San Louis, Police and Legitimacy

Analysis by Reporting San Diego

 

Sep 19, 2017 (San Diego) there have been multiple demonstrations in San Louis, Missouri after yet another officer was found not guilty. This is even in the face of recordings during a high-speed pursuit. These statements referred to killing the black man in the pursuit.

The officer chose a bench trial, where a judge decided his fate. This was a good move from the officer. However, the comments from the bench encapsulated the present moment. Judge Timothy Wilson wrote this in his decision. “An urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”

This is exactly where we are. In that sentence there were many things left unsaid, This is the view from many whites. Black men are armed and deal in drugs. What was said here is implicit bias. While the judge was ruled in the past against police, this is not just Wilson, this is a national problem. So to blame a judge is wrong. It is a system. One that relies on the belief that whites are better than anybody else. And the system is not overt, but it exists.

This is well understood, even by police friendly outfits like the Police Foundation. They write:

Some police forces in this nation have historically played critical roles in maintaining positional power for whites. This has created a very difficult chasm to overcome when police departments attempt to implement community policing initiatives.

Negative minority community perceptions of police in America have a historical basis in fact and should not be ignored by elected officials, the police or the media. The war on drugs, with its primary focus in black and other minority neighborhoods where stop-and-frisk police protocols routinely subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent minorities to such searches, exacerbated feelings of marginalization and frictions with the police.

 

In this case, it did not matter what evidence was presented. Or that Officer Jason Stockley said that… “Going to kill this (expletive deleted), don’t you know it.” We are linking to the St Louis Dispatch video as well.

 

But it is important to look at this globally, not just one case, in one city. We only have seen 13 officers indicted since 2005 for on-duty deaths. The last successful indictment was in 2013.

 

The reality is that the numbers of officers who ever face a judge, or even disciplinary action is very small. I would like to believe it is because police officers do their jobs correctly all the time. I would love to believe that there is no bias in law enforcement. However, the data says otherwise. There is implicit bias in the profession. Some of it is ingrained early in the life of an officer, in fact, well before that officer even thinks about policing as a profession. We grow in a society that has many codes that are hardly spoken to the place and value of different people.

Popular media enforces and strengthens stereotypes. The News Media tends to show people of color in County blue more often than in civilian clothes or in cuffs. Society reacts in bad ways when a sports hero becomes political, whether that is during the Olympics, or more recently when somebody took a knee during the national anthem. All these are social signals. And then there is a series of codes.

Urban, addict, welfare queen…

These codes describe stereotypes, that are usually black and poor.

The people in San Louis waited for the legal system to work. They wanted it to work. It is not just San Louis. This is national. When the criminal justice system fails, what else are people left with?

Then there is the reaction from Police, who are under increased scrutiny. No, the police is not a race. They are not a class, and they cannot be subjected to racism. However, because of the lack of accountability for officers in multiple places, there is a… shall we say backlash and a demand for accountability. Saying that blue lives matter is something that officers might think was cute, but there are no blue lives. Becoming a police officer is in some ways a calling, but it is a profession. It is not the most dangerous job either. Risks to police officers over the last two decades have gone down by orders of magnitude. These days the greatest threat to the life and safety of a police officer is not bad people with guns or knives. It is traffic.

Traffic fatalities have consistently been the single leading cause of death for police officers for the past several years.

Officers spend a great deal of time driving, which naturally increases their risk of being in an accident. Add to that the dangers that come from driving in emergency response or police pursuits and you can quickly understand the increased risk.

On top of their own driving, many officers work outside of their vehicles on busy streets, whether at scenes of traffic crashes or traffic stops, Those officers are in extremely vulnerable positions and risk getting hit by inattentive drivers. In fact, most officers will tell you one of the things they fear most is traffic.

This is not emphasized in most news reporting. Nor is being a police officer the most dangerous job out there.

Why does this matter? Simply put, officers act as if it is, and they are reacting to nonexistent threats. Now they are also challenging calls for accountability. Police better accept some accountability because what is happening is far more dangerous than they understand. Once you lose legitimacy, which is exactly what is happening, you lose your authority.

Oh, and police could start by not reverting to the use of lethal force all the time. Officers were trained and given a slew of less than lethal tools because the old excuse was that if all you got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Well, officers have tasers, pepper spray, bean bags, use them. Also, police better learn from other nations where officers do not resort to firearms every time they are confronted with somebody with a knife.

If not, St. Louis will repeat itself around the nation, as is, it started with Ferguson in some ways. Oh, Fergusson is just down the road from St. Louis. Is this the County? Is this training? The Feds found such when they did their research into the death of Michael Brown. Officers do not need bayonets to do their job. They are not infantry. I can understand drawing surplus military gear, such as cameras, coffee makers, even sock, and tents. I could even see a Humvee here and there for rural patrol, I will even make an exception for

There is one more thing, now that the Feds decided to restart giving police departments military surplus gear. Officers do not need bayonets to do their job. They are not infantry. I can understand drawing surplus military gear, such as cameras, coffee makers, even sock, and tents. I could even see a Humvee here and there for rural patrol, I will even make an exception for an MRAP, for rural areas as a command post. It is the clearance those vehicles have after all, and during a flood or fire that might be necessary. Bayonets. you kid me? Those are not life-saving tools.

Officers aping protesters by screaming “who’s streets, our streets” is not conducive to good reputation either.

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