Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: Serve and Protect?

By Katie East

Police forces around the country are currently in question due to some high-profile deaths at the hands of overzealous officers. In cities everywhere people are protesting the excessive force that seems all too routine for many cops. The Black Lives Matter movement is trying to raise awareness of this epidemic.

How about #AllLivesMatter?

As much as I empathize with minorities who are treated unfairly by the police, I think this problem affects everyone in our country; racism and intolerance only escalate it.

A police officer’s job isn’t really to serve and protect: it’s to maintain order and minimize risks. Often times people think fear and violence are the only ways to do that. It’s like those parents who think spanking is the only way to teach children. Hey, whatever happened to explaining consequences and trying to be rational in a tense situation?

Shoving a bleeding man going through a psychotic break into the back of a police car instead of an ambulance – what could go wrong?

There’s a difference between keeping the peace in a large crowd and maintaining order when arresting one individual. It’s ironic that the recent tragic arrests that should have been routine resulted in protests around the country. Now, police forces are having to deal with hundreds of arrests en masse. Wish it was still just one guy with a loosie now, huh NYPD?

It’s much harder to deal with a group of people than one offender; you never know what’s going to happen. Group mentality is almost unexplainable; it’s something that’s felt. A peaceful protest can turn into a riot in a moment. You’ve got a bunch of angry people gathered together who wish their collective voices could be heard; sometimes things can get out of hand.

People are animals. When you put us in a pack it’s easy for our non-verbal communication to takeover. When the mood of a crowd changes, it’s palpable; you can almost smell the shift.

I, personally, have a fear of crowds and police. Yup, a middle class white girl who’s scared of the po-po. What? How?

At the Bonne Fete celebration in 2000 I got trampled by two police officers who were arresting a man. I got caught under the suspect’s feet and dragged until I was pushed onto a metal and concrete trash can. My shins were busted and bloody.

The police decided to violently drag some dude through a packed crowd for probably throwing a bottle and hurt Lord knows how many people in the process. And let’s not mention the permanent mental effect it had on one anxiety-ridden young teen.

Is it worth injuring innocent bystanders to arrest one bad egg?

I truly believe the police think they are looking out for the greater good. Their intentions, though noble, are usually a little short-sighted. And the results vary from disappointing to downright cruel and criminal.

I know most police claim they go into the force to help people; I don’t believe it. I’m not saying that that’s not a main reason for many officers, but I don’t think it’s the primary goal. It takes a certain type of personality to go into the police force. Selfless is not the word I would use to describe it.

Selfless people who really want to make a difference usually become EMT or firefighters. I’ve never seen a first responder on a power trip.

I had a very upsetting experience in college that involved the police. At a time when I was the most vulnerable and emotional that I can imagine, I called 911, looking for help. What I got was a permanent distaste for the police.

My boyfriend at the time, who was bi-polar, attempted suicide when I broke up with him. For anyone who has had to deal with a suicidal loved one or friend, you know what a delicate, difficult and dangerous situation this can be.

I was so afraid to involve the authorities but even more afraid of the mental or even physical damage I could receive by going over to his house alone. I decided me versus mentally unstable man with a knife would not end well.

Apparently, an attempted suicide in Baton Rouge deserves the attention of four squad cars and zero ambulances. I guess it was a slow night.

As I stood there sobbing in my pajamas I saw five police officers cram into his 450 sq. ft. apartment and force him out of the shower and into clothes. A couple of them made fun of his genitals while the nicest, and most senior of the officers assured me I was “too good for him.”

As they escorted him to the back of a police car he attempted to run away. Shoving a bleeding man going through a psychotic break into the back of a police car instead of an ambulance – what could go wrong?

They threw him face down on the ground and cuffed him. When they got him to his feet he struggled while he laughed; clearly, he was not in his right mind. They tazed him four times before putting him in the car. Also, he was white.

He was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. All because I asked for help.

Do I distrust every police officer? No. But I am wary of them as a whole. I’m not saying that minorities aren’t treated more unfairly than white people; they are. But the problem is bigger than even that. This country needs to reevaluate what “keeping the peace” really means and how great the cost is. We’re supposed to live the land of the free, but it feels more like the home of the afraid.


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