Over the last 7 years, we have seen a greater call of attention to policing and community relations especially in regards to policing in African American communities. While we all can agree that there has been a history of injustice and discrimination towards African Americans and other minorities at the hands of law enforcement especially pre 2000-it cannot be denied that our society has most certainly progressed to the point where overt and intentional mistreatment of minorities in policing has become the exception rather than the rule. In addition, according to a 2017 Brookings Institute study, a sizable number of police departments in various parts of the country such as Washington Dc, Seattle, WA and Atlanta, GA now majority minority police forces. Also, police departments such as those in Bradenton and Sarasota have made great strides to build greater bridges between themselves and the African American community by partnering with organizations that mentor youth and assisting citizen watch groups. By doing so, this allows the community particularly young people to associate the presence of police with non-threatening positive experiences rather than associating the arrival of police as someone who is always going to search you or harass you and your family as many in those communities have been conditioned to believe.
Is there still more to be done to build greater trust and relationships between minorities and police-absolutely. Unfortunately one of the greatest obstacles to this has been the mainstream media as well as social media apps such as Tik-Tok and Twitter. Many times these outlets show videos that don’t always tell the whole story to encounters with police. If the video depicts a scenario where police had to resort to the use of deadly force, many times the media tends to just show the actual police shooting rather than depicting the actions by the perpetrator that led up to that use of deadly force. Consequently, due to many calls by the public for honest policing, an overwhelming number of police departments have responded by mandating the use of body cams on their officers as a form of accountability. As a result, as an act of transparency, police department have made body cam footage of situations of deadly force available to the public on their official YouTube pages.
Therefore, I propose the media also hold itself accountable by making a greater effort to tell the whole story of encounters with police in which deadly force was used. Social media companies, who like to either censor or (with a disclaimer) warn users of content they deem “offensive” should also include a warning with videos that in some only way tell a part of the story. Better yet, include a link to the YouTube page of the police department that shows the entire Body-Cam footage of the deadly force incident.
And what part can the public do to build greater trust and relationship with their local police departments? First of all, educate yourself about the roles and risks our local police departments take daily. Many police departments, have ride-along programs that allow local citizens to ride along during an officer’s beat. It would be a completely eye-opening experience to observe the regular abuse many of our officers take at the hands of local residents (regardless of their race ethnicity and class) during traffic stops and calls they respond to and the use of remarkable restraint on their part during those circumstances. It would also beneficially during these ride alongs to observe the times when these men and women in uniform have saved lives and protected our communities from the bad guys and counseled and comforted victims of crime. Many of us do not realize that the presence of police in our communities serve as the major barrier between a civilized society and brutal and life-threatening chaos and disorder as seen in the “Purge” film series. Finally, we must educate our young people that if and when they are pulled over during a traffic stop that police in many cases are just as guarded and concerned for their lives as they are. In almost every case of the use of police force we have seen publicized in the national media over the last 10 years (including in the George Floyd situation), the folks shot by police would still be alive today if they had complied in the first place. Yes, most would agree that Derick Chauvin went too far with the use of his knee to the neck of George Floyd after the fact-but would George Floyd still be alive today if he had simply complied and been non-combative with the officers in the first place? I truly think so. Therefore, in a traffic stop scenario one way we can show officers we are not a threat to harm them or flee is to dial down the attitude by being respectful, placing your car keys on the dashboard and your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. Most police do everything they can to show restraint, but they also want to go home alive to their families and loved ones-so show them you are not a threat and comply.