By John W. Whitehead and Nisha Whitehead
“If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.”—Officer with the Los Angeles Police Department
Police violence has not lessened.
Police shootings have not abated.
Police reforms have largely failed.
In fact, according to the latest research, police violence kills three people a day.
Despite all of this, President Biden wants to throw more money at America’s police forces.
Biden’s $30 billion “Fund the Police” program, a signature part of his administration’s $5.8 trillion budget proposal, aims to expand law enforcement and so-called crime prevention at taxpayer expense.
Essentially, Biden wants to fight gun violence with more gun violence.
What Biden is really looking to do is score points with voters and police unions. Hence, Biden’s political push-back against a call by activists to “defund the police,” would pay for state and local governments to hire more cops, double the funding for community policing, bring on 300 new deputy marshals, staff gun-trafficking strike forces and investigations into gun-dealer compliance, prosecute hate crimes, and purchase more police body cameras.
The problem, as far as I can tell, is not that police agencies lack money or cops on the beat. Indeed, as Jamelle Bouie writes in the New York Times, “there is no pressing, national need for greater police funding. If anything, police departments and their allies have skillfully used anxiety over ‘defund’ to successfully lobby for even larger budgets, despite the striking inability of many police departments to solve crimes and clear murders.”
As much as Biden and the police unions want us to believe that more police funding will translate to a decrease in violent crime, research shows there is no real correlation between crime rates and police budgets.
While the “Defund the Police” movement was misguided in their messaging (it was never about stripping police of their funding; rather, it was a call for greater accountability, better training, and overall reform), Biden’s push to expand funding for the police without any assurance of significant reforms in place could well encourage further police brutality.
The unfortunate reality we must come to terms with is that America is overrun with militarized cops—vigilantes with a badge—who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”
It doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.
These warrior cops, who have been trained to act as judge, jury and executioner in their interactions with the public and believe the lives (and rights) of police should be valued more than citizens, are increasingly outnumbering the good cops, who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace.
Indeed, if you ask police and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings during encounters with the police.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the right, it doesn’t matter if a cop is in the wrong, it doesn’t matter if you’re being treated with less than the respect you deserve: if you want to emerge from a police encounter with your life and body intact, then you’d better comply, submit, obey orders, respect authority and generally do whatever a cop tells you to do.
In this way, the old police motto to “protect and serve” has become “comply or die.”
This is the unfortunate, misguided, perverse message that has been beaten, shot, tasered and slammed into our collective consciousness over the past few decades, and it has taken root.
This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat “we the people” like suspects and criminals.
As a result, Americans as young as 4 years old are being leg shackled, handcuffed, tasered and held at gun point for not being quiet, not being orderly and just being childlike—i.e., not being compliant enough.
Americans as old as 95 are being beaten, shot and killed for questioning an order, hesitating in the face of a directive, and mistaking a policeman crashing through their door for a criminal breaking into their home—i.e., not being submissive enough.
And Americans of every age and skin color are continuing to die at the hands of a government that sees itself as judge, jury and executioner over a populace that have been pre-judged and found guilty, stripped of their rights, and left to suffer at the hands of government agents trained to respond with the utmost degree of violence.
At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.
The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”