For quite a while, I have been saying that we need a new way of policing in the United States. Police have a culture that is historically and systemically embedded in departments across the nation in which black men are thought of as violent and risky people who need to be put under physical control.
This culture will use code language like the officer in the helicopter talking on the police radio did when speaking about Terence Crutcher from hundreds of feet away saying, “That looks like a bad dude.” All that this police officer could see was that Crutcher was black and that he was large.
The police culture that allows officers to think this way about black men facilitates harsh treatment of black men deemed to be bad simply because they are black. If this officer in the helicopter felt free to think and then express his feelings in a negative way about a black man he does not know, it can be assumed that these feelings are common among many officers who heard such words. The culture that thinks that black men are “bad dudes” can easily take a small step that sees a need to control these “bad dudes”with physical force.
Statistically, blacks have been killed by police this year at a rate of 4.86 per million, while whites have died at a rate of 1.95 per million. This means that a black person is more than twice as likely to be killed by police than a white person. This is acceptable only if you believe that blacks are more deserving of this police lethal force.
According to The Guardian, almost 800 people have been killed by police in the United States this year, or more than three people per day. This lethal force, overwhelmingly hitting blacks, is unacceptable. In 2015, police killed 1,146 people in the United States.
This culture of acceptable police killing of people is deplorable. What is more deplorable is that we as citizens of the United States do not care that people are being killed in such large numbers. For nearly 1,200 people to be killed by police and no one to act to correct this is a sad report on the state on our nation.
. The typical defense of police using force is that they’re dealing with those who are a danger to the general public. This defense also assumes that the only way to deal with crime is with physical force and violence. There are alternatives.
A terrible truth is that blacks receive the brunt of this forceful policing, and there is no justification for this disparity. We now need serious talks followed by actions to change the way policing culture affects us all. This change needs to come from the community because police culture more than often seeks to protect itself from criticism. The communities must rise up and say no more to police lethal force.
Dewey William is a minister and a family support specialist serving children with behavior problems in Durham.