes. To implement reforms. Even to fully reorganize the institutions.
They're ready to help, and you can use that readiness to form a winning coalition on this issue, and actually pass legislation to make the needed changes.
But many people on the Left are refusing to accept the Right's help until the racial issue has been litigated.
This introduces a whole other dimension to the discussion - a dimension of philosophy, and history, and critical theory developed in arcane university liberal-arts departments. And once you introduce something as controversial and open-ended as this, it exponentially multiplies the opportunities for disagreement. And relations quickly break down from there.
It also gives people on the Right the suspicion that you're out to get them, and that you have ulterior motives besides just racial justice. Whether you do or you don't, you still create this as a suspicion.
And they then get defensive, and clam up.
The potential for cooperation especially breaks down when you smash windows, torch buildings, loot, and roam the streets looking for people to violently intimidate.
Nobody - not even those on your side - wants their business vandalized. Nobody wants to be surrounded by mobs of marauders and intimidated, threatened, punched, and clocked into submission.
So when you do this stuff, you force them to adopt defensive positioning.
And defensive positioning doesn't always leave a lot of room for saying "Aw, yea, I empathize with your experience and look forward to being a good ally in your struggle for liberation."
When you force people to defend themselves, you get an escalation in the situation, which then gives an impression of them being "militant." And then, you've got "militant whites" on the news.
Yes, they're militant, because you've spent the past 10 years calling whiteness a "disease", and rationalizing openly racist behavior against people of European origin - and now, to make good on the threats, you're smashing their windows, torching their businesses, surrounding them and beating them in the street. And now some of you are threatening to "march on the suburbs."
What kind of response do you expect this to bring out?
You're creating a feedback loop:
Your threatening words (and in recent months, violent behaviors) stimulate the need for defensiveness among conservatives, and among people with lighter skin in general, who are likely to be targets.
This defensiveness then has the potential to be framed as "white people organizing by identity" and "white people militarizing."
And this causes you (the Left) to panic more.
Which in turn leads to you using more radical words, and doing more desperate (and violent) things.
Which causes them to panic more, and get more defensive.
Which causes you to panic more, and get more desperate.
And on it goes. A feedback loop.
Someone has to break that cycle.
Is it you?
If you want to interrupt the feedback loop, there is one simple way that works: Just stop making the police brutality issue about race. Just take race out of the equation, and signal to the Right Wing that you're ready to work with them - not against them, but WITH them - on the actual solutions to the actual problems. And they will help you. Because they want the solutions too.
At some point, you have the ask yourself: Which is more important to me? Morally litigating the impact-proportions of past injustices, by race - or solving the actual problem?
If you solve the actual problem of police brutality, then it won't matter which races and colors suffer more from it - because the problem will be solved.
And if you stop making it about race, you can start making it about police brutality, and reforming the police.
You have a choice. You can make it about race, and continue to further alienate the Right Wing, and push away those whose help you need - or you can make it about the issue that it's actually about, and win them over as friends and allies, to cooperate in passing the concrete reforms that will actually solve the problem.
You can keep arguing about who needs the solution more...
...or you can team up with those who also need it - even if you're right that they need it slightly less urgently than you do - and form a winning coalition with the power to actually create that solution that you both openly admit you're seeking.
Which will it be?
The Right's Mistake
What the Right Doesn't Understand About Police
All of the problems involved in police brutality are interrelated.
The militarized weaponry, the no-knock warrants, the combat-like attitudes among officers, the rise of street gangs, and the constant and intrusive presence of police in the lives and living spaces of ordinary people - all stem from a common source.
They've all grown out of one central problem - one that has embedded itself far deeper in the policing institution, far longer ago.
And that problem is the war on herbal medicines.
The Right needs to become aware of the corruption that the war on herbal medicines has wrought within the institution of policing.
There is no subtle way to say this: the police have been tasked with performing criminal acts against the populace, and the populace morally has the right to self-defense.
The government does not have the authority to outlaw a plant, or a set of plants. It does not have the authority to make herbs illegal. It cannot criminalize medicine. It's not just a "bad policy" - it's something the state has no authority to do in the first place.
The government is not a god, and hence, its authority is limited. Not unlimited. Every constitutionalist, every true conservative, understands this, and is very aware of this fact.
Herbs were created by the Creator, and are a gift of medicine to mankind. Every herb outlawed has been used for thousands of years, by cultures all across the globe. The ones at the top of the war's target list have been around since the beginning of humanity, and have played central roles in the healing arts that kept our species sane, spiritually awake, and in balance with our ecosystems and with each other.
And if the government does have the authority to criminalize our oldest medicine - an herb from the Creator - then there is no meaningful distinction between the government and a god, for its authority is at that point unlimited.
But thankfully, the authority of government is not unlimited. Its authority does not extend to cover such insane brutality.
