Black or White; What About the Blue?
The Sean Bell case highlighted arguments regarding race, policing and the value of life. Questions surrounding whether individuals who have felony convictions for drug distribution; are patronizing venues that are less than reputable; and have previous weapon possession charges are entitled to the same treatment by law enforcement officers. I’ll be the first to recognize that our men in blue risk their lives everyday for a paltry sum of money, but it is a profession they chose to undertake. For the same pay they can shuffle paper as an administrative assistant or work as a customer service representative. All said, police officers are sworn to uphold the law, while serving and protecting the public. Unfortunately, the blue has been long known to be a group with many more prejudices and above-the-law tactics than any black or white constituent. So, suffice to say that whether an officer is White, Black, Hispanic, etc. he is taught and cultured to be BLUE first. This means there is a loyalty to your kind – the blue – fellow officers. Whether alleged assailants are black or white is less relevant than the fact that the men in blue are still in a culture all their own. Ultimately, I’d like to think that the Bell case has less to do with race and more to do with the responsibility of police officers to uphold the law – even when those laws contradict your human feelings toward those that may be perceived as drug-dealing gutter trash. In the Bell case no weapon was ever recovered and all the alleged assailants at the scene were unarmed. To complicate matters further, all shots fired were from the police officers themselves – all 50. The argument that the excessive shots may have been fired when officers heard each other’s blasts and believed they were being shot at by the assailants is silly. The three officers were trained professionals, taught to remain fairly calm in situations like these. Can it be said that officers who may have joined the gun battle should have pulled their weapons and begun shooting too, since they heard shots being fired? This isn’t the wild-wild west. We have reached a time in our society when not everything is as it appears. Police officers must understand that to have the respect and loyalty of the communities they serve they must admit when glaring mistakes have been made. Judges routinely instruct juries to disregard anything mentioned that may unfairly affect a jury trial – be it previous offenses, previous charges, moral choices, etc. – and unless a defendant takes the stand, their priors are kept out of the case at hand. Do I personally believe Bell and his pals were rebel-rousing thugs who may have had too much that fateful night and gone too far? Maybe. Do I feel in my heart that it is ethical to shoot an unarmed man 50 times in the name of justice? No. Maybe we’ve rid ourselves of a drug dealer in NYC, but by saying it’s okay for the blue to serve as the reigning culture in NYC to make determinations on who lives and who dies we’re creating a two-fold problem: First, a disconnect and mistrust between constituencies and the men/women paid to protect and serve them AND second, a sense that if you want to be above the law, it’s not a matter of black or white – it’s a matter of blue.
There are over 304,000,000 folks in the US and 800,000 of them are sworn law enforcement officers. With rulings like that of the Sean Bell case, are we saying that less than 1% of the population –the blue – is the controlling culture? Would you be as comfortable giving any race/culture the same privileges if they comprised 1% of the population – be they white or black – and permitted them to live above the law?
Keep passin’ the open windows…