The haunting norm of police brutality

I’m driving down I-15 and catch a glimpse of a police vehicle parked on the side of the road. My heart rate goes up. I check my speed. I involuntarily push the brakes out of pure instinct. I then realize I was on cruise control at exactly the speed limit. So, what am I so afraid of?

Besides not wanting to pay the couple hundred dollar ticket or the hassle of being late to my destination, most of it comes from the fear of the boys in blue: the police.

“To Protect and To Serve” is the LAPD’s motto that has applied to all other police forces around the country. Yet, in the past few years, there has been a growing and frightening trend involving those who are sworn to do the protecting and the serving.

YouTube is a major factor that brings this issue to light. Recently James Boyd, a homeless man “had held off officers for four hours at an illegal camp site with a small knife, threatening to kill them, before agreeing to exit the Sandia foothills with the police,” according to Examiner.com.

Boyd wasn’t armed with anything that could reasonably be called deadly, yet the policemen took upon themselves to sick their K-9 on him, pelt him with bean bags, tasered and shot six live rounds killing him.

Although we can’t fully know the extent of what happened, the camera footage only shows a few minutes of their confrontation, it is safe to say that this would be considered excessive and deadly force.

PoliceBrutalityIllustration by Trevor Robertson

On our own campus a UVU staff member was aggressively handled by campus police for writing on a campus map. If this isn’t excessive, then I don’t know what is.

These are different types of situations, but both should raise serious concerns about whom we are giving authority to and how are they using it.

The men and women in uniform have a job to do. I understand this. And not all people are compliant or respect authority as they should. These type of people are usually found in mass protests and have the crowd mentality. In these situations, the authorities need to use force to control the crowd. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what we have in this ugly world.

Not all the men and women in uniform who police our streets are the power-hungry ones who we see on YouTube or the news. There are kind and respected ones as well and that needs to be appreciated.

What this all comes down to is knowledge and accountability. The police need to know the rights of the people and their own stretch of authority. Without this we will just have police officers thinking they can do whatever they want to whomever they want and whenever they want.

“The only thing that the Sheriff’s Office gives us is a Policy and Procedures to follow,” Austin McDonald, of the Provo Police Department, said. “When it comes to training there is none that we have to take. Policy and Procedures may vary between agencies.”

Also, citizens are carrying around cameras to capture these kinds of hot-headed police officers as they are in the real world. But this isn’t the only thing that should deter officers. Departments everywhere, our campus included, need to take the initiative to properly train and educate their officers to know what is and isn’t acceptable in any given situation.

Not only that, they need to be held accountable for abusing that given authority. This can only come from the powers-that-be to discipline those officers and not give into a public apology letter or, even worse, a false rationalization.

The old and extremely troubling adage, “If you have nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” doesn’t have any grounds in this discussion.

We shouldn’t have to fear the ones who are responsibility for protecting us. Our society is slowly becoming a police state and one I don’t want to live in.

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