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After Cincinnati: The Enemy is Within

Police in the US: Just who holds whom in low regard?

August 5, 2015

Police in the US: Just who holds whom in low regard?

As part of the media stories about the latest death after a confrontation with the police, this time just a mile from the campus of the University of Cincinnati, one comment keeps popping up.

People ask, in what low regard do these policemen hold their – mostly black – victims, that they end up shooting to kill them so rapidly and frequently?

Actually, it is important – and more illuminating — to ask another question; In what low regard do these policemen (and they are generally men) hold themselves that they shoot to kill the victims so rapidly and frequently? Are they so terrified and underprepared to deal with their fellow citizens that they quickly resort to to lethal force?

Self esteem issues?

In a purely human context, quite independent of any racism issues, this is the only explanation that makes sense. Indeed, the phrase “he feared for his life” invariably comes up in the police department’s defense of their shooter, whether or not there was any sign of imminent danger.

What follows logically from that conclusion is that it is to a society’s great detriment if it puts people who have very low self-esteem into uniform at all. It does not help that training to join the police force is often inadequate in terms of rigor and duration – just a few months in some places.

What makes all this much worse is the fact that the laws of the United States are far too flexible with regard to the rights police have to use deadly force.

As things stand, scandalous as it is, policemen have the right to shoot to kill – not just to incapacitate someone by shooting at a limb (which should be more than enough for an adequate response under the circumstances) — if they merely feel threatened. That is the lowest standard imaginable.

Gun culture

Why is it that conservatives only care about “feelings” when it comes to guns? They would brandish that word as intolerably “liberal” in any other context.

The fact that the infamous stand-your-ground laws (in Florida and elsewhere) have the same standard of “feeling” threatened says it all. As deplorable as the laws are which allowed George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin and go unpunished for his intended crime, they do not concern professionals in uniform.

It is hard to imagine why the standards for police in the use of deadly force are not considerably more rigorous and restrictive. That certainly is the case in other civilized societies.

True, police work is not easy in any society. And it is certainly much riskier in the United States, where guns – due to the machinations of those same conservatives – are so easily available to anybody and everybody, regardless of whether they are qualified to own a gun or not.

Where this turns into a real problem is when that gun culture, including those in uniform, is paired with socio-economic circumstances.

Economic angst

In the United States as in other industrialized societies, the white working class – especially men – has been doing worse than treading water for some decades now. While the upper crust of white society got ever richer, blue collar workers – quite a few of them policemen – felt ever more frustrated.

For them, the American Dream is long gone. Measured against their aspirations, it has now turned into a full-blown disappointment.

Just as it is said that other societies have their fair share of mentally sick people, the difference in the case of the United States is that these individuals have such an easy access to guns. That results in many more people dying at their hands than elsewhere.

By the same token, policemen everywhere have to contend with issues like self-esteem. What makes this fact of life far less problematic elsewhere is that other advanced societies have far tougher standards on the use of deadly force by police. As a result, far fewer people die there, at the hands of what is likely to be an equally frustrated police force.

Lashing out at citizens

As cases such as the arrest – and subsequent death — of Sandra Bland in Houston, en route to a new job, made plain, the broader trend in society – that women do better in school (which puts them into a better position for a career in the future than many males) — does not help the self-esteem of policemen. It only adds to their frustration.

Deep-seated anger at women – and especially black women – is part of the overwrought response on the part of the U.S. police to what most often are minor infractions.

The numbers are a true clarion call: In 2015, 570 people have been killed by police officers. Four of the officers have been charged.

That is conclusive evidence that it was a very unwise choice of the United States — supposedly a country that is dedicated to restraining state power, not unleashing it — to be so free with the deadly use of force that police are allowed to exercise.


In what low regard do these policemen hold themselves that they shoot to kill so rapidly?

US police have the right to shoot to kill if they “feel” threatened, the lowest standard imaginable.

America’s blue-collar policemen are taking out economic and social anger on minority men and women.

In 2015 so far, 570 people have been killed by US police. Four officers have been charged.