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Should Police Officers Have Guns?

I just wanted to repost this rant from Facebook, on the recent issues surrounding the crisis in our country on law enforcement led violence against our citizenry, especially those in the Black community.

Taking another look at Police and their role in our community

When I think of the police department and the public service they provide, I’ve always felt like this: The sole job of the police department in our society is to serve and protect the community, to uphold and to enforce the rights given to us by the Constitution.

That said, if someone were to come and steal from me, to take things from me, the odds of a police officer being able and willing to help me are statistically poor. If someone murdered me, murdered a member of my family again the odds of a police officer being able and willing to help stop the violence is poor. I can be pretty guaranteed that if a fight broke out, if someone wanted to rape someone I cared about, that if I personally cannot stop them that the odds – statistically speaking – of any police officer arriving in enough time to do any good whatsoever again, are too poor to rely on. If I want to protect myself and my family in these situations I need to be willing to act of my own accord to protect myself and my family. Even living close to a police station I just don’t believe anyone in blue can help me in a true crisis, it just is not plausible that they will react in the time needed to help me.

As such, I’ve always held the only thing a police officer can do for me is help investigate a crime after the fact, after me or someone I love is a victim. Honestly, most departments do not have the resources available to do a very good job of this, only seeming willing to help if handed the appropriate evidence to seek a conviction on a silver platter. I have never had confidence that a police department will help me greatly if my car gets stolen, or my wallet, or if someone violent hurts me or my family. They might if the perpetrator is out and out stupid, but if they are smart, once the crime is committed and they are gone it is only my word and my ability to collect evidence that helps me in any way seek a resolution via the help of law enforcement.

As a law abiding citizens when I think of the police I don’t think of a daring do-gooder who is going to protect me when I’m being threatened by violence. I more think of a mundane traffic stop, a levy for a fine, and an interaction with someone who if anything is there to intimidate me more than anything else. When I see law enforcement on the street and in public, I tend to have a genuine concern that even looking at them the wrong way or saying the wrong thing in their presence could get me in trouble, some might say that concern is unjustified but is it really? I see a law enforcement officer as someone who stands before me, looking for ways to fine me or imprison me to make their quotas – and I am the law abiding citizen!

No action without accountability

When I think about what that means for my family, my wife and stepchildren who are black, I have a real constant concern that these minor things could wind up being a tragedy for them, over something simple or stupid. My wife had a gun held to her face by a law enforcement officer less than a year ago in front of her children, over a mundane traffic violation. Because the threat of death is the best way to perform a traffic stop, I guess. For people who have the power of life and death, I kind of have to wonder if they even get more than the most rudimentary basic training in crisis resolution.

As agents of our government, police officers while serving are the opposite of private citizens. This country is built on the idea that citizens have rights, and the police officers being a part of the government have privileges granted to them by us. If the police department is not doing constructive things to prevent crime, if they can’t help me in the event of crime actually happening, then I’m not quite understood as to why they exist the way they do. I get that being an officer is a dangerous occupation, but no amount of that should create a system that protects those who just murder our citizens without any due process of law as frequently as police officers in our country do.

If you share the same concerns, I want to put forward an idea to you. Sure, police can theoretically respond to emergency situations and I’ll admit you can find examples of them doing so – but if you believe as I do that this does not reflect the real day to day ongoings of the police bureau in your community then tell me, why exactly do we as citizens permit our local police departments to carry guns and exercise lethal force at their own personal discretion? I used to think this was a necessary facet of our police department, but after seeing the developments in this country, well, I’m not so sure anymore. Do you actually believe that carrying guns will significantly impact a police officer’s ability to respond to your home invasion, to your mugging or violent beating, to your murder or the murder or rape of your family? Do you think your local police officers can exercise their discretion over applying lethal force – keeping in mind that death is an immediate revocation of any kind of due process – well enough to justify continuing to have that authority and that they should be consistently protected by the legal system when they don’t exercise best judgement with this power?

Protecting the Constitution and the people is the only role for the police department

The 2nd amendment was written to protect private people from their government, not to protect the government from the people. The 14th amendment says that no state shall deprive our life, liberty or property without due process of law which lethal force cannot provide. If police departments cannot create a system to hold their ranks to serious forms of accountability for these tragic incidents we’ve been inundated with for years time and time again, perhaps we should revoke the privilege they have to carry guns. While it may not be as easy as foreign countries to do this in the United States, it is our responsibility to do what is right and ethical in this situation, and most importantly, what protects the rights given to every one of us by the Constitution. The right to due process under the law, the right to a day in court for our crimes, the right not to be callously beaten and murdered just because some traitorous officer has a bad day.

Failure of an officer to exercise good judgement in a case of lethal force is, in my mind, high treason against the Constitution of the United States and personally I’d rather take the risk that I have to protect myself more in the future from violence than see any more tragedies like the kind that are on the news every single day. Such as the tragic circumstances behind the recent murders of ‪#‎philandocastile‬ or ‪#‎altonsterling‬ . I used to be critically skeptical of those saying police were being too brutal, but I think today I have to say we ‪#‎takeawaytheirguns‬ ‪#‎endlethalforce‬ ‪#‎bringaccountabilitytotheforce‬ because ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ ‪#‎alllivesmatter‬ and most importantly because ‪#‎peopleshouldnotbeafraidoftheirgovernment‬ !

One final thought: if I must choose my safety and security over the rights of others who are violated by all this police violence, then I easily choose to be unsafe and insecure. I am happy to deal with those consequences myself, to live in a country that is fair and that respects the life and rights of its people.

Some afterthoughts…

I think a lot of the encounters that you see hit the news have a lot to do with people who are reacting to things with human instincts. Citizens are not trained in crisis management and have every right to be nervous and anxious around officers especially because they know there is a reason to feel threatened – it only takes an officer with a bad attitude and poor judgement to miscarriage justice and that can be a severe disruption in someone’s life. Officers often see the world through the statistical bias that lends them to think minority groups are a higher risk of criminal behavior and it is also understandable that this would set a minority citizen at unease.

When these tragedies happen I believe a big part of why they occur is the officers (who should all be trained in crisis management unlike the citizen) are responding to their behavior with the classic fight or flight reaction – which is not the right reaction to rely on for good judgment with a firearm. So I think the only way to prevent more tragedy is to seriously consider removing the gun from the equation and only having a small class of officers – perhaps those who serve warrants or respond to emergencies with active shooters at the scene – be permitted to carry firearms, then to have a high level of oversight over all incidents where they are used. It is an honor and responsibility to anyone who serves our country to use the resources they are given by us responsibly. We cannot have a domestic police force all having the power of life and death, it just seems outside the scope of what is realistic to expect our domestic police force be trained for. Every deficiency of training an officer to handle a crisis situation results in a person whose rights are taken away. It may seem like a challenge, but revoking their firearms seems to me the only ethical solution.

As a citizen, I do believe citizens should maintain the right to own legally acquired firearms, because the fact is we each individually are the ones who most usually have to defend ourselves in a crisis situation. However that is a separate issue that I will address another day. I do want to be clear that this proposal is merely with regards to limiting what agents of our government – the police force – should be permitted to do. I appreciate any and all feedback should anyone stumble upon this.

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