Police Responsibility

So, who else is paying attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests?

I feel like I've been getting a lot of news on the subject, but then I am a member of the Internet generation with mostly progressive blogs and news sites on my Google Reader feed, following like-minded activists on my (little-used) Twitter account. I know there was little news in the Boston Globe this morning about the events in New York, but that's about it for my knowledge of the media coverage.

And my first indication that something was happening was on Twitter, when I began to see references to the NYPD.

Police forces are one of those things that the government needs to have. The government has a monopoly on the use of force; for the sake of the public good; protect and serve... all that. And there was a time in my life when I believed it. There was a time in my life not too long ago when I believed that the authorities could do no wrong, that they were to be implicitly trusted, that our police and our military were (in the words of the Lee Greenwood song) our "great defenders", our "champions of freedom".

These days, I know that that's what they need to be. And in all honesty, in between my privilege and my optimism, I find it very hard to shake the idea that the majority of them are worthy of that trust. What is damn clear, though, is that too many of them aren't.

We have no choice but to rely on the police to protect us here at home. Taking our protection into our own hands is practically the definition of anarchy, even rebellion... and I am still too much an optimist to believe that that is necessary. But then, what option do we have? Rely on the NYPD to preserve our right to assembly? After they arrested dozens of people for exercising that right? After they used pepper spray on some of the protesters for apparently no reason?

The police are trusted to protect the citizens. In return, they must prove themselves to be capable guardians of that trust. That means not arresting someone unless they're actually committing a crime. That means not pulling out the pepper spray unless you really need it. That is your responsibility, NYPD.

Fail to uphold this responsibility, and there must be consequences. The officer that attacked those protesters with pepper spray needs to be fired. The supervisors that ordered arrests (especially the violent arrests) need to be fired. And the NYPD (and every other police force!) needs to take a long hard look at how they're trained to respond to this, and make damn sure that this doesn't happen ever again.

No comments:

Post a Comment