In 2008 CNN ran a primary debate in which you could submit questions. I did just that, wanting the candidates to answer how they would address a rising tide of excessive force by police. Needless to say my question was never asked, and no similar question has been asked at any debate since. Maybe that will change this go around?
Of course the next go around is to late. We need answers now. With a jury failing to indict the officer in New York that did a fatal choke hold on Eric Garner, we are now facing two big cases with the same outcome in two weeks. What happened in Ferguson ended up dividing the country, but New York seems to be unifying us more, with even Fox News questioning that lack of an indictment.
While the problem is enraging, the solution may not be all that complicated. For all to long police have been given an extra presumption of innocence, something that was denied to Michael Brown and Eric Garner. States have even tried to write this extra presumption into law. The state where Michael Brown was murdered had such a law on the books, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court over two decades ago.
The problem is now obvious. The free-pass police are being given to deny civil rights and physically harm must come to an end. When someone is sworn in as a police officer, they take an oath to uphold the laws and Constitution, yet we see more and more police officers violating this oath. It’s not just a violation of the law, but also off the public trust.
Now is the time to look at forcing all law enforcement to follow the same laws as every other citizen. Being a police officer doesn’t mean you are above the law; it means you are sworn to enforce the laws. Take the case of Eric Garner. If he was horse playing with a buddy and that buddy did a choke hold, resulting in his death, the case would be headed for trial, as is the case in any accident that results in death. So shouldn’t the same apply to police?
What we need is new laws on the books stripping away any special protections given to police officers. When an officer breaks the law, they break the public trust as well as their oath of duty. If police officers know that anytime they shoot a person, or beat them, that they will most likely face charges, instead of getting off, then they will think twice in situations that should merit re-thinking something three or four times.
Sure my idea will result in the usual “well then we won’t get people that want to be police officers”. To those naysayers, I call bullshit. I’ve known many police officers throughout the years that fully believe in their job and oath, and who are in greater danger today because the bad apples get to walk free. This can also be summed up using a constant argument those same naysayers like to use on other legal issues – if you don’t break the law you have nothing to worry about.
The fact of the matter is our country is a pot about to boil over right now. We are on the verge of civil unrest that hasn’t been seen since the 60s, and when things get to that point, we’ll see more cases of excessive force, justified or not, and that will only perpetuate the problem further. This issue should have been debated in the halls of Congress years ago. Now it must be issue number one. If we don’t take action now, then the future will be very bleak for our nation, simple because of our inability to tackle the tough issues. That, in itself, is a crime.