Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The vilification of police in America

By Steven Gillard

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(Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)

(Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT)

 

On Saturday, Aug. 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, causing the nation and the town of Ferguson, Missouri, to explode in protest.

Early accounts of the shooting painted a grim picture: an unarmed black man shot dead in cold blood as he tried to surrender to police.

While most protestors in Ferguson have been peaceful, others have engaged in rioting, looting and throwing Molotov cocktails, causing police to respond with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In light of the shooting of Brown and the police response to rioting, many have used the situation in Ferguson to decry the abuse of power and brutality demonstrated by the police, as well as the unnecessary “militarization” of police units.

Protestors were quick to take the account of Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend, at face value. He claimed that Brown was shot while trying to surrender, a victim and martyr of the unchecked racism running rampant in the Ferguson Police Department. The Brown family’s attorney described the shooting as “execution-style.”

However, details have emerged suggesting that what happened that Saturday night was the result of more than just an abusive officer’s actions. Brown had been involved in a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store earlier that night. His autopsy revealed an entry wound in the top of his head, suggesting he was either surrendering or charging Wilson. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson stated that Wilson was treated for injuries to his face from the altercation with Brown.

I am in no position to make a judgment on the guilt or innocence of Brown and neither is any other American who didn’t witness what unfolded that Saturday night.

However, to assume that the death Brown was an unjustified, bigotry-fueled murder is paranoia at its finest. Moreover, to condemn the response of police to those who have used Brown’s death as an excuse to riot, loot and vandalize, further undermines valid accusations of power abuse by law enforcement.

Police brutality exists; there is no denying that.

The death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man choked to death by an NYPD officer on July 17, is perhaps the most current and glaring example of the excessive force sometimes used by law enforcement, and the officers involved in his death should be charged as criminals.

The fact remains, however, that police brutality is anomalous, and the vilification of law enforcement needs to stop. People who characterize police as the “bad guys” would call those same officers if they were victims of assault, battery, burglary or countless other crimes.

The police are not out to get you. Police officers are people, with families and friends, They are simply doing their job, which happens to be protecting the people of their community.

Of course, there are racists in the police department. Of course, there are those who abuse their power. But such is the case in any profession. It’s a flaw of humanity.

Back in March, after the infamous Blarney Blowout in Amherst, which ended in tear gas, pepper spray and 73 arrests, UMass students were outraged about the “excessive force” used by police. Students claimed that tear gas and pepper spray were unnecessary measures, and that the police response is a prime example of the inflated authority of law enforcement.

While the circumstances surrounding Brown’s death and the events that transpired in Amherst six months ago are vastly different, the sentiment is the same: an unfounded mistrust of those who try to protect us.

Whether protestors want to admit it or not, some of the police presence in Ferguson is a result of rioting and vandalism. Whether students want to admit it or not, the events that took place at the Blarney Blowout were the results of their own debauchery.

Before you take the moral high-ground and condemn every member of law enforcement as abusive and power-hungry, keep in mind the countless officers who, every day, choose not to stress their authority, giving you a warning instead of a speeding ticket, or, for the students of UMass, make you pour out your beer instead of arresting you. And that’s just the small stuff. Officers put their lives on the line every day, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in safety.

Americans need to take a step back and realize that we aren’t living in a “police state,” as some sensationalists have claimed. This isn’t Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. The SS isn’t knocking on your door and your neighbors aren’t vanishing overnight for speaking out against the state.

This is the United States of America, where you can dial 911 and have an officer dispatched to your location immediately.  It’s okay to protest police brutality. It’s okay to protest racism.  It’s not okay to ascribe a single status to many based on the actions of the few, and it’s not okay to prematurely denigrate Wilson simply because such an interpretation aligns with larger, legitimate themes of bigotry and hate.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

20 Comments

20 Responses to “The vilification of police in America”

  1. Arafat on September 3rd, 2014 8:53 am

    Bravo! Finally a college student with a brain. A rare thing these days.

  2. Augustine Thomas on September 3rd, 2014 10:36 am

    You’re full of nonsense. These evil thugs are beating and murdering people every day and you excuse them? They rarely if ever get prosecuted and yet the “justice”/revenge and pension system puts every normal person in jail it can.
    Dumb slaves like you are the reason this country has become a police state.

