Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fearing the police: Which one will protect you?

Why is there so much hostility and resentment to police in the inner city and from the Black and Hispanic community?

Here is a new cell phone video that has just been released on the Oscar Grant case showing a different police officer punching him in the face before the other officer shot him in the back and killed him:

I don't know what happened to cause the police to get involved. I assume the guys might have been causing some trouble. However, I also know that police are not trained to deal with situations by punching people in the face or by shooting them in the back.

I know before I moved in to the inner city I trusted the police a whole lot more than I do now. Even though my skin is white, just by virtue of living here I have had a few police officers talk very rudely to me. Other times, also because my skin is white, I have had police officers be very kind to me (assuming I didn't live here) and try to help me find my way (even though I wasn't lost).

I don't believe that every police officer is bad, corrupt, evil, mean, or racist. It reminds me of something a [Black] friend told me once. He explained that he knows White people aren't all racist. He made his point by saying that perhaps only one in 10 are; the problem is that you never know which one of the 10 you are encountering.

I think it's the same way with police in our neighborhoods. It's not that we don't like the police or don't want them around. In fact, we know we *need* them to keep us safe. There is a part of us that want the police presence. However, there is the other part of us that wonder and worry...perhaps only one in 10 of the police are racist or corrupt; the problem is, we don't ever know which one of those 10 we are encountering.

Unfortunately for Oscar Grant, he encountered the wrong one (or two) police officers. Incidents like these make the rest of us more skeptical and reinforce our distrust, despite our best efforts to believe the police are here to protect us.
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