Stop the militarization of our police force

I agree with Eric Holder about as often as I exercise, which is to say pretty much never. It’s no surprise I’m not usually on the same page as a guy who won’t say the phrase ‘radical Islam’ in public.Despite our many differences, I believe we must begin to look for common ground. Today we don’t have to look any further than Ferguson to find it. Eric Holder was there this week, he met with citizens and explained to them that he understood, first hand, why black people distrust the police. Holder talked about his personal experience of getting pulled over many times, he contends, because of the color of his skin.

Given the history, it’s very understandable for the black community to have a deep seeded mistrust of police. I would argue that more white people, who have no deep history of being abused by police, are beginning to lose some of the blind trust they once had. But that’s not where we will find common ground.

Here’s where I believe we can stand together: stop the militarization of our police force.

If you have a distrust of the local police, why allow them to be armed with enough firepower to invade a small country? Why give them tanks, Humvees, full Spec Ops tactical gear, and fully automatic assault rifles? The local police are supposed to protect and serve, not shock and awe residents and transform their towns into a middle east like war zone at the flip of a switch. Imagine, for a moment, how history would be different if the Birmingham police were militarized like many towns are today.

Police need to be aware of this distrust that exists and continually work to earn it back. Rolling into town with an MRAP will make citizens feel like the enemy, not part of the community.

Let’s ratchet things down. Let’s bring harmony to our towns, not drive the wedge deeper.

We need to stand together on real justice not social justice. No one can fix the past except God. But man can create a justice system that is blind. One that punishes the bad guy whether he is black or white, poor, rich, a cop, attorney General, unemployed, electrician or president. You break the law, you go to jail. Nixon should have been sent to the concrete Hilton, no one is above the law. But that also requires us to wait for that system to work.

The police have to do their part, but so do we. The rush to judgment on both sides hasn’t been helpful. Taking one nugget of information and extrapolating that into a conclusion about what happened is only dividing us more. The right is quick to point to the communists infiltrating and enflaming the protests. But does that make the entire protest illegitimate? No.

Many on the left are vilifying the cop. It’s true that a white officer shot an unarmed black man. But does that make him guilty? No.

In time, all the facts and the truth will come out. What we do between now and then is up to us. We can choose to further the divide or seek common ground. We can’t become comfortable in our own beliefs and throw fireballs at everyone who disagrees. We must continually challenge long held ideas and see if they hold up. And we must, even if it makes us uncomfortable, do our best to walk in one another’s shoes.

I have a whole new understanding of cops in the last five years or so. I still have immense respect for what our men and women in law enforcement do, and I still think most are honorable and decent people. That said, I do think it’s becoming more commonplace for them to run rough shod over the rights of others much more than I would have previously thought.

Before you reach for your fireball, consider the many recent examples where local police seem to overrule the 2nd Amendment. People exercising their right to open carry only to be told they can’t do that. That gets a visceral response. Imagine if the infringement was over the color of your skin? What if you were always deemed the troublemaker because you were a white conservative or carried a Tea Party flag? We must consider this very real history in our response.

Now, to the media on the left, who vilify the police and march the streets in solidarity with anti-police protesters. What makes you any different than what some on the right did in the Bundy case? You were so worried about violence (which never came) and blamed talk radio for fanning the flames. Yet you don’t seem to have much of a problem with the protesters hurling Molotov cocktails and burning the city of Ferguson to the ground. To have credibility you must point out the communists and Islamists and anarchists who are literally in the streets fanning the flames. If you are going to make a theoretical connection between talk radio and violence (that didn’t happen) then you must
point out actual people fueling the violence in Ferguson.

You cannot call for peace in one instance and not in the other. Not if you want to be taken seriously, anyway.

There is common ground to be had. We just have to look for it. We must look for it. I think it can be found here:

The rioting and looting should stop. We should promote the voices calling for peace, restraint, and mercy.

Let’s root for this amazing system of justice to work instead of fail.

Let’s get the tanks, Humvees, MRAP’s, tactical gear and the rest of the military equipment out of our local police departments.

Let’s fire the bad cops and send them to jail when they break the law.

Let’s talk to each other and better yet – let’s listen to one another.

Let’s demand justice, even when it goes against our interests.

Let it begin with me admitting that black Americans view the police differently than white Americans due to history. But let us please ask Eric Holder to reach out and recognize that America is no longer the country of the 1960s. We have a black president and black Attorney General among many, many other high profile leadership roles filled by men and women of many colors. It is happening without force or coercion. It is happening because perhaps for the first time this generation of Americans really does believe “all men are created equal”.
Americans know that these truths are indeed still self evident.

When we can do all of these, we will have rediscovered our values and principles that have always made us an exceptional people.
I, for one, am ready to stop being divided into groups and placed in boxes.

I’m ready to just be an American again.

Is anyone else?

Front page image courtesy of the AP.