Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Changing Citizen-Police Attitudes in a Police State Requires New Sets of Values and Expectations

The increasing problem with police-citizen interactions is not solved by speaking truth to power but by changing the cultural and social norms that support violence

Boston police facing activists 
during an anti-war demonstration
 at the 2004 Democratic National Convention
by Brian Corr
The Only Truly Compliant, Submissive Citizen in a Police State Is a Dead One, says Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead. Providing anecdotal evidence of victims of police violence who were compliant and still ended up being injured or killed, Whitehead concludes that being compliant with a police directive doesn’t necessarily mean someone will come out of an interaction with a police officer unscathed.

The solution to the problem, he suggests, is to “adopt a different mindset and follow a different path if we are to alter the outcome of interactions with police.” He says, “... history shows us a different path, one that involves standing up and speaking truth to power.”

Speaking truth to power in its most basic sense—saying something to those in authority they don’t want to hear— is important and necessary. But concurrently, and most importantly, it requires a paradigm shift in the way we think about those in authority. It requires a fundamental shift in the way we view violence. In other words, we need to adopt new sets of values and expectations.

Likewise, actions and behaviors of police only reflect what we are culturally and socially as a nation. Police are like us, and influenced culturally and socially like us. The reason police take a military stance, using excessive force in interactions with citizens, is that they don’t know what to expect. In America, there is a prevalence of guns, violence, and disrespect commonly followed by some form of violence, so when push comes to shove a police officer tends to shoot first and ask questions later.

Collectively, we share the power to influence those in authority, and we have the power to influence the laws and forces that inculcates acceptance of violence as a cultural and social norm. But only if we put our hearts and minds to the task can we facilitate change.

So, in order to alter the outcome in police-citizen interactions, to solve the police problem, we need to change us. That's the hard problem, but the only viable solution.

Copyright © 2015 Horatio Green