When I was a child Jumping double-dutch on the sidewalks, playing stick ball or skelly in the streets, worrying about your mom seeing you play in the middle of the street or looking out for cars driving through so you don’t get hit or worrying about not having any quarters for when the ice-cream truck roll by and planning to run to the window and scream to your parents who are looking out the window for money even though you know the answer will be no because you just had ice-cream yesterday. These should be the only types of worries that children should have but that is not the case for young Black children growing up today. Their main worry is wondering if they will make it to adulthood alive or die at the hands of someone who’s supposed to be protecting them and that’s not right!
To Protect and Serve; that is their motto but exactly who are they protecting and who are they serving? Abuse of authority has been running rampant throughout the US and it is especially so in NYC. Whenever there is a violation by a police officer the union protects them even when it is clear they are guilty. The union and the entire police force act as if there were never any crooked police officers and demanding respect at news conferences forgetting that respect goes both ways and is earned. History tells us police are often found participating in criminal activity which often goes ignored until somebody decides it is enough and stands up to the corruption.
The 1973 movie Serpico wasn’t just a movie, it was based on the true story of a whistle-blower who exposed corruption in the NYC police department. In the 80’s we had 11 officers arrested from the 77th precinct and then there was Michael Dowd known as “NYPD’s most corrupt cop.” In the 90’s we had the dirty thirty and the 2000’s gave us the mafia cops and don’t forget Valerie Cincinelli who (allegedly) hired a hit-man to kill her fiancé. They’re often getting caught on video doing the foulest things to NYC residents without repercussions escalating situations instead of deescalating them and had the audacity to wear the last words of the dying man (Eric Garner) they killed on sweatshirts laughing and giggling for cameras to see. Who were they serving then? They are also constantly covering their badges with black tape so that the public can't identify them and report them. These are just examples of the ones that were blasted throughout the press but what about the incidents that don’t make the news? Their hostility and corruption give life to the hostilities in the neighborhoods they patrol which leaves young people to believe that there is no hope, no consequences, and no value to life. When you are living without hope and feel you have no future you tend to make poor life choices that are sometimes devastating and irreversible. I know this to be true as I have been close to several people (including relatives) that have made very bad irreversible choices because where there is no hope and people are hurt, then hurt people will hurt people. Besides, many young people think if the police don’t follow the rules then why should they, right? Then there is the cost of all of the corruption and incompetence from our police force. Tax payers are responsible for millions of dollars in settlements (something the union should pay) because we keep allowing the union to protect bad actors on the force and allowing them to patrol our streets even though some of them are dangerous. We are required to pay for their corruption and/or incompetence since they work for the people. Bad and/or racist police are a financial liability that we can’t just can’t afford anymore. According to a September 4 2018 report in the New York post New York City tax payers paid “$384 million in 5 years to settle NYPD suits.” That is about 76.8 million dollars a year. Do you know what you can do with that kind of money? You can upgrade New York City schools so that the children aren’t learning in over-crowded classrooms and teachers aren’t buying supplies from their own pockets. You could give teachers a raise in pay. You could house the homeless so they are not sleeping on streets, in expensive hotels paid by HRA, and public transportation. You could repair the NYCHA apartments so residents aren’t living in poor conditions. You could upgrade the local fire departments to make sure their equipment is the latest safest they could have. There is so much one can do with $384 million dollars but instead of doing these things we pay their settlements and allow them to terrorize our neighborhoods and say vague threats like maybe we won’t show up to help you if you call. It’s your job damn it! If you don’t want to do it and do it safely and properly then find another field to work in. No neighborhood should have to fear the police!
The police were never perfect but at least there was a time when we knew the names and sometimes the temperaments of the officers patrolling our neighborhoods. “Oh, there goes officer Bob he’s a pretty cool guy” and “there goes officer Joe he’s a bastard stay away from him.” The officers also knew the kids in the neighborhood and there was a sort of symbiotic relationship that often worked for the most part. In the past the cops were kind of good with a few bad sprinkled in but today they all seem bad with a few good sprinkled in. That may be the truth or it may be perception but ether way that is very bad. We need to clean house, get rid of the bad, keep the good, and retrain those that remain so that the relationship between the public and the police are healed and we can begin with a brand-new perspective on what protect and serve really means. We need to go to community policing and stop them from worrying about making collars. This can start by:
1. Demilitarize the police. Stop the 1033 program which allows local precincts to get surplus militarized equipment. Take away all of the gear that is meant to support our military. The citizens of our state are not enemy combatants and should not be treated that way. The money saved by demilitarizing the police can be used in other much needed community programs.
2. Work with government officials in this state and other states to help abolish qualified immunity.
3. Firing all of the dangerous police that are on the force. You know the nazis, the so called proud boys, and other white supremacists that managed to infiltrate the police force. Or, the ones who’ve committed offences but have basically gone unpunished even when there is video. They claim they feared for their life each time when asked. If they are so afraid of patrolling neighborhoods with people of color then they should stay out of them and not be allowed to walk through carrying weapons with itchy trigger fingers making innocent people feel afraid in their own neighborhoods. The sight of that blue uniform should induce comfort not fear.
4. Hiring more officers in internal affairs and insuring they have more resources for investigations.
5. All new hires should have at least a two-year Associates degree in Criminal Justice. They should have to pass a test to get their license to serve (like nurses do or the bar exam for lawyers) which has to be renewed every four years via their community board of the neighborhood they serve and carry an insurance policy (like the malpractice insurance doctors carry). Once on the job they will be assigned to duties that do not require a weapon and will earn their weapon use after two years on the job training.
