Statistically speaking, Americans should be more fearful of the local cops than “terrorists.”
A big element in the police killings, Prysner says, is racism. “A big majority of those killed are Latinos and Black people,” while the police officers are mostly White, he said. “It’s a badge of honor to shoot gang members so [the police] go out and shoot people who look like gang members,” Prysner argued, giving the example of 34-year-old Rigoberto Arceo, who was killed by police on May 11.
Culture of misconduct
“You cannot have a police force that is investigating and punishing itself,” Prysner said, adding that taxpayer money should be invested into the community instead of given to police to buy more guns, assault rifles and body armor.
“Not everybody is going to be able to make those kinds of good decisions under pressure, but I do think that the more reality-based training that we provide, the more we put people in stressful situations to make them respond and make them react.”
GI Joe replaces Carl Winslow
In order to help local police officers protect themselves while fighting the largely unsuccessful War on Drugs, the federal government passed legislation in 1994 allowing the Pentagon to donate surplus military equipment from the Cold War to local police departments. Meaning that:
“weaponry designed for use on a foreign battlefield has been handed over for use on American streets … against American citizens.”
“Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.”
As Mint Press News previously reported, statistics from an FBI report released in September reveal that a person is arrested on marijuana-related charges in the U.S. every 48 seconds, on average — most were for simple possession charges.
“We want the police to keep up with the latest technology. That’s critical,” American Civil Liberties Union senior counsel Kara Dansky said. “But policing should be about protection, not combat.”
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are more than 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. In 2012, 120 officers were killed in the line of duty. The deadliest day in law enforcement history was reportedly Sept. 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed.
Despite far fewer officers dying in the line of duty compared with American citizens, police departments are not only increasing their use of protective and highly volatile gear, but are increasingly setting aside a portion of their budget to invest in new technology such as drones, night vision goggles, remote robots, surveillance cameras, license plate readers and armored vehicles that amount to unarmed tanks.
“The suspects I encountered as a former police officer and federal agent in nearly all cases granted permission for me to search their property when asked, often despite unconcealed contraband. Now, instead of making a simple request of a violator, many in law enforcement seem to take a more difficult and confrontational path, fearing personal risk. In many circumstances they inflame the citizens they are engaging, thereby needlessly putting themselves in real and increased jeopardy.”
Another former police officer who wished to remain anonymous agreed with McBride and told Balko,
“American policing really needs to return to a more traditional role of cops keeping the peace; getting out of police cars, talking to people, and not being prone to overreaction with the use of firearms, tasers, or pepper spray. … Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in more than my share tussles and certainly appreciate the dangers of police work, but as Joseph Wambaugh famously said, the real danger is psychological, not physical.”
Release Us – a short film on police brutality by Charles Shaw