  3. Kris on September 3rd, 2014 11:10 am

    Augustine, you did not read the article. And if you think that the justice system puts every person in jail that in can, you either don’t live in Massachusetts, or are dumb. Note that I would not normally call you dumb, but the fact that the Collegian Staff allowed you to call someone a dumb slave made me say what the hell, lets call a dummy dumb.

  4. Kevin Bush on September 3rd, 2014 11:14 am

    Twelve million arrests resulting in 400 shootings in 2012 .. Chicago shootings 2012 .. 2,460 for the year.

  5. Sarge on September 3rd, 2014 9:36 pm

    Great article and I an appreciate you putting things into perspective for the blissfully ignorant.

  6. G on September 4th, 2014 12:28 am

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  7. G on September 4th, 2014 12:32 am

    If you are concerned about poor black people in MO looting stores than rich white guys on Wall Street looting your future. You Have Been Duped

  8. Ciaran on September 4th, 2014 7:27 am

    In my country the police don’t carry any guns and so rely on the population for support. American police look like gym rats, all puffed up and ready to kick ass and their attitude to Umass students ? why do they need swat in Amherst?

  9. Aaron Kosminski on September 10th, 2014 11:51 pm

    I went to boarding school with a kid like Gillard. Smart guy;you know for an idiot.

    Don’t worry, Steve, I’m sure you can continue apace from your Economic Dialectics of Ayn Rand elective and into the fantasyland people who go to UMass think is the real world without incident.

  10. Taylor on September 11th, 2014 7:51 am

    >”The SS isn’t knocking on your door and your neighbors aren’t vanishing overnight for speaking out against the state.”

    Uh, maybe, but the United States DOES put more people in prison than any other country in the world (including China, Iran, and all other dictatorships). So yes, there is a very big problem with police power in this country. They may not be taking people from their homes at night, but they ARE arresting absurdly large numbers of people on the streets.

    Here, have a look at US prison statistics:
    http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx

  11. Michaura on September 12th, 2014 8:24 pm

    This honestly made me upset in ways I couldn’t even imagine; not only are you completely ignorant of the situation but you clearly don’t understand it. Police brutality against minorities does exist and it happens everyday. It’s only when police officers get caught and the story shows up on national television, do people such as yourself rush to their defensive and say that we it is mistrust of the police that causes the brutality but that is simply not the case. Yes, you are correct that in minority cultures there is an evident mistrust of the police, but that mistrust is there for a reason. Police brutality has been happening since the Jim Crow Era and even before that against minorities. Michael Brown and Eric Garner are only two of the many minorities killed by our so called “protectors”, look it up, there are dozens if not hundreds more that flew under national headlines because people are too terrified that the same will happen to them. This article make you seem like you either don’t care about the situation going on in your own country and its’ ongoing implications for race relationships, or that you don’t care about the feelings of minorities in general and would rather hear about it from Rich White America. Please, next time you decide to write an article on race relations with the police get your facts from credible sources instead of FOX News and maybe take a second to ask minorities their thoughts on the situation. You may just come away feeling different about it.

  12. Kevin Bush on September 28th, 2014 2:31 pm

    George Orwell & Eric Holder Visit Ferguson..

    Eric Holder: Ferguson Shooting Made It ‘Clear’ “We Needed A Study On Police Bias”.

    George Orwell: “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”……

    What bugs me here is the suggestion by guys like Holder and our disgusting and vile Orwellian media …that it’s the “civil rights’ of “black men” that are being violated .. when in fact ..it’s the civil rights of the rest of us being violated all day every day by these very same supposed “victims”…

    The fact is..in 2012, there were 12,197,000 arrests in the United States…that’s 12 million folks. And there were 410 uses of deadly force… three-thousands of one percent.
    But of course the problem is “Police Bias”…got that? ..before looking at any evidence Holder proclaims this event “Police Bias” ..

