Anyone who knows me knows that I have the utmost respect for the men and women who each day protect and serve us as members of police departments around the country. Yet I also understand that police departments are not immune to many of the same problems that plague other organizations. One of those problems is that they will inevitably employ some bad apples and regrettably when an individual who is bestowed with the trust and authority of a police officer turns out to be a bad apple, very bad things happen. When those bad things occur there can be no debate, it is our moral and legal responsibility as a country to hold officers to not only the same standards of accountability as ordinary citizens but to a higher one. That does not mean we demonize the police as a whole, we can never let the actions of a few bad apples minimize the courage and sacrifice that the overwhelming majority of officers exhibit every day to keep our communities safe. It is not rocket science to understand that the police serve a vital purpose in our daily lives and in our communities. We cannot simply pretend that everything would be alright if they disappeared. After all first and foremost the police exist to serve and protect their neighbors. Serve and protect being the key words.
The role of the military is first and foremost to battle and subdue foreign enemies, that is far different from that of the police. Yet in recent years numerous police departments have been supplied with excess military equipment and many times without the full military trainings given to military personnel in its proper use. While this may have started out with the most well-intentioned of purposes the continuation of this program in light of the unrest in Ferguson this past summer and other incidents around the country needs to be reevaluated.
As a society we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves several questions. Does the “militarization” of police forces across America equal a safer environment for the communities that they serve or does it create more violence? Do individuals in communities look upon police officers utilizing military equipment and weaponry not as individuals who are there to protect and serve them but as an occupying army? Conversely, is the opposite true? Do police forces outfitted with military gear see the people in the community not as their neighbors but as enemy combatants? Is the “militarization” of police leading to a distrust and fear of the police in the very communities that they are sworn to protect and serve? While, I personally do not subscribe to the extreme belief of some that the “militarization” of the police force will ultimately lead to rise of a totalitarianism state in America I will point out that it was our 4th President James Madison who said: “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.”
Fortunately there is another way. It was not too long ago that everyone knew the name of the beat cop in their neighborhood. It is time to get back to this and other form of community policing. Time to build collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agency and the individuals and organizations that they serve to develop solutions to problems. To work together to increase public trust in the police forces that are sworn to protect them. History has shown us that this ultimately benefits both sides. Statistics show that most violent crimes are solved when citizens come forward and tell the police what they know. In order for that to occur the community must trust and believe that they and the police are on the same side. As such it is a fair question to ask can any community feel that way when the police are rolling through their neighborhood in a tank. Remember we are all in this together and the police are here to serve and protect communities not battle and subdue them.