Ferguson Missouri is not the first city in America to experience racial unrest because of a police officer involved death. Police actions around the country have fostered a lack of respect for authority. Although the Ferguson tragedy is directed at a single policeman, the fault lies in the process of hiring and training law enforcement.
Most importantly a much more stringent screening process must be put into place before a candidate is chosen for the police academy. Psychological evaluation must me as extensive as physical evaluation. For decades we have witnessed law enforcement personnel exercise their authority to extremes. This need to dominate other individuals should have been discovered before training began.
In Austin, Texas, a video tape emerged exposing two officers joking about rape. The incident happened on May 24th. Without being explicit, the policemen were watching a young lady walk by and indicated that rape was humorous and not to be treated as a serious crime.
These men should never have passed their early examinations for acceptance into the department.
When candidates are accepted, training must be all inclusive. In addition to standard police procedures, human relations, community relations, sensitivity training, and information regarding both racial and gender understanding must be part of the program.
Law enforcement officers are not exempt from temptation and therefore criminal action. Moral character should be a serious consideration when accepting men and women as candidates.
In Lansing, Michigan, 17 officers are being disciplined. During a fraud investigation $14,000 worth of food and food-related items were purchased using ‘Bridge Cards.’ (These cards replace food stamps, and act like debit cards). Instead of giving the food to a charity or simply discarding it, the officers took the food home for personal use.
In Detroit, four officers have been suspended. Two separate investigations involving the Tactical Response Unit and the now disbanded Narcotics Section. All four face criminal charges for undisclosed violations.
These few cases are demonstrative of corruption in many law enforcement agencies.
More serious criminal action involving deaths related to police action have been studied by the FBI and Criminal Justice System. A seven-year study ending in 2012 revealed that white police officers shot and killed nearly 400 black men, women and juveniles each year. 18 percent of those killed were under 21.
Not all police agencies agreed to be part of the study which required local police reports. Therefore, the numbers may be much higher.
Information from federal agencies report that black young men are 21 times more likely to be shot by police officers than whites. Law enforcement agencies fail to file complete reports related to officer involved shootings. All too frequently the section which requires a justifiable reason for using lethal force is listed as ‘undetermined.’
Racism in America is a growing problem. Police practice racial profiling every day. However, the disproportionate harassment of blacks by police is only one example of societal actions intentionally directed at individuals because of race. Young black men and women are treated differently in stores and restaurants. Several states have enacted laws which make it difficult for minorities to vote.
In past decades many Americans believed that time would heal the race problem; it has not. Police action continues to increase lack of respect for authority, especially in black communities. Education is the answer. However, for that to happen, someone in power has to care. Here in the 21st century our nation disregards the importance of education; but that’s another long story.
By James Turnage