Straight Talk Advice

Good Cop-Bad Cop: Police Brutality Debate

Jan 13, 2015

Police brutality? Complex problem deserves attention

Dear Straight Talk: My friend, 17, is very cold with me now that he's involved in the protests against police brutality. My dad and uncle are both police officers. While I feel terrible for the accidents that have happened, I can't agree that all police are bad. Any ideas for getting our friendship back? —"D", 17, No. Calif.

Justin 17, Brentwood, Calif. Ask me a question

If their work is fair and lawful, introduce him to your dad and uncle so he can meet good officers. He knows he can't justify saying ALL police offers are bad, but he also should be free to say not all are good, because there's evidence everywhere of this.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Both sides have awful eggs. The attempt to get the officer's weapon justifies the Michael Brown shooting regardless of race. Watch the Eric Garner video, and you just see a large, scared, confused man fighting for his life. Twenty-three years after the Rodney King riots, the media again hovers over a few testosterone-fueled police in riot gear and a small group of rioting, murdering African-Americans. How SAD for all the great cops and great African-Americans! My girlfriend gets troubled over strong, controversial opinions, too. I ask her to think hard about whether their opinion is towards her (generally, it's not). Don't dump your friend over his personal bias if it's not about you!

Icis 16, Detroit, Mich. Ask me a question

This issue has stirred a great divide. Riots, boycotts and murders have resulted, mostly from minds so blinded by a piece of a story they didn't read the whole novel. A round-table discussion with your relatives and friend would be an excellent solution.

We're a trendy population. Police brutality is centuries old, but with the light dim on the subject, we lived in harmony. The Missouri tragedy turned the lights up and now it's chaos. The legal system was attacked, innocent people were abused, police became targets. But look! Now it's Jay Z and Beyonce's divorce! We've placed our guns down and picked up our remotes.

Colin 21, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

A cop's job is nasty, scary — and violent. They deal daily with troublesome societal members most people would rather avoid. Their high exposure to violence is what makes some cops exhibit unnecessary violence themselves. Anyone who's seen the Eric Garner video or searched “cop beats grandma” on YouTube knows what I'm talking about. The dirty truth, though, is that cops are being put in very dangerous situations by their “superiors”. Wealth inequality has given the rich “ownership” of almost everything, including police (witness the increasing militarization of police departments in response to and for controlling increasing civilian poverty and desperation). Increasingly-strapped municipalities use police ticket quotas to make up budget shortfalls — giving NYPD's refusal to issue minor-offense tickets to ease public hostility toward police, a real bite to it. (See Rolling Stone, Dec 31, on this.) It has also helped lift the veil. Basically, being “against” police blinds us to the larger problem: the elite's power grab which cares for neither police OR civilians.

Regarding your friend, just show him kindness! I disagree plenty with my friends. You don't need to change his mind about anything, nor he yours!

Andrew 24, Cloverdale, Calif. Ask me a question

Learning how to keep friendships with those holding opposing beliefs is essential to a free society! Even as you disagree, encourage him to explore his own passions and interests. Remaining friends doesn't require either party to compromise their beliefs.

Matt 19, Mission Viejo, Calif. Ask me a question

I've very involved in the police brutality debate following the Michael Brown and Eric Garner verdicts. There is police brutality. Some officers are definitely out of line. However, the majority are not and it's unfair to negatively stereotype all police. The media pushes sensationalism and many of my friends have fallen prey. Your friend should support good officers WHILE fighting corruption.

Shel 16, Pleasanton, Calif. Ask me a question

If you only see media images of police brutality, without ever having a beneficial interaction with an officer, your perspective is bound to be negative. If your father or uncle can share stories of helpful actions and how, every day, they risk their lives, it would help.

Dear “D”: I hope the thoughts and advice of the “good cop” panel have been helpful. Readers: Wow! Need productive insight on a national topic? Ask the panel!

Editor’s Note: I’m extremely grateful for the panel’s handling of today's topic. Everyone moved the ball forward productively and sanely on this insane topic that is causing unnecessary bloodshed on both sides of the divide. The meta-analyses by Brandon, Icis and Colin are especially helpful in getting a longer, deeper view of the problem.

Colin has, in several recent columns, been sharing valuable insights regarding the causes and effects of our country’s wealth redistribution (where a few rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer). Today, he extends this to the topic of police brutality and how our extra-stressed and hyper-militarized police departments are one of the effects of wealth redistribution. I hope you follow his links and learn more about this yourself.

In our “Wishes for the Worldcolumn a few weeks ago, Colin spoke about the TPP (Transpacific Partnership). I bring it up again and hope readers will check that out again and follow his links there, too, because the TPP has been drafted by multinational corporate leaders and they are trying to fast track its passage without even allowing Congress to read the draft. The authors of the TPP are heads of the same multinational corporations who have brought us this country’s wealth redistribution, the decimation of the middle class, and the increasing militarization of our homeland police forces.

The TPP has been crafted in secret, which is why you’ve not been hearing about it. But Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and now a well-known economics columnist, is now talking about it a lot. Here’s a link to an article five days ago in Salon.com.

We are living in critical times. It’s a bad time to be anesthetized by social media, dumb TV, and a constant stream of text messages. It is in everyone’s interest to be paying attention to a variety of news sources and getting involved. Colin’s recommended book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” is a great place to get an overview of the problem. 

