Friday, December 12, 2014

Thinking about police in the US

How can you not think about the police in the US right now?  It's all over the big cities and the news.

I keep feeling like people are missing asking the right questions, though.

I would love to see two questions addressed thoroughly:

1.  Why don't people follow police officer's instructions? (I have yet to hear a story that didn't involve someone refusing to follow officers' instructions as the catalyst.) This is not, in my mind, a rhetorical question.  I really want to know--what is going on in people's minds that makes it seem like it is a better idea NOT to obey?


2.  Why are the cops apparently overreacting? (or are they?)

I guess the third question that should be asked is 3. What do we want our society to look like and how do police fit into that?

Of course, each question leads to many, many more...

Like Are the cops scared for their lives all the time? Why?

And  Are people so afraid of what cops will do that they can't fathom obeying them? Why?

And Where is the line between understanding that criminals are human beings (and so treating them with dignity and respect as humans) and letting them get away with crime rather than enforcing the law (which might hurt their feelings or interfere with their activities)?

In the 1980s, people were so horrified at the criminality of big cities that they insisted that the police fix it. And they did--by working hard to enforce the "little laws" (ie not urinating in public, no graffiti, not selling unpackaged cigarettes), which cut down on breaking of the "big laws" (ie murder, rape, carjackings).  But lately it seems like people are coming down on the side of allowing people to break the "little laws" rather than....hurting their feelings?....without any sense that any amount of lawlessness leads to massive amounts of lawlessness really, really fast.   While there are many cases of the police using force where someone actually didn't break any laws (except for not obeying instructions from a police officer), there are many more cases where the person involved was breaking a "little law" and then resisted the police officers. And ended up dead. And yes, that does seem excessive, to end up dead for some misdemeanor offense, but does that mean we don't allow officers to enforce the "little laws" for fear they will do something wrong themselves?

I end up with lots of other questions that aren't be addressed, like is the militarization of police a cause or an effect?  If we disarm the cops but don't disarm the robbers (because really, how do you disarm the robbers? They are functioning outside the law as it is, so more laws won't help.), where does that leave the average citizen?

Also, I keep finding myself asking, "If you, as a member of a group (religious, cultural, racial, whatever) see members of your group doing heinous things (jihad, being thugs, running drugs), and you DON'T come out publicly to condemn that, how can you insist that you don't own part of the reputation the group gets from the idiots and criminals?" Reputations are rarely created whole-cloth and imposed on people. They are usually earned by someone (and then sometimes unfairly applied to others).   But if the Muslims don't want to carry the reputation as terrorists, and the inner-city minorities as criminals, and the hispanics as drug cartel members, shouldn't they be actively fighting those "members of their group" (even just those perceived as members of their groups)--or at least speaking out against them?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Did I just read that?

"Crash tests with human dummies have confirmed the material efficiently absorbs energy and protects passengers from “secondary impacts”—i.e., slamming into the wall or a seat back when the train lurches unexpectedly. "

I guess you'd have to be a dummy to volunteer for crash tests.   Human dummies abound. Some animals are dummies, too.