In my ZIP code (urban, upstate, poor, renters, Section 8, black goes without saying) the police respond in one of two ways. Not at all, or in force. "In force" means a minimum of 2 squad cars and an SUV full of who knows what. The police always wear kevlar and never walk the street; they are always in the car. Exactly zero police officers live in my ZIP code. They don't walk here, don't live here, don't interact here unless there's a big enough report to warrant sending multiple squad cars. They are outsiders, every one, and they cringe when they come inside. We don't know them and they don't know us - it's no wonder we have dehumanized each other.
Ultimately, the excessive use of force is almost certainly linked to fear. They fear us. They fear our streets, they fear the people who sit on the stoops, watching. They fear we will shoot them dead where they stand, and why? Is it because police are routinely shot at here? No police officer has ever been shot at in my ZIP code, excepting the no-knock battering ram drug bust where the resident shot at an officer who just broke into his bedroom. My kids play on these streets, but a trained police officer is afraid to walk them?
Of course, since the police have a reputation for being... ungentle, we pretty much fear the police as well. We fear getting slammed to the ground, getting our head busted on the roof of the squad car on our way to the back seat, getting a baton to the back of the knee when we don't kneel fast enough. We fear being pre-judged as criminals simply because we live in a crappy demographic, because we're black, because we're Section 8, because crack bags are on our sidewalks and trash is everywhere among the boarded up houses.
We fear them and they fear us. The difference is they have the full power of the state to order us off the street and they aren't afraid to use it. Which of us is justified in our fear?
Upstate, urban and unhappy
Friday, August 22, 2014
The Indypendent: What's A Cop To Do? - Update from Upstate, urban and unhappy
I had to move this piece (the Indy story plus my comments) to Norms Notes because the html was causing the side bar to disappear. In doing so the following comment was lost.