Illustration by Trevor LePage

Cops: Brutality of the Duality

After almost one year to the day, the Eric Garner case has come to its conclusion.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past year then you’ve no doubt such names as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice topping national headlines. Each one was a case of an African American male dying at the hands of white police officers. This was the spark of the countless riots, protests, and political debates. However these situations were the catalyst for a much larger discussion, one that will no doubt be a monumental topic of our time.

The Good Guys

As a society we place our lives in the hands of these men and women, giving them the authority and power to maintain peace and order. We are raised as children to believe that we should never talk to strangers…unless they are a stranger in uniform of course. Police officers are the good guys right? The true heroes.

Or are they? As of late, the conversation has made a shift towards the police abusing their power. The web is flooding with weekly videos, shot from cell phones, of officers allegedly harassing or even attacking innocent citizens. Now, people are taking a stand and making an active effort to respond to those who they believe wronged them.

Don’t Shoot.

Let me be clear — no one is above the law. Not a politician, not a priest, not a criminal, not a police officer. We are all accountable for our actions. — Antonio Villaraigosa, Politician

On December 13, 2014, approximately 40,000 Americans marched on Washington in protest of police violence. It was about more than just race. These people stood up for what they believe in: the system is flawed and someone needs to tighten the leash around the necks of every police department in the country.

So why are they out there? If we look at the past several months in this country there has been so much controversy on the matter. Every death involving the police is shadowed in endless speculation and hazy testimonies. How many times will this happen before we take a stand and address this issue? According to those over in Ferguson, enough is enough.

What’s more, if we look back a little in our nation’s history we find countless scenarios similar to what we see today. One of the more notable examples is that of Rodney King, who was brutally beaten by 5 cops in 1991 thus eventually causing the LA Riots of 1992. During these riots 53 people died and the city incurred about $1 billion in damages.

So why is this happening? Those protesters will tell you it’s because cops are taking advantage of the powers handed down to them. They are using their authority to jerk you around and give you a hard time simply because they can. Search Google for ‘Police Brutality’ and say goodbye to your afternoon. Video after video of cops physically attacking and psychologically intimidating citizens who have allegedly done nothing wrong to them.

And what happens to these officers once these cases are all said and done? They receive nothing but a slap on the wrists because they are officers of the law, and that same entitlement that empowers them to engage citizens in the first place is what gets them off the hook. The evidence on hand is typically insufficient.

So then continues the vicious cycle.

To Protect and Serve

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” — George Orwell, Author

With so much stigma surrounding the police lately it’s hard to see how we can actually call them the good guys anymore. But let’s step back for a moment and look at what it means to be a police officer. What is it they do? They’re the ones who do not run from the danger, those who do not succumb to the bystander effect. What would a day in your life be like with the absence of this authority? Robbery, murder, rape, arson; these are just a handful of occurrences you would have to deal with on a daily basis. Remember that sub par movie The Purge? A lot like that. Only slightly better acting.

The fact of the matter is you would be living in a world of fear; forced to spend every moment of your life in a constant state of alert. It is in those moments of fear in which you would ask: where are the police?

If we stop and think about it for a moment, police officers are people just like us. They are subject to the same thoughts, feels, and fears that we are. Yet they make the conscious decision to put our lives ahead of our own. Us. We are a part of the generation that would like nothing better than to get obnoxiously drunk and preach “f*ck the police”. If I may ask, why? We unnecessarily go out of our way to provoke cops just for the fun of it. Then we complain and protest when they turn around and do something about it. We think less of them for being a doer rather than a talker.

So this begs the question.

What Happens Next?

The protests may have died down but the conversation hasn’t stopped. Eric Garner’s wife has received a $5.9 million settlement over the death of her husband. However, for some, this has still proven to be insufficient. Whether we side with the cops or not we will not forget the headlines, images, and even videos of the Ferguson riots, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice.

Thus, the conversation has now turned to controlling and overseeing officers out on patrol. Body-worn cameras attached to their uniform seems to be what the world is demanding after all of this. To be able to see things as they happen and why they happen might save a life or two; or nothing might change, as the overall statistics for police related deaths have across the past few years.

While these cameras are nothing new, each day more and more departments look into implementing these as a rule all officers have to follow. Meanwhile, the protesters and advocates are pushing hard online to make required body cameras on police officers a law. After the Michael Brown incident nobody knew whose word to trust. There were no witnesses besides the one man on trial. These cameras will show us who is to be held accountable.

So before you move on to loiter some other part of the web, I have a quick question for you: Do you think the police are abusing their power? Every other week this seems to become a bigger and bigger issue for our country. Your opinion does matter and we want to hear what you think.

Join the conversation by downloading QuickQuestion in the App Store and following us on Twitter @askqq_ and tell us what you think.