Tension between Police and Communities Surge

The issue of policing has polarized the American people. Many try to make it an issue of black versus white or Republican versus Democrat, but in reality the issue goes far deeper than the labels we attach to others. There is a general sense of mistrust between communities and their police forces. Some communities have valid reasons to be suspicious of their police force, such as Ferguson, Missouri. In Ferguson last year, 92% of police searches were of African Americans, while Ferguson’s population is only two-thirds African American. According to a Justice Department report on the Ferguson police department, email exchanges between court and law enforcement personnel included exchanges of discriminatory comments. However, most communities aren’t like Ferguson. Morris Hills student Mihir Shah stated, “It is unfair to generalize certain stories to all police officers.” Many people have demonized all police officers, which in itself is discriminatory.

This discrimination towards police officers has resulted in murders of many innocent officers. Officers like Charles Joseph Gliniewicz and Darren Goforth were brutally murdered for simply wearing a uniform. Many officers try to blame the media or the Black Lives Matter movement, according the Washington Times.

The Blacks Lives Matter movement is an even more polarizing issue. People, including Morris Hills criminology teacher, Mr. Devine, believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is instigating and justifying violence against police officers, but in truth the Black Lives Matter movement is attempting to draw attention to the death of unarmed black victims. Morris Hills student resource officer, Officer Haigh stated, “Black, white, yellow, green, lives all matter. I have only one answer: I treat everyone equally, until you give me another reason. Honesty, respect, and good character matter.”

There are many different sides and viewpoints to the current situation and even Morris Hills student Jassen Buerano admits, “It’s a complicated issue.” His statement holds much validity, but there are proposed solutions. Police body cameras are a hot topic, and many, including Officer Haigh, believe that they will lead to more open and honest policing. Even the Department of Justice report suggested the use of body cameras. There are some issues with body cameras like cost and lack of privacy for police officers, but even Officer Haigh believes it’s a worthwhile idea.

Another proposed solution is sensitivity training. The Center for Policing Equity is dedicated to limiting biases within police officers. Their goal is to improve transparency and racial tension in communities. Both Officer Haigh and student Mihir Shah thought that sensitivity training would be valuable to the community.

Many are quick to blame police officers, yet refuse to take responsibility for their part in the problem. Mr. Devine offered a piece of advice; he stated, “Don’t be a part of the problem. Be a part of the solution. Take a class like Criminology, watch the news, inform yourself, but don’t be swayed one way without first being an informed citizen who is willing to contribute to society.”

As a whole we need to be accepting of each other’s differences and come together to create a respectful and safe community.