Sunday, April 26, 2015

Do you really want the answer?

Recently, there has been much talk of police brutality, and the notion that police agencies are targeting young black men and other people of color. There is anger on both sides of the issue, one side maintaining the majority of officers are racist and out to deny the civil rights of all citizens, but more so on the poor and minority...and the other side claims officer involved incidents, those where a person of color is victimized, are relatively rare. I believe it's somewhere in the middle.

Are these incidents indicative of a systemic problem within the entire judicial system? An argument could be made for this position...sentencing laws are still biased against the poor and minority...even before they appear in a Court of law, they are far more likely to encounter law enforcement. Once in a Court of law, these "offenders" are also more likely to be denied reasonable bail or (even) provided a suitable defense.

However, does this problem continue outside the Courtroom? As stated above, there is certainly an argument to be made that it does. A poor or minority individual is far more likely to encounter police or sheriff's officers simply due to demographics, or the density of population in their communities. But do police agencies specifically target poor and minority individuals, seeking to incarcerate, even eliminate these folks from (even) remaining in their communities?

If you believe media reports, the answer is a resounding, "yes." According to most reports, police officers have as a rule decided to "shoot and ask questions later." It really doesn't matter if, in these same reports, they ignore statistics showing otherwise, or even at times backtracking (indicating that there is no statistical significance to the claims they are making)...once they have "thrown it against the wall, it's pretty much stuck."

And many who believe it is a systemic problem acknowledge that little can be done to change it; that, the police must regain the public's trust (they never say how except to simply stop shooting people). Still, whether you believe it is systemic or a rarity, we can all agree that even one bad shooting, like the recent incident where an officer shot Walter Scott in the back FOR NO one too many. For that reason alone, something must be done.

I therefore call for the immediate federalization of ALL police agencies in the United States. There are many reasons for doing this aside from the recent developments. There are municipal codes, state laws, federal statutes...there are laws in some states and not others...there are County Jails, State Prisons, Federal Institutions, multiple levels of Justice Courts, Appellate Courts, even Supreme Courts. It's way past time to consolidate them. Police agencies are no exception...only one problem. What if a Republican (ever) gets elected president again?

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