Friday, July 23, 2010

When Push Comes to Shove

As I sat down in front of the computer with a cup of coffee to skim the news,  this article was one the very first one I had the misfortune of reading. The article contains a link to a video, but videos at Yahoo! don't always load and play as they should. So I've linked to the same video at YouTube.

You can see it clearly... three big burly cops, walking alongside each other, in a big swaggering macho fashion taking up much of the space on the sidewalk. A young woman with an obvious physical disability is walking in the opposite direction, trying to navigate around them. The cops can see this well in advance. They make no attempt to move out of her way, even though her mobility is obviously impaired. But that doesn't stop one of them from offering a helping hand - by giving her a big 'ol shove out of his way, and sending her to the ground before continuing on his way with his buddies. A passerby rushes to the woman's aid. I wonder why those cops seemed in such a hurry to get away from the scene Maybe they were in a hurry to to get to the donut shop while the bavarian cream, jelly filled and honey glazed crullers were still plentiful.

I wish I could say I was shocked by this video, but I'm not. Angry and saddened, yes. But not surprised as I've seen too many videos and read too many news stories like this one to the point that when it comes to police misconduct, I don't think there's much that would surprise me any more. But I'm not desensitized to them either. And it's certainly not going to discourage me from speaking my mind about them because people need to be more aware (as more and more are) about the magnitude of the problem of police brutality. Look, I don't hate cops. Hate is a pretty strong word so it's not one I'm going to use indiscriminately. So while I don't necessarily hate them, I think it would be fair to say that I don't trust them. And more people don't these days, and not without good reason. And if you belong to a disadvantaged/marginalized group, that mistrust factor can only increase. People of colour - particularly young men of colour - know this all to well. And I'll bet if you asked people with mental illness or other disabilities, a lot of them could probably recount similar stories as well. I know I certainly had my share of encounters with cops, particularly when I was younger and I'd get stopped by them for no apparent reason and they'd start asking me questions - most likely because of the way I looked and walked. I looked odd spacey or like I was on drugs and being a young male in the 16-25 age group probably had something to do with it as well. And the naive and not very street saavy young dude I was, I answered all their questions. I had nothing to hide after all, so why not? Thankfully I'm a lot smarter now and if I do get stopped by cops now (which is less often than it used to be) I just politely and firmly tell them that I won't be answering their questions.

Look I'm not going to deny that there are good cops out there. Of course there are and I've met some of them. But for a number of reasons, the bad ones are just too many and the whole unspoken code of ethics (or lack thereof) in their departments, commonly known as "the blue wall of silence" - guaranteed to produce a consistent pattern of abuse and misconduct.

So maybe it would be fitting to end here with a quote from the article:

"The officer didn't like the fact that we used the word police brutality - he said things have changed,...[b]ut when you see that video, you know there is a lot of work to be done."
Yeah, no shit. I'd say that's putting it mildly. And I fear the whole institution of police may be past the point of reform anyway.

One way or another, there needs to be a change. Maybe it'll come, maybe not.

In the meantime, I guess cops are going to continue to push people around - literally and figuratively.

1 comment:

  1. I've had my run ins with the pigs.

    Yup, I've been harassed for no reason, had a flashlight shove in my eyes to blind me.

    It seems like the bullies who aren't tough enough for the military go inot this profession in droves.