    My question is ..why is the conversation always about “racism” ..”profiling” and “police bias”…and never about this…

    Black males aged 15-34 are only 3% of the total US population….yet according to
    2012 FBI Statistics these guys commit:
    54.9% of all Robbery
    49.4% of Murders
    34.1% of all Aggravated Assaults
    32.5% of Forcible Rapes

  13. George Bush's Foil on September 28th, 2014 8:25 pm

    Not that you provided a source for any of those statistics, but assuming that they’re true, I wonder what historical and social conditions could possibly have put people of color in such a disadvantaged position to white Americans (*cough, cough* slavery, segregation, and institutional discrimination, including police bias).

  14. Kevin Bush on September 29th, 2014 9:31 am

    I suggest the “historical” problem is guys like you …forever offering up the mantle of victimhood and the privileges victimhood confers ..shielding those who wear it forever from feeling or taking any responsibility.. or we could just ask some black women…or maybe some Jewish folk….who seem to shun victim status..

  15. George Bush's Foil on September 29th, 2014 10:39 am

    Because the Jews definitely didn’t feel any victim status after the Holocaust? I bet $1,000 we’ve got two WASPs talking about privilege. You have no idea what you’re talking about. You will never know what it means to not be white in this country. Get some perspective from people who actually understand what they’re talking about. You don’t.

  16. Kevin Bush on September 29th, 2014 11:27 am

    And yet most remarkably I don’t see Jews using that coveted victim status as a excuse to act like idiots .. bye the way ..how could you possibly know I’m in fact “white”?..

    I was wondering when we’d be seeing that word “privilege” ….way to go and true to form. You know they told me you guys use this ploy whenever you’re losing a argument…pretty cowardly I think. “Privilege” of course inferring I have no right to an opinion or the statement of simple facts… because all my experience is skewed by my ever present overwhelming and blinding “whiteness” . But since we’ve ventured into the use of labeling to stifle debate … isn’t treating folks differently because of skin color the essence of that most dastardly and powerful of all debate enders …(no don’t say it Kevin!! ) ..racism?

  17. George Bush's Foil on September 29th, 2014 12:23 pm

    I don’t know if you saw what happened in Gaza this summer, but it’s pretty clear that the PR defenders of the Israeli military are happy to pull the anti-semite card anytime someone criticizes the indiscriminate bombing of a civilian population.

    Restricting rights and committing genocide on a population is institutional racism. Attempting to atone for those acts is reconciliation.

  18. Kevin Bush on September 29th, 2014 1:14 pm

    I know Uncle Leo is prone to pull the “anti-semite” card .. but hardly needed when folks shooting rockets at you have sworn to wipe you off the face of the earth… Ok Harry…time to que the Twilight Zone music..we seem to have encountered the dreaded Moral Auto Immune Disorder

  19. lolz on October 4th, 2014 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the screed, white-privileged police brutality apologist who’s here to enlighten all the lesser races about what their experiences with the pigs are really like.

  20. JT Fiddlestix on October 15th, 2014 10:52 am

    Personally, I found your article refreshing!
    I live outside of St. Louis, Missouri and maybe I am the only one who feels this way but the whole thing is disgusting.

    There are many parts of this city where persons of light skin cannot go without getting accosted. You think it was a joke about Chevy Chase getting lost in St. Louis in the movie “Vacation”, nope. The colleges even have African-American male initiatives because of the low enrollment… significantly lower than their female counterparts. Where are all the ethnic celebrities rushing to justify the behavior here. It’s deplorable how they are using the race card in this tragedy. Crime is up 30% since what happened to Michael Brown…(though the crime stats in that area are in the top ten in the country) what a great commemoration! Every night one to four people are killed … NOT by the police or whites… convenience stores are robbed and it’s all for Michael.

    Where are all the people when these young black men need guidance, parenting, encouragement and support???? Only when something bad happens do people want to blame someone else.

    BTW… does anyone remember reading that Michael Brown was 6’4″ and nearly 300 lbs… Darren Wilson was maybe 5’10″… and maybe 165 lbs… and the shop keeper who phoned in about Michael Brown stealing was an Indian man of thin stature maybe weighing 145 lbs… and the store video shows Michael pushing and shoving him when the man confronted him about his stealing…after Michael was shot the ‘Quikie’ Mart was spray painted “Snitches get stitches”…. the next day it was looted and burned down… in the name of Michael. Of course this down not mean he deserved to be killed… but it certainly adds more to the story.

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