Black Lives Matter (BLM) started out with a great intensity that pushed people to finally realize that police brutality was real. This movement showed that police overreach could be very subtle and not necessarily a brutalizing thing. Police, as a matter of routine, violate individual civil rights on a daily basis. As a black man, I now find the fizzle of the Black Lives Matter Movement to be very disconcerting. Progress from the movement is under fire from those law and order types that believe that a criminal should not complain if he gets the beat down, he should not be a criminal. Thus, one must have clean hands before he can claim the constitutional protections designed for people accused or suspected of committing a crime.
There are those that believe that police are nearly always the righteous ones. “Why”, they ask, “would police just systematically harass selected groups?” The Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations brought attention to the excesses of police by encouraging the wide spread dissemination of cell phone video. Many videos were released showing police abusing and killing people without cause, opening the eyes of the skeptics. The light began to shine on the dark practices of the police. Yet, as the marches wane and the videos become self-sustaining, it seems BLM has no more arrows in their quiver. “What is next for Black Lives Matter?”
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There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done, and while I am not a member or active participant in the BLM, I support it’s goal of ending the wanton slaying and harassment of Blacks and all people at the hands of police. Therefore, I’d like to suggest a phase two.
In the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Utah v Strieff, 579 U.S. –, 136 S.Ct. 2056 (2016), a wide spread abusive practice was ruled constitutional and allowed a problem for ordinary citizens to be greatly exacerbated. Edward Joseph Strieff was unlawfully stopped by the police without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause. These police got Strieff’s ID and ran it, discovering he had an outstanding warrant. In a search incident to that arrest on the warrant, they discovered drug paraphernalia. He was also charge with that.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that since the outstanding warrant pre-dated the stop it was an intervening event that allowed a search incident to arrest and admissibility of drug evidence. This ruling is important to the BLM because, if one were to watch the many illegal stops that have popped up on the internet lately, almost all have one thing in common: the cop insists that he get the person’s ID. This has become a standard training point for law enforcement, across America. This Court’s decision also gives the police carte blanche to profile and stop ANY citizen solely for the purpose of running their ID because if there is an outstanding warrant any search would also be justified. Thus, we see more illegal investigative detentions with an ulterior motive.
Furthermore, Police have developed escalation tactics that make a confrontation more likely. Back in the day, TJ Hooker would tell a suspect to lean against the car, “feet back and spread em”. Nowadays, a citizen is required to get on his knees or even worse, lay on the ground. When a citizen attempts to argue getting on the ground for jaywalking or back-talking to police, that becomes reason to use force to gain compliance. The force used by police also becomes progressively self-sustaining as the beat a person with an almost uniform yell, “Stop resisting” “put your hands behind your back”.
It just seems obvious to me that if you are hitting a person with punches and clubs, the police should expect that the person’s hands will move to protect themselves, it’s an involuntary response. This is not resisting arrest, but police are trained to yell “STOP RESISTING” as they kick, punch, beat and choke a person simply to make it, “Look Good”.
If the federal government and state legislatures will not address this problem, then individual City Council’s must begin to set actual RULES for police. Community policing is a local matter. Local police policy is governed, ultimately, at the local level. The BLM must move to this level in a widespread and truly grassroots manner, to move every city council to begin to adopt Rules of Engagement.
There should be a CITIZENS BILL OF RIGHTS, because obviously, the one in the Constitution is not sufficient. Police should be given Rules of Engagement which at a minimum require:
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- All people are innocent until proven guilty and Police forces must establish proper rules of engagement which dictate when a police officer can shoot a citizen, approach or arrest a citizen and reiterate through police training that the police are not imperial storm troopers and must answer to the people that hired them and pay their salaries. Police should know they are not above the law and are expected to be held to the same standards that they enforce;
- Citizens are free to disengage from any police officer if no probable cause to detain exists. Police should not control citizens through fear;
- Police MUST state the reason and/or purpose of any investigative stop or detention;
- Officers MUST report IMMEDIATELY, on the radio or into their body cam, in real time, that a detention is occurring and the grounds for the detention. More oversight must be exerted over police and their warrantless detentions of citizens as well as the reasons for such detention.
- Police MUST purchase liability/malpractice insurance (As do other professionals) and will be financially responsible for their own illegal actions. Citizens constantly must foot the bill for settlements for police overreach, even after the police investigate and clear themselves and the officer continues to work at his job without consequence. An officer with many citizen complaints of abuses will price himself out of work;
- “Shoot to Kill” policies and training MUST be BANNED. Police should be trained in non-lethal shooting. If they were to shoot a man holding a knife at standoff range, they could aim and shoot in the knee, he’ll be on the ground. Police should never TRY to kill;
- Police officers MUST designate a shooter in a stand-off situation where possible. It’s just like in baseball, outfielders must call the ball and others stand in support. On August 5, 2016, Jamarion Robinson, a college student was shot 76 times by the police, well past necessary or even reasonable.
- A police officer MUST administer IMMEDIATE first aid to any suspect shot or injured by that police officer, such failure to render aid should be a crime. Shooting a person should become a pain in the ass for cops, so that it is done only when necessary;
- Officers that witness and allow or fail to report a bad officer’s violation of a citizens’ rights WILL BE HELD liable in the same liability as the actual offender.
- Local Police Departments MUST establish and publish Rules of engagement must be established that require police to justify the actions they take. An officers’ goal should be to de-escalate, yet they take actions clearly designed to escalate a situation. When they ask a person to lay on the ground in all kinds of weather, to be frisked, such is not always necessary, nevertheless it has become standard practice, simply because an officer is angry at the citizen and wants to exercise his dominion over that citizen. Weapons should NEVER be pointed at a citizen when there is no indication that such is necessary.
What’s interesting is that most of this Citizens Bill of Rights is already enshrined in the Bill of Rights of Constitution of the United States. Yet, in today’s police culture, this has all been forgotten. Police are servants of the citizenry, not enforcers. Americans should ne be afraid of the police, but many are. Americans should not have their privacy invaded but police, but many do. Police today have adopted the practices of the SS or KGB, that Police State, action of lording over people. This is particularly why, police ordering a person on his knees, is so inflammatory.
If police are in constant fear of their lives when interacting with certain segments of society, then perhaps they are in the wrong line of work. They justify “shoot to kill” training and tactics as being necessary for those heat of the moment situations, yet, training an officer to aim under fire, is the entire point of target practice. Police training today involves only “Shoot Center Mass” and “Shoot to Kill”. Non-lethal aiming as well as bullet control must be practiced, because 76 bullets actually hitting a person makes no sense. It only indicates mass panic and/or a collective euphoria by police.
It is time that the American people took back their community of policing by establishing Rules of Engagement similar to those used by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq when dealing with suspected enemy combatants and the populace. Americans should be treated at a higher standard than suspected enemy combatants in a war zone. The streets of the United States are not a war zone.