In response to the latest protests/riots and shootings in South Carolina, on September 23rd, I responded to an article written by Alice Speri of The Intercept and my comment went on to receive more comments than the article itself. My comment was a complaint of sorts, aimed at the people complaining at these types of events – it is why I write this article today.
You read Alice Speri’s article, my comment and some of the responses to it here: https://www.facebook.com/theinterceptflm/posts/1110204045695314
It does not bother me whatsoever that people are protesting, I am indifferent and even if I happen to disagree with any cause, it is everyone’s right to do so and I support that 100%. However, what bothers me is how ignorantly and belligerently some people act at these events and towards police in general.
I honestly do not think people understand the pressure police are under every single day or the fact that their job is to literally clean up some of the worst aspects of our organized society. Even if there are undoubtedly a few bad apples, you can not stereo-type all police officers as one in the same – just as it would be racist/sexist/xenophobic to say that about any other group of people in the world.
I get it, a lot of people are angry and believe me I am angry about a lot of things too, but nothing is ever going to get accomplished in the way in which people are currently conducting themselves or behaving.
Logic is always more useful than emotions and people need to start learning to control their emotions and use their brain; turn the same energy they have being angry and use it towards innovation and action. Simply complaining out loud and being angry in public is never going to bring about the change people are demanding.
Words are not enough, it takes physical actions and civic engagement. This starts with each individual themselves on a personal level. We can not all be Donald Trump, born a silver spoon fed millionaire, but we can have an effect on our own lives and the people around us – changing how we behave and hopefully influencing other people to do the same.
One by one on the smallest of scales people can individually – together – start to shift the attitude of our culture. It will not happen overnight, it takes years and decades and it demands a long term approach, not quick fixes.
The video of the man hugging officers above represents one the greatest fundamental failings of the main stream media in the United States today. I honestly believe some, if not most of this build up of hostility/animosity we are seeing in society is being artificially provoked by what news organizations CHOOSE to report on – or what not to.
For example, the same night; at the same time of that video above, Meghan Kelly was hosting her show on Fox News Network. Except, instead of reporting about the people squashing tensions and promoting peace, like the man above, Fox News showed shaky camera shots of only the most violent and belligerent people at the rally – on loop/repeat.
There is an old adage when it comes to the media, “if it bleeds it leads,” and I certainly think this still holds true today. Turn on any local news station, in any state and it will almost certainly open with a story about a fire/murder/robbery or car accident, followed by a local scandal or controversial issue before moving on to the weather.
The news almost never covers a charity event, good deed or someone working to do good things in the world – it must be too boring. Why do you think nearly every major television station in the United States produces their own version of a crime drama focused on rapists and murders and drug dealers and maniacs? It is what sells in our society
Is it any wonder then why so many people are scared of one another, full of distrust and not more willing to help others these days?
So far I have just given you stuff to think about, I have not offered any real solutions. Even if the problem is being grossly inflated/perpetuated by the main stream media, there is no doubt that the distrust between police and society is only growing over the last two years.
How have we gotten to this point?
Since 1971, when President Nixon first initiated the federal War on Drugs, there has been a 500% increase in the number of arrests within the United States and as recently as 2015, there were over 2.2 million people currently serving sentences in federal prisons – 70% of which are there for drug related offenses.
More recently, since 1994, when 100,000 police officers were added to the national police force by President Clinton, the number of incarcerated citizens inside the United States has doubled. As it stands today in 2016, the United States of America represents just 5% of the globes overall population, but is home to over 20% of the globes prison population.
If those numbers do not blow you away, then there is no point in reading the rest of this article – I can’t reach you.
When you have arrested 500% more of the population than you did 5 decades ago and when the number of police officers patrolling the streets to arrest these people has increased nearly 30% more within the last 2 decades alone, it is no coincidence to see so many people acting out against the police and the relationship between police and citizens crumbling.
The statics above are the direct cause of this, it is cause and effect and the two are directly correlated – I do not see how anyone can dispute this.
** DISCLAIMER: Alternative Medi4 calls for no opinions, so, this concludes the editorial version of the problem and how we got there, the remaining is the “opinion” section of the article. **
What can we do about the problem?
This is where the Libertarian side of me comes out, but in an article advertising solutions I have to offer some of my own to make a point. Everything I am about to say I have already said in public and have even debated with law enforcement officials when I briefly thought about running for US Congress in 2014. It would have been literally impossible to pull off, but I did receive national endorsement of the Libertarian Party to speak on their behalf.
First an foremost, I believe the War on Drugs has failed, that Richard Nixon was a great failure as President in general and it is time to end the War on Drugs as it currently exists. The statistics of mass incarceration mentioned above have almost exclusively been fueled by this War and it is time to end.
While drugs use is inherently bad and I understand why rich men in suits would like to protect society from it, in 2016, over 40 years after the Nixon administration implemented this policy, we have reached the point in time where this War is causing more societal problems than it is solving. This is not to mention the cost to maintain it, chronicled in another article you can find at the conclusion of this one.
There are effective alternatives, for example, many countries including Portugal, Switzerland and Canada have all successfully implemented a strategy know as “harm reduction” in response to the drug problem. By all accounts, it has proven to be a cheaper, safer and more effective strategy than “waging War” against drug consumption – I have also linked another article detailing harm reduction in greater detail at the conclusion of this one.