And because the state lacks the authority to criminalize herbal medicine, herbal medicine is not a crime.
This is not an opinion of someone who "just wants to get high" and is venting about it. This is not an opinion at all. It's a fact. Something cannot be made a crime, by the state, if the state lacks the authority to make it so - no matter how much pomp and ceremony it puts on, nor how many parliamentary protocols it follows, nor how many lines it writes on pieces of paper. The state is not a god. It doesn't have the authority to criminalize medicine. An herb, by definition, cannot be unlawful.
And this means that police officers who hurt people for using an herb are acting outside of the law.
And yes, kidnapping people is hurting people. Imprisoning means hurting. Ruining lives means hurting. Breaking down doors and pointing guns at people means hurting.
Police officers, as well as apologists for the war on herbal medicine, will undoubtedly say "Yea, but that's not the system of law that our society believes in."
But "not understanding" doesn't make it not-so. Ignorance is not an excuse, as most cops themselves like to remind folks. Just because you were raised in a system that failed to teach you an accurate understanding of the nature of right and wrong, and just because it imposed on you a corrupted understanding of what "law" is, doesn't mean you're not committing a crime when you hurt someone for no reason.
"I'm just following orders" is not an excuse.
"It's my job" is not an excuse.
"Nothing personal" doesn't negate the real consequences of your actions.
Police officers are human beings, endowed by the Creator with something called Free Will. All adults are responsible for their actions. There are no children on "The Force"; every police officer is an adult. Therefore, every police officer is morally responsible for the choices he or she makes. No matter what uniform or badge you're wearing, you still have the ability to make choices. And you're responsible for them.
And if you hurt people, you're responsible for that.
It's not an "arrest." The term "arrest" applies to situations where a crime has been committed, and the person getting arrested is suspected of having committed it. But if you "arrest" someone for something that is not a crime to begin with, then you're obviously not "suspecting" them of any crime - since no crime has been committed in the first place. If there's no crime, then there is no arrest, and a cop who assaults someone is committing assault; and a cop who abducts someone into his car is committing abduction.
The fact that your society didn't teach you this, and instead suppressed your natural moral intuition, and silenced your moral reasoning, and superimposed a corrupted system on top of it - and this was all you knew, growing up - doesn't change any of these facts.
Granted, you might not be a "bad person", but you were definitely a confused person.
And while your confusion may, to a significant degree, exonerate you in the moral dimension (forgiveness is always available for the repentant), it still, nevertheless, justifies your victims' non-compliant responses to you. Because your confusion puts their lives and safety in danger, they are justified in deploying defensive measures against you, proportional to the amount of violence you were willing to inflict on them - which, for most cops, covers everything up to and including shooting those who are non-compliant.
If you're willing to arrest someone for a non-crime, like using herbal medicine - and you're willing to physically overpower them if they refuse - and you're willing to shock them with electricity if they fight back - and you're willing to shoot them with a gun if all else fails - then this means that they are, in turn, justified in utilizing every such measure themselves, or proportional equivalents, if available to them.
Quick clarification: These facts should not be construed to mean that suspects of crimes have the right to use force in defense against cops, because, in those cases, the officers are acting within the law. Because they're making an arrest. For an actual crime. A person being arrested for an actual crime - like rape or armed robbery or something that actually hurts others - does not have the right to fight police officers, because those officers are acting within the law, as agents of law and order.
But when an officer tries to abduct someone for using herbal medicine, the officers are no longer acting within the law. They are no longer serving law and order, but anarchy. They have gone rogue. And at that point, the right to self-defense is activated.
And since the "war" is being fought against the entire population, cops are therefore at war with the populations they're policing. And this triggers ethical rights, within the population, to the use of force against those officers. Not everyone will choose to use these rights, obviously - for strategic reasons - i.e. cops are just far stronger and have far bigger numbers than anyone could hope to overcome without an army - but morally, the moral justification to fight still exists and applies, should a person be brave enough to use it.
So because of all this, the entire situation is rotten. The relationship between police and the public, as two collective populations, has deteriorated to this point because of a rot at the core of policing. The problem didn't just start with BLM and Antifa. It didn't even start when gangs arose, because armed gangs were, in part, a legitimate self-defense response by communities against the hostile occupying force that's been knocking down doors and pulling people out of their homes at gunpoint and imprisoning them and ruining lives for the past 6 decades.
The problem started when the government declared war against its people, and tricked its agents into thinking it had the authority to criminalize humanity's oldest medicines.
And since the war on herbal medicines is the source of the problem, the problem cannot be solved while the war persists. Ending the war is the only way to fix the relationship between the public and the police.
The only way. There is no substitute.
And the situation will keep deteriorating until the source of the rot is finally acknowledged by the institutions of society.