America’s Police Are On Trial, When Its Laws Should Be

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 7.13.37 AMThis morning, a friend shared this article from The Economist. Not surprisingly, it focused on a few of the more recent high profile incidents that have caused so much controversy. It then relied on some very suspect assumptions to draw some equally suspect prescriptions to the problem, as they framed it. Today in America, the police are an easy target, and a convenient scapegoat, so it’s not surprising that the editors at The Economist, an establishment mouthpiece, took aim at them. But for all their faults, our brutal police force is just one symptom of a deeper, far more pernicious underlying social disease.

But before I dive into that, I would like to point out that the article has no author. It’s simply filed under “Leaders,” whatever that means. It’s a disturbing trend as it further erodes the role of personal responsibility and increases the power of an already powerful, indeed almost unassailable Corporate entity. But that’s a topic for another story.

Basically, the article says police are too violent and too heavily armed, which is true. But astonishingly, it goes on to claim that police somehow arm themselves (“…American police have become paramilitary, equipping themselves with grenade launchers and armored cars”). Presumably it does this to avoid tackling the deeper and more relevant issue of the policies and laws by which they are “armed,” legislated by corrupt politicians bought by rapacious corporations from our for-profit arms manufacturing industry.

It then declares that there are too many guns circulating among civilians. This is also true, but the author offers no way to reduce them and again avoids addressing the underlying reason – laws that put profits over people. Then, with all the confidence and dishonesty typical of a racist, the author attributes the vastly (and obviously) disproportionate shooting of young black men, to the apparently disproportionate killing of police by black men, without discussing the underlying cause for the latter, pure unmitigated and unapologetic economic oppression.

After this racist and incredibly simplistic analysis, the article offers three solutions, the first of which it touts as a no-brainer (and which I suspect was the aim of the article to begin with) – more surveillance – body cameras, to be precise. But this does not solve the problem. It merely further monitors and controls it, while grossly enriching a few corporations in the process, the whole point, I suspect.

The other two solutions (bringing outside prosecutors and eliminating militarization), are far more important, and far less costly, but the author seems to skim over it, presumably because it involves re-examining our values.

Not surprisingly, the article ends with a self-congratulatory claim of American superiority vis-a-vis our so-called “shared values” (the ones that are neither shared nor care about the average American). This is disturbing because The Economist is a widely read publication and the article has been shared over and over again, not only mischaracterizing the problem but steering readers and Americans in the wrong direction.

Correcting our rules of government so that they are aligned with sound values is the solution to our ongoing (and escalating) internal conflicts, not adding more layers of bureaucracy and control and pitting ourselves further against each other. This applies not just to police accountability and militarization, but to almost everything. We are a nation of laws and the injustice of our laws are precisely what’s wrong with it.

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