Law Enforcement and Racism
One of the fun things I do under my counseling umbrella is what is called a “Substance Abuse Professional.” I am sure like everyone else you have no knowledge of what that function would be. Actually, it is a responsibility created by the Department of Transportation when they designated certain jobs and responsibilities as “safety sensitive.” Safety sensitive positions generally are jobs that impact the safety of the public. So as you would expect, 18 wheelers, delivery trucks, school buses, and all facets of pipe-lining, pilots, train transportation individuals, and many more fall into this category.
My responsibility is to look out for the safety of people who might be impacted by carelessness or intoxication whether alcohol or drugs. If a person who falls into these categories is positive for prohibited substances in a UA(urinary analysis) , then they get referred to me. What I tell the person often amounts to this if they have been caught with using an illegal substance — most often marijuana, “Your employer may be willing to overlook one positive UA and put you back to work, but if you get another, you will need to find another career.”
I believe this same approach should be made with law enforcement and the use of unnecessary force(including unarmed persons). “We understand how you may have gotten all revved up and used more force than was necessary, but after the investigation is done and you are cleared, if it happens again, you will be terminated!” Perhaps the use of force was so outrageous, it merits termination within itself.
Some of what we are seeing is a pattern of some law enforcement officers repeated cited for unnecessary use of force. This needs to end. I believe most of us intuitively believe each uniformed officer represents first himself/herself and then all who wear the uniform or carry the badge. Aggressive officers mar the reputation of all who wear the uniform or carry the badge. It also becomes time for officers of integrity which most are, to no longer support those who use the badge and their authority to abuse, coerce, and hurt others needlessly. A team can only be a team if all play by the same rules working toward the same goals. Some law enforcement officers cannot and should not be allowed to endanger the reputation and safety of others who serve honestly and honorably.
It is difficult for any profession to police themselves. Physicians should do it but look the other way. Counselors should do it but often look the other way. It is also sadly true for law enforcement. However, law enforcement has a history in America that needs to be “redeemed.” That is, strides must be taken to show that law enforcement serves all equally.
There is a part we are all going to play in moving this nation forward beyond the racism of the past and even the present. Law enforcement is one institution which must become more transparent and sensitive to their history of oppression and their real responsibility in a modern society which strives for all to be treated fairly.
Tomorrow, the institution of Southern religion in justifying oppression and slavery.
Wash your hands, wear your masks in respect for others, mind the gap, and be kind