Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to Ease Tensions Between Police and People of Color

We're witnessing an odd phenomenon:  Police officers are promoting the slogan "Blue Lives Matter" in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement.

What some fail to understand is that police officers historically since America's inception should have been promoting the notion that all lives, including black lives, matter.  Sadly, that has not been the case--and in many cities and counties across America, people of color fear for their lives whenever a police officer stops and questions them.  Rather, all police officers should focus on saving lives and serving the public, not on taking lives and harassing people of color.  All one has to research is how often people of color are stopped by police versus whites who are stopped by police officers--the numbers that President Obama mentioned in a speech should alert anyone who thinks that racial profiling doesn't seriously impact the lives of people of color to the point of losing their lives.

To minimize such stops, all states should issue bar codes to be placed on the front and rear bumpers of all vehicles; officers would then be issued bar code readers that can read such bar codes from a reasonable distance from their vehicles, note the offending vehicle for a minor problem like a broken taillight, and submit it to a central computer that would issue a "fix it" notification to the registered owner, all without the need to pull over such motorists.  Such reduced interaction between police and the public would certainly result in the saving of lives, especially lives of color.  How often do we see whites killed by white officers as a result of trivial traffic stops?  Hence, one way to save lives immediately is to reduce the number of police stops.

Moreover, police departments need to hire more diverse officers who might actually empathize with the plight of people of color.  One way to do this is to require all police officer applicants to prove that they have diverse personal lives:  If applicants can't list at least three people who come from racial groups different than their own as friends, then what's the problem?  Why can't these individuals foster personal relationships with people who come from different racial backgrounds?  Will such people bring their segregationist tendencies to the job?  Will they see others who are different as "dangerous"?  If anything, such a requirement would spur those with non-diverse relationships to reach out to those they normally shun or ignore.

When the Miami Heat basketball players took a group photo to note their support for the slain Trayvon Martin, they made clear their unified concern that far too many people of color are needlessly killed because of racial profiling.  

In a similar vein, police departments need to ask themselves why they have not posed for similar photos of support to help end the senseless killing of people of color at the hands of other police officers.  If police officers want the public to embrace the "Blue Lives Matter" cause, these officers need to join hands with movements like Black Lives Matter--to do anything less is to condone the ruthless, criminal acts by officers who have taken--and will continue to take--the lives of people of color.

The way to end a nightmare is to confront it, dissect it, and take positive actions to end the causes for the nightmare.