For decades, The US police force has been under fire from its citizens and the global democratic community for its questionably forceful and ill-suited practices of policing. There are no shortage of examples of the police abusing their power unnecessarily in the face of situations where force could have been avoided or kept at a minimum.
Yet an ever-growing animosity persists between the civilian population (especially with minorities who are disproportionately targeted) and police officers. This should be viewed with a small amount of scepticism than is popularly viewed as around sixty-seven percent of the police force are white and are statistically likely to perpetrate acts of brutality against all minorities as they themselves form a majority white group.
This however does not at all take away from the evident and grim concurrence of racial profiling by the police from the most mundane offences to the more serious - both of which should be dealt with by professional de-escalation of tension by a trained and civil-minded member of law enforcement. This is the case almost anywhere where the police are not viewed as a tool of repressive social control but as a hopefully last resort check and balance for society’s ill-conceived and unlawful tendencies.
How did things come to pass that in the US, and elsewhere like Chile, the police became more like an invading army than a civilian institution? Noteworthy examples include the use of the word ‘War’ on targeted domestic issues such as the war on drugs and the war on terror - a practice which had the unintended effect of naturalising the authorities with a militaristic mindset.
They have thus been gradually equipped since the 1990’s with surplus military gear and vehicles to function more as an occupation army than law enforcement. Coupled with this are the disastrous bi-partisan political policies on policing from the disdainful Crime Act introduced by the Clinton administration to the ignorant Republican jackboot-licking during the current policing crisis since the death of George Floyd up to the current trial of Derek Chauvin.
The tasks that US Police are expected to fulfill also makes the situation more complicated. Police are often called to the scene to deal with mental health crises in homes and other places and only make things much worse with the tools and expertise they are equipped with. In fact, in the nearly 1000 incidents of police killings annually in the US, nearly twenty-five percent of them involved an individual with some sort of mental health issue who needed some sort of psychiatric help. On top of this, 1000 annual deaths at the hands of police officers is as bad as the next 5 worse offending nations fifteen times over. This is a disaster and sincere reform is needed to remedy the situation.
What can be done to rebuild trust with the police and the civilian population? Is de-funding a viable option in revising the roles and tasks of police in the US?
Firstly, de-militarisation of the police should be the foremost goal of any attempt in this regard. A police-force in less menacing, black attire would go a long way in dismantling their self-perceived image as a formidable and dominating institution and restore the simple, noble motto of 'Protect and Serve'.
Secondly, training in crisis-management for high-stakes situations with sound moral judgement and empathy for fellow civilians from professionals in psychology, sociology and other relevant fields might alleviate some of the tragic outcomes for many appalling incidents that police officers find themselves in everyday across the US.
Lastly, instead of defunding the police, a reallocation of funds under the oversight of a government commission with the assistance of experts on the issues of policing in the US (with special attention spent tackling racial inequality) would be of far greater benefit than stripping them of funds it would desperately need for its reform.
With all being said and done, we can’t forget that the police officers are people being employed to do a job that entails roles not set by the men in blue themselves but by politicians and the wealthy who have little time for the day-to-day problems faced by oppressed groups in the lower classes. The uttermost respect should be maintained for law enforcement throughout any process of reformation and only then will concord be once again restored between civilians and police of all races and backgrounds.