The Changing Face of American Police

Angel Vera, Staff Writer

This past week, “Rise Up October” took place here in New York City as demonstrators, whose slogan was “no more stolen lives,” took the street to protest police brutality and honor the lives taken by police officers such as Tamir Rice, Mike Brown and Eric Garner. These demonstrations were led by activist and philosopher Cornel West and Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

Regardless of where one stands on the police brutality debate and whether or not Mike Brown “had it coming,” one thing that is certain is that American police officers are trigger-happy. Police militarization is a very real and concerning issue. According to Carl Bialik of FiveThirtyEight, police have killed around 930 civilians this past year

That is definitely a staggering and  equally frightening number of police shootings, especially when we compare it to countries like Germany that have 7 total fatalities by police reported for 2014.

A common argument is that shootings are justified due to threats from the victims. While all officers of the law deserve to go home safe to their families, how are we sure they are being trained correctly to assess a situation and not use unnecessary force?

A report by The Guardian claims that “32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.” Although disproportionate, people of color suffer the most from police brutality.

This aggressive police nature is not only being harvested, but also rewarded as of late with mass funding. The American Civil Liberties Union have stated that “Federal programs providing surplus military equipment, along with departments’ own purchases, have outfitted officers with firepower that is often far beyond what is necessary…to perform ‘normal’ police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence.”

If money is available for military grade gear, it is a bit difficult to explain the lack of money going into communities with crumbling school systems or the need to cut from civil service spending. This should be a concern that Constitutional Conservatives and Civil Libertarians should be fighting against as well, not just liberals.

Vice News journalist Vikram Gandhi went to Camden, N.J. in June of last year to report on how police have used state of the art surveillance technology to turn Camden into something from a George Orwell novel.

The city was dubbed “surveillance city” for its constant monitoring of public property such as streets and sidewalks by cameras and other forms of surveillance. While some of these techniques and technologies can be beneficial, how far are we allowing this to go on before we feel violated of our rights to go about our business freely and without paranoia of being watched?

For a country that prides itself on freedom and liberty, we sure are okay with having both restricted if it’s coming from law enforcement.