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  1. By Nancy, age 16, from Sacramento, CA on 01/13/2015

    This issue caused an end to my friendship with the only African American friend I have ever had.  She happened to be over for a sleepover the weekend after the Grand Jury decision in the Michael Brown case and started going on and on about how white police officers are prejudiced against African Americans and target them because they stereotype them as being criminals.  This offended my sister and me since our dad is a policeman, and he is not this way.  In fact, he and our mom always taught us not to be prejudiced and not to stereotype people because of their race.  She got furious when we disagreed with her and tried to say that it certainly is not true of all police and not true of our dad.  We also said that she was just as bad as people who stereotype African Americans, because she was stereotyping all police.  We also said that we don’t know who is right in the Michael Brown case and you can’t just assume that the police officer was wrong.  However, she just assumes that he was wrong.  Things were very tense that night in our room to say the least, and she left first thing in the morning and we’re no longer speaking.  My sister says it’s “good riddance” as she never felt comfortable with her sleeping in our room and undressing in front of her since even though she’s a female, her body still is “different” than ours.  I don’t agree with this and was just as comfortable undressing with her as with my white friends.  Before this I really liked her and she was one of my best friends, but I’m not sure we can ever heal this rift.

    Nancy

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    1. By A..T., age 17, from Santa Ana, CA on 01/14/2015

      I really don’t think anybody can understand the stereotyping faced by African Americans (and other minorities) unless your a minority who experiences it.  My sister and I can’t go shopping without getting suspicious looks from clerks and having the security guards follow us and keep a close eye on us like were criminals.  And don’t tell me its just cause were teenagers cause the same thing happens to our mom whose 40 years old! And our brother’s been stopped by the cops when he’s done nothing but walk down the street to visit a white friend in a white neighborhood.  I’m not saying that all cops and all store clerks stereotype us, but many do.  And my sister and I are among a small number of African Americans at our school and get stereotyped there, too.  Were on the girls’ basketball team and are the best on the team if I do say so myself.  But everybody says behind our backs that we have an unfair advantage because African Americans are born bigger and stronger, not because we train and practice very, very hard.  And like you say, even though were girls just like the others some girls are uncomfortable with us in the locker room and showers and avoid getting near us, so my sister and I just go off in a corner in the showers and shower next to each other so nobody has to be uncomfortable.  We aren’t uncomfortable with the white girls in the locker room and showers, so we don’t know why they feel uncomfortable with us.  And we never get invited to slumber parties and sleepovers even with the white girls who act like their our friends. 

      The stereotyping that goes on may not be so obvious to those who aren’t experiencing it, but it DOES go on.

      A.T.

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  2. By Jennifer, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 01/16/2015

    I will be going to college in another year and am very interested in studying criminal forensics and becoming a crime scene investigator.  I have researched the field and am well aware that the reality of being a crime scene investigator is much different and far less glamorous than what we see on CSI.  However, the field still fascinates me. 

    Since I want to go into the law enforcement field, I also hear all about police brutality and police discrimination against minorities and most of my friends and some family can’t understand why I would want to be a “cop.”  Even my own sister thinks I’m crazy to want to do this.  She has a black friend who was here for a sleepover in our room recently, and the two of them ganged up on me about how bad police are and how they mistreat blacks in particular.  While it may be true of some police, I do not believe that it is the norm.  In addition, I would be investigating crimes after they have occurred, and finding the truth which would including determining if the police had done something wrong. 

    I see nothing wrong with pursuing this type of career, but I receive what I believe is a great deal of unfair criticism about it.

    Jennifer

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    1. By Rena, age 18, from Petaluma, CA on 01/16/2015

      I get the same type of comments when I say that I want to go into law enforcement, but I get it worse because I’m African American and get it the most from other African Americans.  This makes no sense, since those who believe that the police stereotype African Americans and discriminate against us should want more of us to go into law enforcement as we certainly would not stereotype our own.  It is true that stereotyping goes on as I’ve experienced the same things as A.T. when I go shopping and don’t see it happening to white teenagers.  It’s also true that some (but not all) white girls for some reason are uncomfortable undressing in front of us, which I think is stupid since we’re still all females with the same bodies.  I have a white friend and when I have sleepovers at her house, her sister who she shares a room with goes to the bathroom to change and it’s obvious that it’s because I’m African American since my friend says she has no problem undressing in the bedroom when her white friends are there.

      Rena

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  3. By Sandra, age 39, from Santa Rosa, CA on 01/18/2015

    My teenage son and daughter are facing similar problems from other kids, both black and white, because their father is a Deputy Sheriff and because they have both expressed interest following their father’s footsteps and going into law enforcement.  It is almost like all law enforcement officers as well as their families are held responsible for the misconduct of a few bad apples who exist in every profession, not just law enforcement.  My husband and his many Deputy Sheriff friends whom I have met definitely are not this way.  I agree with Nancy that those who stereotype law enforcement officers are no different than those who stereotype minorities.  I recently overheard my son and daughter talking in their room about how they think they should reconsider their interest in going into law enforcement since “it’s just not worth it,” when so many people feel this way.  I think this is very sad.  Would everyone really want to discourage good, dedicated people from becoming law enforcement officers and leave it to those who do stereotype and brutalize?  That is what is going to happen if things keep going this way.

    Sandra

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