The Unwatched Leviathan

From an article in the Washington Post today about the Ferguson, MO police:  “A community where both policing and municipal court practices were found to disproportionately harm African American residents.”  And how many more of our police departments are like this?

I’m constantly torn between wanting to support the police and not being able to because they can’t seem to be trusted.  I have friends who are police.  I have thought about being a policeperson myself.  When I talk to individual policepeople I feel great empathy for them.  I feel respect for their work.  I validate the courage it takes to be out there among the craziest, the most violent, the most unpredictable, the reprehensible.

And then there are findings such as Eric Holder’s recently regarding Ferguson, MO in which he states ““Seen in this context, amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg,”

In other words, no shit the place exploded when regular humans are systematically and constantly treated like cockroaches in a city like Ferguson.  Of course people ignored the actual evidence — the evidence that exonerates the police officer who defended himself in the shooting — to make the point that the crime, the violence against African Americans has been and is happening ALL THE TIME in Ferguson, MO.

And how many more places?  I venture to guess a lot more.  Like maybe just about everywhere.  Because really, how do we know until something explodes in a community and the federal government starts looking under rocks?  We certainly do not have any systematic way to police our police.

And yet we should.  There is no way we should be able to feel comfortable in our society with a police force that is not policed for biased and harmful practices.

We may require a Leviathan, but we don’t have to let it smolder as a monster right beneath our eyes.

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