6. Renewal of License: Just like businesses have to renew their liquor licenses police officers should be put on individual contracts with a license which needs to be renewed every 4 years by the community boards. With their employee evaluations, disciplinary, and accommodation records presented, current PT (Physical Training) test and gun re-qualifications passed, they make their case of why they should remain on the force and then the floor is opened to residents who may have positive or negative comments about the possible renewal. Then the board votes on whether that officer should be renewed or not sending their recommendations to the Chief of Police. It gives the community more control over who is patrolling their neighborhoods and it is incentive for officers to be more concerned about doing a good job by protecting people more than property and less concerned about the color of someone’s skin, their religion, or a collar quota they are trying to make.
7. Training: Making sure all the officers that remain after the racist and incompetent officers are let go get completely retrained. This would include conflict resolutions and deescalating situations, dealing with mentally ill, dealing with autistic individuals, dealing with the deaf and understanding that a person having an attitude is rude but not a crime. Also, hand to hand combat for handling criminals who have knifes not guns. Shooting should be a last resort especially when there is only one perpetrator but several police. Making sure the broken window theory is NEVER used in our neighborhoods ever again.
8. Auxiliary police should be utilized better. That is an untapped resource and I am sure they would love to have more responsibility. They should receive proper salary instead of them all being volunteers and only getting what amounts to gas money and they should be trained to do the wellness checks and standard patrols in neighborhoods and other low-level reports for assistance. This way we have unarmed officers patrolling our residential streets and the armed police will come as needed. If they find they need someone with weapons they can call for back up like any other officer. They should also receive hand to hand combat training as well as some of the other trainings mentioned above. This will cut down on unnecessary deaths by people who can’t tell the difference between a wallet, phone, and gun.
9. Making sure all police have access to mental health professionals even if they are not involved in an officer shooting situation as this is a stressful job and they should not be patrolling our neighborhoods with weapons and mental issues.
10. Raising the pay of the officers who remain. If they are paid a proper salary, they may be less likely to turn to crime to make extra money.
11. Ensuring that they are not tired due to doing too much overtime. Being tired may cause poor judgments and endanger the neighborhood.
12. Track and make disciplinary actions on police available to the public and in a timely manner. They are public servants and we need to know what is going on and have the right to know. More transparency with the police departments in general.
13. Ensuring bodycams stay turned on while on duty and made available to defendants within 48 hours after an incident occur. People lie but videos don’t. If it is good enough to use to convict a person then it should be good enough to discipline an officer when caught during misconduct. Removing that wait time for the officer to get their story straight and report immediately with their union delegate for questioning to the investigator in internal affairs just like any other person. Stop officers from covering their badge numbers and names so that they can't be reported. As the Twitter world has shown if someone wants to find you they will with just a picture. Hiding your name and badge is not to keep you and your family safe it is to allow cowards committing offences to make it harder to be held accountable for their actions if the person don't know who they are talking to.
I am not anti-police I am anti-police brutality. I am anti abuse of authority and I am against unequal policing of our communities. We always hear “but there are good cops out there” and yes, I believe there are and I know a few. But just like the signs plastered all over the city regarding terrorism… ”If you see something say something” Well if you good cops SEE SOMETHING then “YOU” should SAY SOMETHING. It’s not being a snitch or a rat, it’s your job!
Our prisons need to be about more than just punishment. The closing down of Rikers island and the bail reform laws are a good start but we can do more. The point in putting someone away is so that they learn lessons that will make them better more productive citizens when they get out and can contribute to society in a positive way. But let’s face it that is not what is happening. Instead they go inside, are treated worst than animals in a cage, used as slave labor for corporations and paid pennies on the dollar all this while learning new and dangerous ways to commit offences which lead to a high rate of recidivism. When they are released some come out worst criminals than when they went in. Like going in a forger and coming out a bank robber or rapist. The ones that come out with every intention in doing better are often stigmatized from being in prison so it is difficult finding employment and housing. With all these things going against them it is no wonder most commit new offences ending up right back in prison. We spend more on keeping prisoners locked up than we do on educating children which is ridiculous in and of itself but if we are going to spend that kind of money let’s make it worth it. Let’s have more programs for finding employment and housing when they are released. Let’s make sure they know all the opportunities that await like if they can’t find a job maybe they can start their own business and we give them the tools to teach them how and access to capitol to get started. We can also do the same things for those that are wrongfully convicted who have served many years in prison and now have to re-acclimate themselves into society. They need services too (until their settlements comes in). Companies who hire them when they are inside should be the ones giving them a chance at employment when they get outside but that isn’t really happening. Per a 2018 CNN Money report it cost a little over $20,000 per student versus a little over $60K to house an inmate. Just 100 prisoners can cost tax payers over 6 million dollars per year. Yet government officials are constantly saying there is no money for anything. If we reduced crime and properly assist prisoners heading back into society then the need for prisons would be lower freeing up a considerable amount of resources that could be funneled into other much needed services for the city. Reducing crime doesn’t mean utilizing broken window theory doing stop and frisk in our neighborhoods. It means more services and opportunities so children are less likely to take the wrong path in life and ex-convicts find new hope once they pay their debt to society. Most importantly we need to stop charging children as adults. They are too young to choose sexual partners and buy cigarettes and alcohol and join the military and don’t all of a sudden become a smart thinking adult because they made other poor choices committing crimes. That is what children do, sometimes they make really poor choices and we need to help so that when they become adults they can make better choices not become better criminals. We need to do this for all children not just caucasian children.