Let’s Stop Profiling The Police

So here’s a video that’s gone viral – recorded by a  – and I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume the gentleman is – a black man who, as he was walking down the street with his hands in his pockets, was stopped by a police officer and questioned as to his actions and purpose for being there. The officer was responding to a 911 call from a store owner who had been robbed several times before, saw the man walk by several times, and wanted to make sure that wasn’t about to happen again.

The man is clearly annoyed with the conversation. The deputy is obviously attempting to be non-confrontational. And in this new world of ours, it comes down to a battle of the pocket cams.

We the people, elect and support a government system that includes a team of trained professionals who are expected to enforce the law, protect its citizens, and prevent crime. All of that training comes from years of collective experience, mountains of research, and never-ending expert collaboration. Our on-the-street officials are as ready as they can be for every possible scenario they can encounter – regardless of personal distraction, public opinion,  and danger to self. Some say they ‘choose’ the job and therefore accept the inherent dangers of their duty. Knowing police officers as I do, it is more a matter of calling than choice; we all are drawn to our strengths.

And yet these people, on whom we depend for our very safe and secure way of life – take a minute to imagine life without them – are consistently and constantly criticized, condemned, and confronted as they do their best to provide a service that very few of us truly understand.

The police, and their governing bodies, put into place a division of investigative officers whose responsibility it is to police the police. It is the mandate of the local special investigations unit to ensure that our officers are acting within the designated parameters of their training. The  pressure of the perpetual scrutiny they endure from their peers, their supervisors, their overseers, and an increasingly informed – more often than not, out of context – public, must be, at times, overwhelming.

I don’t know a living soul who goes to work one day, facing the annual performance review, without any nerves or misgivings. Most of us simply have to meet the boss in his or her office and have a conversation. Some of us have to go through the dreaded ‘self-evaluation’ process. But all of us suffer at least a small degree of anxiety over someone else’s opinion of our actions, especially when that person wields such power over our own futures.

Few of us have to actually perform for our supervisors beyond the intial training stages: teachers and doctors and the like.

But the actions of our police officers are now examined under the most powerful microscope available. They are placed at the mercy of the camera lens and answerable to an entire world of armchair critics.

Imagine trying to do your job, whatever it is, with several cameras on you every minute, knowing that anyone and everyone will analyze every word you utter, every move you take, every decision you make, specifically looking for fault and error.

Celebrities and athletes know this pressure. We see it all the time. And they screw up regularly.

Now imagine trying to get everything perfect – for the world to see, cameras rolling, people screaming, time racing, panic running rampant, innocent bystanders, your baby’s first birthday coming up this Saturday – all with a gun pointed at you.

Yeah, every profession has its bad apples. And every profession self regulates against them. But most of the people doing the job they’re doing actually care about their work. They do their best. And when you’re talking about the ones who put their lives on the line for the rest of us, how fair is it for us to get all pissed off when they err on the side of caution?

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