A MR. TRAFFIC EDITORIAL ON POLICING
I have had the unique position of working WITH law enforcement since 1987. In my role as the #1 most requested "Comedy" Traffic School Teacher in Los Angeles, I have been teaching people who started their journey towards my class by being accused of breaking the law while driving. The demographics range from 16 year olds who have had their Drivers License for a week, to 98 year olds who have been driving since they were 13...somewhere, somehow. Also, as the host of "ASK MR. TRAFFIC" on Los Angeles cable from 1990-2005, I answered more questions of motorists than a traffic court judge or lawyer. Since then, in addition to teaching, I am a news commentator on all L.A. TV and radio stations on issues related to driving.
My point of view on the current state of policing in America is colored with the fact that my paternal grandfather was a decorated NYPD officer in the early 1900's. A man who was the victim himself of horrible racial discrimination: A Jewish Police Officer on an almost all Irish force, he endured the animus of his "blue brothers" every day of his career. The fact that he was honest to a fault, and would take no gift of respect from the butcher, baker OR candle stick maker on his beat, annoyed his fellow officers who might accept anything from a cup of coffee to a financial gift to help their struggling family. Not MY Gramps. He looked as everyone alike....they either were in trouble and needed him, or not. (he was eventually force retired in his 20+ year career because an Irish cop called him a "dirty sheeny" which was slang in the day for "dirty Jew" and my grandfather broke his finger when it was pointed at him.)
In the United States of America, for as long as I have been working with law enforcement since 1987, the #1 call an officer goes on is responding to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, except in California (of course...WE have to be different!) where it is THE ROUTINE TRAFFIC STOP.......DV is #2. So, MOST citizens meet and form opinions of police via a traffic stop. The OVERWHELMING majority of stories I hear in class and on the air, is that the officer was "courteous and professional" and then sprinkled in to these accounts are "the officer was a complete DICK!" I hear cases of people who were DWB (DRIVING WHILE BLACK) and ANYONE who thinks this is not real, is not Black. It most certainly IS real. There is also DWT: driving while teenaged.
Since 1987, we have allowed the concept of COMMUNITY BASED POLICING to deteriorate to MILITARIZED BASED POLICING. Which came first in this "chicken & egg" scenario? The Bad guy are better armed than the police that have to stop them. When the bank robbers showed up to a Bank Of America in 1997, the robbers were armed with machine guns and full body armor. Since then, most every police agency across America has been equipped with surplus military vehicles and equipment, and been re-trained by former Seals, private training (Blackwater types) and other special operators to approach citizens as THE ENEMY.
And so, we arrive at 2015, after so many incidents of police excessive force or bad attitude are being captured on video now that virtually EVERY citizen has one in their pocket, we have seen that policing that has been in place for decades, is now being exposed for the racist, and overreaching policies they execute every day. Being a Police Officer is one of the HARDEST jobs in the world, and we all should be grateful that ANYONE puts on a badge, but the recruits out of the academy are usually told by the departments and partners they end up with, to "FORGET WHAT YOU LEARNED THERE....NOW YOU ARE IN THE REAL WORLD!"
Black people and people of "color" are automatically seen as suspects or "skells" (depending on where the department is)....or if not....they PROBABLY are doing SOMETHING wrong. Asian drivers are automatically seen as timid. Teenagers are automatically seen as aggressive and stupid, and elderly drivers are automatically seen as feeble. Make no mistake about the racial animus...and the racism is most often shown by police of THE SAME COLOR or RACE as the potential law breaker they are dealing with. Black cops are hardest on black criminals....as an example.
There is ONLY one way to combat the virus that has infected the police departments of "Smalltown, U.S.A." as well as NY, Chicago and LA. We have to NOT attempt to "retrain" the current police serving. That is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic! We MUST RE-IMAGINE how policing should be done in America with a fresh point of view towards the reality of HOW the criminals or would be criminals act (which includes potential "Terrorists"), and how a police officer can and should respond in a way that earns the gratitude of the people they are sworn to protect, and the respect of the communities where poverty and lack of opportunity and/or education exist. THAT is NOT going away any time soon.....so we have to find a new approach to reconnecting the communities of America to their police forces.
How you do that, in my opinion, you publically rid every department of the "Brass" AND "rank & file" officers who do not meet up to a standard created by an agreed and respected Law Enforcement hero who would head the AGENCY OF LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING. If someone's record shows them to have been a truly excellent officer or command staff police person, THEN they get to stay. EVERYONE is evaluated. Many get fired because they do not meet the NEW standard of the type of officer this NEW paradigm requires.
The police academies of every city are revamped to align with the psychological needs of what it takes to be a person with a badge and a gun and operate with "color of authority". Simply put, this new generation of policing is tougher, yet more compassionate. Now, they SHOOT TO KILL. SHOOT TO WOUND AND STOP becomes a tool in the arsenal of policing. THEIR safety is important, but not as important as the safety of the community. They are now truly "Protecting and Serving" the community, and the people of ANY race, color, creed, religion, etc etc. have a new respect for the law, and the laws peacekeepers.
Short of this......you can expect MORE of the same. There will continue to be "business as usual", more videos, more riots, and more people who believe the police are only there to raise money for their operation instead of care about the public safety. When the only time a citizen sees the "cop on the beat" is when they drive thru the block so fast, that no one actually knows anyone.....the mistrust (on all sides) will continue.
This will cost a LOT of money to implement. We cannot afford to NOT do this.