As far as the local police, I believe there need to be a reduction in the number of police officers serving in the United States. It is a statistical fact: the more police officers exist, the higher the number of arrests, the higher the crime rates will be, the higher number of incarcerated citizens we will have and the more resources the Justice Department has to pay to host them all.
If there is one thing this country does not need, it is more incarcerated citizens living in state prisons and flooding into and through our court systems.
Before you go ahead and label me anti-police, think again. I honestly believe police are admirable individuals who become police officers for valiant and upstanding reasons – I will always thank them for their service.
Even though I propose cutting the number of police officers, at the same time, I also propose giving police officers serious raises – especially patrol officers.
I am not just talking a few thousand, I am talking at least double . The average police officer starts out making $26,600 a year and the median income for all officers in the United States is $52,952. These figures are almost as shocking as the arrest statistics above – at least to me. To give you some perspective, the poverty line is within $12,000 of a police officers starting salary.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard is paid $23,000,000 a year because he was born a genetically tall man. It is unacceptable for police officers risk their lives on a daily basis and make so little in return, something is seriously wrong here and police officers deserve serious pay increases.
The best part is that it will not be all that hard to make happen either, allow me to explain.
As mentioned above, I would decrease the number of police officers serving overall, this would cover a portion of the expense and might weed out some of the ‘bad apples’ at the same time.
Also, it is important to note, under my proposal not one officer needs to be fired in order to achieve an overall reduction in the force. The number of officers could be reduced over time, gradually, in the form of retirements or early retirements.
If police officers earn more money and there are a fewer number of positions available, this can only lead to one thing: competition. This would present an ideal opportunity to upgrade the training required to become a police office and upgrade the overall talent level of our national police force at the same time.
Talk to any police officer or Veteran in society, they will almost all tell you that in high pressure situations, people will always resort back to their training. So, how we train the police officers of tomorrow is going to have to be re-thought and changed. The lessons we can draw from recent headlines is that this training needs to focus around changing how police approach and interact with people in society, to better benefit both parties.
How this can be done is currently being debated by people much more qualified then myself and I will not sit and pretend to know what this should look like or what it should entail, but I am sure there are people out there who know what it will take.
My feelings are that it would require police to acquire a much softer touch, and less brute force and screaming. Police should always be the calmest people in a scenario, not the most “pumped up” and ready for a fight.
So far I have proposed increased training for officers and offering them much higher salaries, lets toss body camera’s for all officers in there at the same time. I am always presented with the same logical argument in response to this: how do I expect to pay for all of this? After all, all those solution cost money on top of what we are currently paying right now.
I am more serious about my following statements then you will ever know, I am not just some pothead rambling nonsense. We need to legalize marijuana immediately. That’s right, I have told police officers I want to legalize weed and I am going to give them raises because of it.
Bear with me, it is time for me to get on a mini “soap box”
Tens of millions of adults publicly admit to smoking weed, who knows however many more aren’t willing to admit it publicly. The third leading man to become President of the United States, Gary Johnson, publicly admits to smoking weed and for several years running, the majority of all US citizens support full marijuana legalization.
Rhetorical question: What is the Department of Justice’s end game with upholding marijuana prohibition, you going to throw all of us in jail? True story, in 2015, police in the U.S. made over 547,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession — more than for all categories of violent crime combined.
Furthermore, marijuana is plant which is geologically indigenous to this country and there is no stopping people for getting it or using it – if you have not realize this already then you are living somewhere in the past.
Back on point
Marijuana legalization will shave upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars off the Justice Department’s annual budget on a state by state level, billions on a national level. These hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved on the money we used to spending hunting, tracking, arresting, housing offenders, and processing them through the legal system.
There are a lot of federal/state employees with fell benefits, buildings/infrastructure, and bills along the way every time someone is arrested for anything – including weed.
We eliminate this one crime, we free up hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue we used to have to spend peoples time and resources on, on federal dime, to process – I really did not mean to rhyme that.
Moreover, state governments will also get tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the taxation marijuana sales. For example, Colorado made $69 million in tax revenue from marijuana in 2015 alone. Think how much more California, New York or Texas would make?
Combining these two figures, as a state and local law maker, you are looking at automatically adding hundreds of millions of dollars guaranteed revenue into next years budget, while reducing crime rates, simply by legalizing a plant.
We can take some of this money and re-invest it back into the justice system and towards our police. We could now afford to provide police officers with raises, fund more extensive training for these officers and even pay for body camera’s.
That will not solve the racial divide or many of the overall problem we are facing, but that is an incredibly simple and small solution that can have a big effect. We could also implement this immediately.
There are solutions to our problems out there, but it will require a shift in thinking.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:
The Business of Justice, How The Justice System Profits from The War on Drugs and A Hard-line Approach To Law Enforcement: https://altmedi4.com/2016/09/09/the-business-of-justice-how-the-justice-system-profits-from-the-war-on-drugs-and-a-hard-line-approach-to-law-enforcement/
The Hypocrisy of America’s “Opioid Epidemic”: https://altmedi4.com/2016/08/18/the-hypocrisy-of-americas-opioid-epidemic/
What Is “Harm Reduction” and Why Are More and More Countries Around The World Implementing This Strategy To Combat Drug Abuse: https://altmedi4.com/2016/09/20/as-canada-legalizes-heroine-sales-what-is-harm-reduction-and-why-are-more-countries-around-the-world-implementing-this-strategy-to-combat-drug-abuse/
This article (Everyone Seems To Have An Opinion About Race and Police These Days, But In Their Complaints Rarely Do They Discuss Any Solutions) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4