While homicides are rising precipitously in cities across the country, we continue to hear from bewildered souls who believe the U.S. would be a safer place were we to defund/dismantle the police.
Seemingly, these folk hold firmly to the premise that “systemic racism” (a term popularized within social sciences and humanities circles by sociologist Joe Feagin) has firmly gripped every police department. Every police officer, if he is not consciously aware of his racism, then buried deep in his psyche are his racist manifestations.
That kind of “systemic” thinking is keenly present in the couch-cop arbiters, who know little-to-nothing about theory, laws, or mechanics of police work, but are, nevertheless, unconstrained in making their nescient comments based on their limited understanding of how a police officer should act in a given situation.
Case in point, the death of knife-wielding, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, in Columbus, Ohio, and the vilification of the police officer who shot her to save the life of another young woman.
We are all acutely aware that Ma’Khia’s death was tragic. But the police officer had a fraction of a second to make a decision: Does he take down the aggressor, or does he stand by and allow her to stab her victim?
Both Juan Williams of FOX News and Joy Behar, headmistress of the brain trust known as “The View,” offered their erudite opinions on how that officer should have handled his encounter with Ma’Khia.
Williams: “I guess I would shoot the gun, not necessarily at somebody, but maybe shoot the gun and maybe, you know, run at the person and try to disarm them ... hopefully to distract her and try to stall or something so I could get — or my partner could get the knife away. ... I don’t know.”
Behar: “Shoot the gun in the air as a warning, Tase a person, shoot them in the leg, shoot them in the behind. Stop them somehow. But if the only solution is to kill a teenager, there’s something wrong with this.”
There is, absolutely, “something wrong,” and before we trudge too far into “reimagining policing,” perhaps we should take a look at “reimagining” the contributing sources leading to police confrontations.
· The Home. The institution where training begins is crucial in developing respect, not only for the law and those in authority, but for everyone a child encounters in his day-to-day activities. From the beginning, a child needs to understand there are consequences for misbehavior, but there are also proper and appropriate channels through which they may respectfully voice their grievances.
· The Education System. These are the institutions where children should continue to mature into respectful, responsible adults, where they learn there is much more that unites them as kindred than divides them based on the color of their skin. But when a child is actively taught contempt for his country and those charged with enforcing its laws, future encounters with law enforcement should come as no surprise.
· Politicians and Their Acolytes. These are the people who need the most “reimagining.” People like Al Sharpton and Maxine Waters who incite violence and people like Rep. Steny Hoyer who defend it, all play a role in creating an explosive environment leading to potential confrontation with law enforcement. When repeat offenders with extensive rap sheets roam the streets and state’s attorneys like Marilyn Mosby aren’t interested in prosecuting “low-level crime,” it’s the fuel in search of a match.
According to Salary.com, the average police officer’s salary in Baltimore City is a pathetic $59,800. “Imagine” — every day, 12 months of the year, they put on a uniform and many walk out into a battery of hostility. They’re taunted, spit on, attacked, and some of them die, yet most continue to exhibit restraint well beyond most of us and do their jobs. And now we question their “qualified immunity”? These men and women deserve so much better.
We can “reimagine policing,” but unless we “reimagine” those contributing sources to the grievous confrontations with law enforcement that we’ve recently witnessed, let’s not deceive ourselves — we are on a fool’s errand.
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M.K. Sprinkle writes from Hampstead. Her column appears every other Saturday. Email her at email@example.com.