By Brandon Pettey
When I was a kid my friends and I played cops and robbers and we pretended that my wheelchair was the police car. I had everything a cop needed. My toy rifle was strapped to the back of my chair and real metal (toy) handcuffs were in my pocket. My sister would later use those handcuffs to lock me in my room.
Dangers like that are all just part of of the job for a kid cop. I would make the ‘waaaaah’ noise of a siren with my mouth while speeding through my house in hot pursuit. When I was young, the concept of crime was very simple to me.
At that age, it was clear that the police are always the good guys and the robbers are always the bad guys. However, recent events in the media have caused me, and many others, to question whether or not all police officers can be trusted as good guys.
For years we have heard that minority groups have been disproportionately targeted by the police. A few years ago New York City police received some unwanted attention due to their ‘stop and frisk’ policy.
In 2013 after a class-action civil rights lawsuit was filed in which plaintiffs said they had been wrongly targeted,the judge in the case ordered that changes be made to the policy. In the following years, more concerning cases of police misconduct have caught the attention of the national media and public at large. Even more concerning is the fact that these cases rarely end up in a conviction.
Now, it needs to be said that most police officers are good and trustworthy people. Most police officers, such as those here in Mount Pleasant, are good people serving their communities. The officers who sully the uniform by hurting members of their community are the exception, not the rule.
That is all the more reason why police who break the law should be dealt with swiftly and publicly. When a police officer goes overboard, they hurt the image of good officers.
Such was the case recently in South Carolina when a school resource officer tackled an unruly student who refused to leave her seat.
The South Carolina officer became infamous after a video showing him taking down the disruptive student, of Spring Valley High School, by the neck went viral. The officer was fired from duty.
These are hardly isolated incidents. In a report on police brutality, the New York Times lists more than ten examples of officers dangerously overreacting in this year alone. The question we have to ask ourselves is, how do we deal with police who cross the line and end up becoming criminals themselves?
Police should be held to the same standards as every other citizen. They are the people we call when things go badly and we need help from someone we can trust. If a regular citizen is attacked and that person goes beyond reasonable self-defense and ends up hurting someone, they get prosecuted and go to jail without question. Police officers should be subject to exactly the same judgment.
If police officers go overboard arresting someone or protecting themselves, they should go to jail like any other criminal. If anything, police should be held to higher standards because of the trust given to them.
Communities look to their police forces to keep them safe and uphold the law. Here in Mount Pleasant we value our safe small-town feel and we look to our police to protect that. They have done a darn good job of it without major incident. Most police officers follow the law and help their communities.
There should be complete transparency in cases of police brutality so as to send the message that, as a whole, the police community can be trusted. It is understandable that a police force would be embarrassed by a bad officer. However, all levels of law enforcement need to send a public message of zero tolerance for police brutality.
On the flip side of the coin, we need to pat law enforcement officers on the back when they go beyond the call of duty. We should be grateful to the law enforcement community for keeping us safe. Everyone rightfully shows their appreciation toward members of the military but police officers, who serve day in and day out get, overlooked. They also deserve our thanks.
If anybody is given the trust to wear the police uniform and protect their community, and they hurt someone, they deserve to be punished.
We cannot let these incidents be swept under the rug, lest we lose faith in those tasked with protecting our families and ourselves.