by Jesse Lopez
I've been a victim of police brutality due to mistaken identity and racial profiling, and feel I should speak up. I offer possible options and alternative procedures that could be adopted by our police departments nationwide to help create a nonaggressive response during the apprehension process.
Our eyes have seen way too many American lives taken during the arrest of misdemeanor offenses. The news, your neighbors, and your family members have all recently had discussions about the many lives taken by our police departments. These deaths generate payouts to the families of deceased victims from budgets accumulated through the taxes we pay. No matter your stance on the situation, I believe we can all agree that our tax dollars would be better spent reforming the current police academy training rather than wrongful death reimbursements.
Current police training is fear-based and used to brainwash law enforcement to believe we are all a threat to them and their wellbeing. The police academy teaches each officer to think that lower-income ethnic neighborhoods are crime-filled. That their streets are full of angry second-class citizens, and they should look down on and interrogate them for petty crimes or drug use. New training programs would reverse the officer's mindset to remember what they are - a valued community resource and civil servant.
Academy training pushes the belief that different ethnicities carry different risks against the badge and the community. Work of this kind is only attractive to a particular type of person. Most of us have heard the urban legend of the guy who got picked on his whole life, hating everyone in his class that poked or made fun of him. He then vows to make them suffer behind the protection of a law enforcement badge. Well, it turns out that might be the case.
We live in a country where almost everything has become illegal in some way, shape, or form, all in the name of public safety. I live in the great Red State of Arizona. Despite our hot summers, we have fantastic desert landscaping, year-round sunshine, and incredible sunsets. It sounds like a beautiful place to go hiking, 4x4 exploring, maybe boating in our few lakes, or even fishing or hunting, right? No. This state is crawling with park rangers, sheriffs, police, ICE agents, and border patrol. Good luck finding a safe place to relax and unwind with a joint or a couple of cold beers. It won't happen without having to show someone with a badge your government-issued ID or paying some fee to sit and enjoy the wilderness. Let's dig into that. Approximately half of the US lives in a "Stop and Identify" state like Arizona. So, suppose you look brown or speak only Spanish. In that case, you can legally be questioned and asked to present proof of citizenship. Guess what happens if you don't happen to have your ID? You guessed it! They take you to jail until they choose to identify you.
Arizona became a union state on February 4th, 1912, a little over 100 years ago. Therefore on February 3rd, 1912, it was still a part of Mexico, the Mexican culture, and Spanish was still the native language. Today, those overnight Americans' descendants can't speak their traditional native language or exhibit their cultural beliefs in public. They live in fear of being hassled by law enforcement who are quick to arrest and ruin these purchased Americans' lives. Now, we see whitewashed Hispanic law enforcement officers destroying lives in the same communities where they were raised instead of rebuilding their community heritage.
Low-income neighborhoods were later sold in the gentrification projects aimed at the middle class. The middle class's anxiety towards original tenants brings law enforcement back into these forgotten neighborhoods, where they then become sitting ducks, easy targets for cops out on patrol. Gentrification pushes out the generations of families that built that same community. No more community centers for youth to develop social skills. No introducing arts and crafts or sports for fun. Those days are over. Nowadays, cops terrorize kids for uniting in groups. They are labeled as gangs, or unlawfully assembling, giving way to questioning and detainment by law enforcement who merely want to bully someone. Why? Possibly to feel better about the size of their junk, who knows? Here's a joke for you. Do you know why most cops use a police issued 9mm handgun? Because nine millimeters is all they're used to packing.
All jokes aside, there's nothing funny about the abuse of power we see our law enforcement committing from every possible angle. Hollywood movies perpetuate this image, giving birth to young angry white males as our next generation of police officers. These wannabe action stars are ready from day one for the bang-bang shoot 'em up job excitement. Then they find out that they write tickets for speeders and Jaywalkers, which frustrates these select cops.
One facet consistently overlooked during the law enforcement hiring process is mental health. Ignoring this essential aspect of well being can give the wrong person authoritative power. During the hiring process, all applicants should be required to submit to a thorough mental health check after passing personality and racial comprehension/acceptance assessment testing. If the applicant is hired, these mental health evaluations should continue throughout their academy training, to evaluate how each cadet handles different stress factors. By assessing their strengths and weaknesses, the academy's teaching staff can better determine which position in law enforcement suits each recruit. They can then place that individual in the right position. This better process will keep officers and members of the community safer.
So, how do we stop these possible bad apples so that they keep their weapons holstered and not prematurely ejaculating bullets into some innocent body? By re-structuring protocols in both the hiring and training process. Let's start with the training on those police issued guns we were speaking about a few paragraphs ago. Here's an idea. Why don't police departments change their policy so that the first two bullets in a police-issued firearm are rubber bullets? Yes, a rubber bullet can be fatal, but it's a lot less dangerous than a lead projectile. I don't believe cops should not have guns. They do need to protect themselves from select 2nd amendment fanatics or violent criminals yielding a weapon. I'm just here offering a solution to a problem we see far too often: US citizens dying from a cop discharging their firearm. During a cadet's weapons training, instructors can implement rubber bullet firearm exercises. If an officer needs to use deadly force, they pull the trigger twice to load a lead bullet into the chamber. This type of training gives the officer the chance to prepare and assess the situation for fatal or nonlethal use of force, highlighting protecting and serving their assigned community.
Today, cops' training emphasizes "take control of the situation," so they often arrive only to speak to one another like we don't exist. In many cases, they ignore the actual caller, only speaking and asking one another what to do, excluding victims, witnesses, and the detained. The police, therefore, believe that their personal opinions of our lives are all that's important. They seemingly ignore facts to create their perception of what occurred in their reports. These reports are then read and viewed by the judge deciding the fate of their fellow countrymen. They don't see you as anything significant. Nope, you are just another routine call or arrest before they get drunk at their local bar's happy hour while playing grab-ass with one another. These are the people that patrol and control our country's streets. Police training should include active listen so that they are better at defusing hostile situations while remaining calm. Officers of the law yelling at citizens need to stop now.
In the end, we are the ones to blame because we haven't forced them to change. Look at how many angry white men keep getting elected to our country's public offices. White privilege protects these men. They feel like there is nothing wrong with our legal system because they've only heard the tales of systematic racism or police brutality. They have never felt the mental and physical pain that has been inflicted on victims and communities. I'm not talking about defunding the police. I am suggesting redirecting funds to the areas most needed in each city. Such as implementing a certain amount of community service hours to be completed by each law enforcement officer in their assigned neighborhoods. These acts will help build trust within the local community, businesses, and community members.
I mean, when was the last time your local police department did something for you and your neighbors? Like a community BBQ so you can meet the men and women patrolling your streets. When was the last time you saw a police officer get out of their government-issued car to be friendly and help someone? Have you seen them at the local schools talking to kids about things that matter like drug abuse or sexual assault? How about establishing fundraisers for the less fortunate community members? The answer is likely not in a long time. So it's pretty simple to understand why so many US citizens fear the police; it is tough to trust a stranger with a gun on their hip yelling at the top of their voice. Imagine the way the DARE program was designed and funded. This program introduced illegal drugs to innocent children by name and uses, hoping these kids would rat out their parents for possession and drug use. Other than National Night Out, there is no national community outreach program, like DARE, for law enforcement to help our fellow less fortunate US citizens.
These agencies and police departments are willing to fund society aimed programs that devastate communities and the lives within them. Still, our nation won't help rebuild these broken communities. That means it's up to us. Get your tool belts because this system is broken, and it's time we as a nation fix it.