By Bridget Frame
America has a police problem.
Or rather, the police seem to have a problem with their fellow Americans.
In 2017, the police killed 1,147 people.(mappingpolicevolence.org). 1,147 lives lost. This is at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve the people of the United States.
Why is this normalized? There seems to be a rather skewed version of “protect,” and less of an emphasis on “serve.” Police must be the ones protecting us from danger, and not be a part of it.
Obviously, not all police are bad, or murderers. Most officers devote themselves to protecting and serving their community. But the rate of police using excessive force is disturbing.
In 2005, a study by the Guardian showed that minorities made up 62.7 percent of unarmed police killings. During this point, minorities also only made up 37.4 percent of the population.
Additionally,individuals dealing with various states of mental illness are being killed as well. Those with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than those without one, according to treatmentadvocacycenter.org.
The most vulnerable—the ones in our society who need protection the most—are those being targeted.
These instances of force used on minorities and those who suffer from a mental illness is often attributed to a concept known as “implicit bias.” According to BBC News, this is where a person is more aggressive towards another because they view them as being aggressive or unsafe due to a negative stereotype perpetuated in society. Even those who are unarmed can be seen as threatening through this negative veil. Race does not determine intentions,thus implicit bias is not a logical excuse for violence.
Being a police officer in today’s society often gives them a disproportionate amount of power and influence. “Since 2005,research shows that only 35 officers have been convicted of a crime related to an on-duty fatal shooting,” said NBC News. It is rare that an officer is convicted of a killing, even if the victim was unarmed, or suffering from mental illness. Officer’s often state that they felt threatened. But there is little consideration of whether or not the victim may have felt threatened by the looming power of the police officer. Rather than just taking the word of the living, we must also work to defend the dead.
The issue of excessive force and police killings needs to be corrected. Whether or not an individual is committing a crime, there needs to be great effort taken to avoid a fatality. Using excessive force or killing who unarmed, vulnerable, or ill is immoral and wrong. Wearing a badge doesn’t not excuse your morality. It just makes you an officer. Your job is to save lives, not take them.