Alton Sterling was selling CDs. Philando Castile was putting his hands up. Breaion King, a 2nd grade teacher, was driving fifteen miles over the speed limit. Charles Kinsey, a mental health worker protecting his autistic patient, was lying on the ground with his hands up.
For their ‘crimes’, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot to death. Breaion King was beat up and arrested for resisting arrest. Charles Kinsey was shot in the leg, and the officer didn’t even know why he had pulled the trigger.
These are just a few of the examples of police brutality this year alone. As if the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and countless others weren’t enough proof, these last few incidents should be enough for anyone to realize that there is a fundamental problem with police culture in the United States. It’s a culture where hardworking men and women are humiliated, assaulted, and sometimes even shot just for being black.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know what black people go through on a day to day basis; I’m white, so I’ve never really experienced any racism. But I do have eyes, and I have seen these videos of innocent black people getting shot. Not only are these videos sickening, but they also act as evidence for a larger problem in our country: the ‘shoot first, think later’ mentality of our police, especially if a ‘suspect’ is black.
This is not just a trait that individual officers have. This is a problem that starts at the top. A problem that is amplified by the way police officers are trained. They start believing that they are above the law, that everyone can kill them, and that they have to protect their brother officers before they protect the public.
And of course there are good officers. But the videos that surface everyday are painting a picture of policemen who are stereotyping the citizens they’re supposed to protect and abusing their power.
Something needs to change, and it needs to change from the top. The mentality needs to change. Sure, it’s a great idea to have body cams, but obviously that’s not working great. What really needs to change is how policemen use their power, what policemen think about the citizens they protect, and how policemen are trained. Only then will we be able to start making a difference.