“Why did you shoot me?” Charles Kinsey, unarmed therapist and victim of police shooting, shot while assisting his autistic patient who was holding a toy car.
Officer: “I don’t know.”
I wanted to be a good teacher. I invested time and resources in order to become one. I found a mentor; I conducted research. I went to graduate school; I developed best practices and regularly reflected on my experiences. I put in long hours and even longer nights. I tried to develop relationships with students, and I tried to create more engaging and culturally relevant activities. Much to my chagrin, I wasn’t a very good one.
I thought time would play a role. I tried it when I was a 21 year old bright-eyed, bushy-tailed recent college graduate. I tried it again as a 25 year old nonprofit professional. I tried it again at 34 with more than twelve years’ education experience and an M.Ed. under my belt. I failed; each time in different ways, albeit, but failed each time.
I taught in neighborhoods that were perceived as highly dangerous. At times educators and staff had low expectations of my students, at other times critical resources were lacking. I often felt that there was little support and little guidance. I struggled to find someone to blame for my failures.
If you’ve ever been a teacher in the way that I was a teacher you know that teaching can be a violent, powerless, thankless profession. You take it personally. The limits of your kindness, patience, creativity and compassion are tested on a regular basis. You are forced to confront your own bias and your own privilege. You are forced to understand what power is and how it feels when you are without it. You feel threatened. You are attacked.
You can’t even use the restroom when you need to.
Educators are heavily scrutinized because of who they serve; they are held accountable and treated as a monolith because of the nature of their work.
The problem with being a bad teacher is that it’s not without consequence. There are implications. There is impact.
In 2016 Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative that collects data on police killings throughout the United States, reported that 230 African-Americans have been killed by police this year alone. This figure does not include the number of civilians who’ve been shot or injured as a result of an abuse of police power.
There are reported cases of violence against women, against children, and against individuals with disabilities. We’ve learned about officers corroborating to fabricate charges, and heard of others who accidentally filmed themselves PLANTING evidence. We’ve heard about them using pictures of ordinary people, particularly African-American men, as target practice. We’ve seen video footage of them killing unarmed men while in the act of compliance. We’ve seen them shoot innocent bystanders, but claim they were aiming for autistic patients instead. We’ve seen them kill an unarmed African-American man because his SUV stalled on the highway. We’ve heard about them sexually assaulting multiple women while on duty.
I have great respect for the work that police officers do, as I believe it to be a violent, powerless, and thankless profession. The limits of your kindness, patience, creativity and compassion are tested on a regular basis. You are forced to confront your own bias and your own privilege. You are forced to understand what power is and how it feels when you are without it. You feel threatened. You are attacked.
But the problem with being a bad police officer is that it’s not without consequence. There are implications.There is impact. If we hold educators to a higher moral standard because they are entrusted with what we hold dear, then police officers should be no different.
More than that, police officers have guns and have the power and the sanction to use those guns at their discretion.
If there’s anything we can to do to change the tumultuous social and political climate, we need better solutions.
- We must re-evaluate the entrance requirements for becoming an officer.
- We must review the training they receive while on the force and the suitability of those in leadership roles.
- We need to call police violence against people of color what it is: an act of terrorism.
- We need to treat officers like a monolith so that they’re able to receive the training they need.
- They must be evaluated and monitored.
- They should be expected to study, to seek out mentorship, and to evaluate bias.
- They should reflect on their own suitability and determine where they can be most effective.
And if they determine that they’re not suited for the task, they should leave.
And if they are incapable of realizing they’re unfit, we should have the authority to relieve them of their power to serve and protect.