Monday, April 27, 2015

Out of the mouths of babes--policemen are our friends

When my children were quite young, there was a local TV program called "Hobab Means Helper" and a friend of mine hosted it. So one Saturday, all four of my children were her guests. At one point, following the helper theme, she asked them what they did to help their mother. Oh, you wouldn't have believed those little angels--they made their beds, picked up their dirty clothes, carried their dishes to the sink, etc. All with halos shining brightly. Until, that is, it was four-year-old Jordan's turn. She looked at them in amazement and said, "The maid does all those things." (Disclaimer: I was then married to a doctor and had a far different lifestyle than I do now.)
Then came a discussion of policemen, and I forget what the others said, but Jordan's answer will live on forever: "Policemen are our friends, and if you don't have a Cadillac or a Mercedes, they will help  you get one."
That line rings in my head these days because I am so appalled at the instances of police brutality we're seeing daily on our televisions--if it's not Ferguson, it's New York or Tulsa or, now, Baltimore. I truly believe that most law enforcement officers are good people, trying to help others, enforcing the law when necessary but not taking pleasure in beating the less fortunate. But it's happening too often, and the victims of this brutality are (without an exception I can think of) black. Don't even begin to talk to me about profiling.
Not too long ago I read an article by a black mother who talked about her fear every time her son went out, her cautions to him to be polite, respectful, etc. When a policeman shot a man in the back (see, there've been so many incidents I can't remember where this one was), I wished the man hadn't bolted when he got out of his car. He was wrong. Apparently he had something fairly minor against him--traffic violations or failure to pay child support. But is there no other way than to shoot him in the back and kill him?
I know that crime is high in black communities, and I can understand police frustration. I know they feel their lives are on the line every time they go on duty. But to break a man's back? It sickens me. Or to shoot a man because you mistook your gun for your taser. There's probably too much overuse of tasers anyway, but that's not a subject I'm qualified to speak on.
I do feel capable of asking if law enforcement attracts people with hidden anger that they are waiting to take out. What's outrageous and scary is that this is not a localized problem--it's happening in cities far and wide. So I don't know what the solution is. Except police forces have to work together, to screen candidates, to train them better, to train them to reach out to their communities and avoid the obvious antagonism that existed (and still does) in Ferguson and other communities. God help us, if we become a nation terrorized by those who are supposed to keep us safe.
I'm like Jordan--every policeman I've ever met, including those who came when I mistakenly set off my health alarm, have been unfailingly kind, helpful and friendly. No, they didn't offer me a Cadillac or a Mercedes. But then, I'm not a black male.

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