Opinion: The police problem

Protest in Wilmington- May31​Photographer’s Yilong Zhang​/THE REVIEW
​ “The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other black Americans at the hands of the police highlight the disconnect between what they have sworn to do and what they actually do in this country,” Laporte says. ​

We are taught from a young age that police officers protect and serve the citizens of their communities. It is crazy to think this now, as it seems to have never been the case.

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other black Americans at the hands of the police highlight the disconnect between what they have sworn to do and what they actually do in this country.

As a white man, I wanted to consult my best friend and his family, who are black, for their perspectives on the events over the past week and a half which have unfolded. His parents mentioned how they worry whenever my friend decides to go out, and how they make sure his car is still registered with the proper paperwork and that no headlight or taillight is out before he leaves. My best friend also reflected on certain experiences involving police. While fortunately he walked away unharmed, he and his family noted that similar situations have resulted in drastically different outcomes for other black Americans.

To come out of that discussion and then to hear accounts of countless other black Americans on social media recounting their confrontations with cops speaks volumes to the issues in police departments.

Then to look on Twitter or turn on the news and see officers in full body armor, using rubber bullets and tear gas to subdue protesters speaks to the power that officers have abused over time. It is not just these recent protests that have seen this kind of violence by the police. Peaceful marches and protests of the Civil Rights era saw police officers try to stop citizens from using their freedom of speech by similar means. During protests over the Vietnam War, police utilized tear gas and violence at Kent State University in 1970. Eventually, the national guard was called in to put down the protests, and four students were killed. This incident became known as the Kent State Massacre.

Even today you look at the inconsistencies in how police all over the nation handle the matter. In cities such as Camden, NJ and Flint, MI, officers marched alongside protesters. On the other hand, videos from Philadelphia depict usage of tear gas by officers as protesters block highways. Thirty minutes down the road in Wilmington, the same thing has happened twice, but police have not used tear gas or any excessive force.

In order to safely protect everyone in this country, these inconsistencies cannot exist. It cannot be that there are “a few bad apples” because this country has seen the results when those “bad apples” are given a gun and a position of authority.

To find solutions to this police problem, it first starts with us, the American people. We must continue to hold officers and departments accountable for their actions and continue to speak out against police brutality in this country. Meanwhile, lawmakers on the local, state and federal levels must pass legislation that genuinely improves the conduct and training of officers. Multiple cities and states around the country have already passed laws requiring training on bias, de-escalation and even regulations to cut police budgets.

Finally, it is on the people who wish to become officers. They need to know that at the end of the day it is about protecting all Americans, regardless of who they are and what they look like.

Patrick LaPorte is the Managing Sports Editor of the Review. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the majority of the Review’s editorial staff. He can be contacted at laporte@udel.edu.

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