Recently there have been reports of law enforcement personnel behaving in less than constitutionally acceptable behavior. In Washington DC recently it was 2 police officers who lifted a paralyzed man from his wheelchair and slammed him on the concrete sidewalk because he was drinking in public. A week or two later law enforcement man handled some people in the Jefferson Memorial for quietly “swaying”. And just this week Stockton CA swat officers broke down a family’s front door in the early morning hours, placed a father and his 3 young children in the back of a police car for several hours as they tore apart his home, all because his ex-wife, who didn’t happen to live there, had defaulted on her government provide college school loans.
Unfortunately these are not isolated occurrences or are considered a new trend among these type of public service employee’s. Having worked in the Arlington County VA Sheriff’s office back in the ‘90’s I saw and heard many of these types of acts perpetrated against our fellow neighbors and citizens. But I, like most of my colleagues, didn’t use our voices to object to this abhorrent behavior.
There is one incident that will forever be burned into my mind: A young Hispanic male was in booking getting the crap beat out of him because he didn’t take his jacket off fast enough for the deputy. He was brutally punched and kicked while he tried to protect himself laying on a bench. Everyone, including myself, just stood by watching, until finally one deputy, an immigrant from the Philippines, pulled said deputy off this young man and quieted the situation down.
I also heard stories about how deputies, when transporting inmates who wouldn’t stay quiet, would speed up their vehicles then slam on the brakes so the inmate went flying into the partition separating the front and back seats. Then there are the officers who target individuals, particular those of color, by planting evidence to get them locked up, just because they thought freedom of speech was protected under the constitution, ie getting “sassy” when harassed. Or the stories about how some of the male police officers wouldn’t come to the aid of their gay women officers in their time of need. Again, my other colleagues and I didn’t voice our concerns to stop this behavior.
With the high employment rate and the economy tanking, there is a growing frustration within many communities in regards to these unconstitutional and heavy handed tactics. It’s at times like these when communities need to come together to solve their collective problems. These public servants need to be reminded that they work FOR the community, that these citizens, including those people of color, pay their “handsome” salaries and benefits.
So please, the “white hats” that are currently working in law enforcement, whether local or state, find your voice, be the change you wish to see in the world, to paraphrased Mahatma Gandhi. I just hope my fellow citizens and neighbors can find it in their hearts to forgive me for not finding my voice sooner.