Brutality is defined as savage physical violence; great cruelty. Slap the word “police” on there and you’ve got one of the most popular phrases in the American lexicon today. With every utterance of the words “police brutality,” the trust system between police and citizens that is critical to every community erodes further and further.
Recently, there was a segment of 60 Minutes on the subject of police in the community. One cop who was interviewed when asked on how he distinguishes between “good” and “bad” kids said that if they waved or smiled at him, then they’re probably law-abiding citizens. But how could anyone’s first thought, especially one of a young person of color, in this day and age upon seeing a cop be to wave or smile? Perhaps they would walk a little more cautiously and be more aware of their movements, but they would almost certainly not smile or wave. Not when in 1999, the NYPD fired 41 bullets at a 22-year-old immigrant reaching for his wallet. Not when in 2009, the BART police shot and killed a handcuffed suspect who was lying face-down. And certainly not when in 2015, Freddie Gray was put into a coma by a “rough ride.”
What is most shocking about this systemic discrimination by police is its longevity. It’s always been in the background of every community like a wound that festers. The fact that parents have to sit down with their children and tell them what they can and cannot do in front of a cop is mind-boggling. How is this something that society can accept? Only now has the bubble burst and the problem been exposed for what it is.
But who knows what to do about it? Politicians tout body cameras as the answer, but without a system put in place to enforce accountability, the whole endeavor is meaningless. Enough of simple suspensions and slaps on the wrist. A message needs to be shown that cops do not have impunity and are held up to the law that they uphold. Because the fire’s burning not just in Baltimore but in the hearts and minds of the American people, and we must take action before history repeats itself.