This is an important question; one which I think Americans should be asking themselves, seriously. While I do not believe that such a state is immediately imminent, recent events do have me wondering whether or not our police officers take the mantra, “to serve and protect,” as the solemn vow that it should be.
As many of you have surely heard, police all across the country have been going to some rather extreme measures to uphold the law as of late. In February 2010, in Columbia, Missouri, the SWAT team shot a family pet while raiding the home of man suspected of drug possession. The incident, which was just one of many to occur last year, happened as the suspect slept with his wife and young daughter in their home. This year, numerous lemonade stands, operated by children, have been shutdown by police, which prompted a group of teenagers to put on a protest in front of the US Capitol building; they were arrested, rather aggressively, by local police.
Lemonade stands? Really? Exactly who is being harmed by them? No one, except for maybe Coca-Cola Bottling Company or some other corporation. Lemonade stands were a staple when I was a child…hell, when most of us were children. If you wanted to raise money for a new bike or maybe to help people in need, you raised some money by doing yard work for a neighbor or setting up a (you guessed it) lemonade stand. I recall one of the young girls in my old neighborhood setting up a lemonade stand, selling cups of lemonade for fifty cents a cup, because she wanted to save up for a ten-speed bike. One of our other neighbors, who happened to be a police officer, purchased several cups of lemonade from her and even gave her a couple extra dollars as a tip for making such delicious lemonade. She bought a beautiful purple ten-speed with the money she raised; it was so pretty that I wanted one just like it when I was big enough to ride it.
I do not know about most of you, but I remember police differently. When I was a child, and this was only less than 20 years ago, I trusted the police to protect me. I knew that if I needed help, they would be there to provide it. For example, when I was very little, my family and I were the victims of a drunk driver; it was rather nasty accident that totaled my Dad’s “other baby.” The police who arrived at the scene were very concerned about the well-being of my younger sister and I; they comforted us and told us they would find the man who hit us. They reassured me and made me feel safe and protected, which were very important things for a child to feel after enduring such a trauma. Yet, as the years have progressed, especially in the years since 9/11, police across the country have become excessively forceful against the people they’re supposed to be serving and protecting, which includes criminals. Many of us recall the infamous Rodney King beating. However, this is but one example of many that have been occurring all around the United States over the past few decades, prompting both Amnesty International and the ACLU to publish reports on the various instances of police misconduct and brutality, which seem to be increasing in recent years.
Please do not get me wrong, many if not most members of the police are very good people and very helpful; they put themselves in harms way every day to protect people, and lose their lives in the line of duty. Nevertheless, we cannot excuse the recent injustices. The police are not the military and we are not enemy combatants, rather we are their fellow citizens. We often live in the same neighborhoods, we shop at the same stores, and our children go to school with their children. The people and the police would do well by everyone to remember this. After all, the police mantra is “to serve and protect,” not “to rule and oppress.”