In 1965, New York Mayor John Lindsay proposed including civilians on a review board as a way to address complaints from minority groups about police misconduct. The move backfired, and the police union and conservatives rallied against civilian oversight. Voters later defeated the idea in a citywide vote.
Two decades passed before civilian oversight was approved in NYC and during that time police misconduct and abuse soared in the city, particularly against minorities.
In his book, “From Within I Rise,” T.F. Hodge wrote, “Rules, laws and codes become obsolete among the self-governed.” This is not only accurate, it is the exact reason why civilian oversight of police departments is needed, not only in Pasadena, but across the nation.
A year and a half after the events in Ferguson, MO. that started a national movement against police violence, the Pasadena chapter of Black Lives Matter is putting pressure on the city council to create a civilian oversight board for the Pasadena Police Department that will have hiring and firing abilities.
While this is necessary, it has received pushback from police officers and their union the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).
NPR reported last month that police officers were against the idea because they believed the boards were often politicized and unfair to them. These are simply complaints from officers who dislike the idea of being held accountable for their actions. As the saying goes, “a hit dog will holler.”
In Kansas City, Mo., personal injury lawyer Sid Willens told NPR that the internal affairs investigators of police departments were “like having the fox guard the chicken house.”
A recent article in Police Chief Magazine stated, “The ideal compromise system should essentially leave complaint investigations to law enforcement professionals, subject to ultimate citizen review as needed. The system should allow great latitude to the law enforcement professional and subcultural structure for dealing with complaints. The final implementation of discipline should be left to the chief; that is his or her job, and it should remain so.”
This is the problem. The belief that the system should “allow great latitude to the law enforcement professionals,” is essentially asking that police be allowed more leeway in how they operate above other citizens simply because they carry a badge.
As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The current system of law enforcement would prefer to have it be, “with great power comes great leeway to operate as I please with zero consequences for my actions.”
Police shootings are out of control in this country. When officers kill civilians, they are rarely charged. This is due to the fact that the corrupt grand jury system protects them from indictment by having closed door sessions where prosecutors act as defense attorneys for officers, rather than advocates for the victims.
Prosecutors protect police because the mafia-like FOP threatens them with non-compliance during court cases, which could cause prosecutors to lose their cases and therefore re-elections. The entire justice system operates with the most powerful and corrupt protecting each other, while ordinary citizens live in fear.
When officers are charged for these killings, very rarely do they actually receive a just punishment.
In January, The Huffington Post reported that the police fatally shoot an average of 1,000 people per year. The number of police officers who were convicted of murder or manslaughter in 2015 was zero. The number was the same in 2014. In fact, since 2005, only 13 officers were convicted in fatal on-duty shootings and the last conviction was in 2013.
These numbers are not only staggering, but also proof of how rarely cops are held accountable for taking human life. Police in the US behave as if their badge and gun gives them unbridled power to do as they please, rather than as employees of the taxpayers.
Former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur said, “Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.”
Police officers in the US are oppressors, plain and simple. Law enforcement was born of runaway slave catchers, and after reconstruction formed actual law enforcement agencies with the first officers being members of the Ku Klux Klan.
This history of oppression has permeated through law enforcement for decades and continues unbridled. Today, the same KKK continue to infiltrate law enforcement because they know it’s the ideal position in which to continue their racist, oppressive behaviors unchecked and without consequences. Allowing police departments to govern themselves based on the idea that they can be trusted to do so honestly is not only a farce but goes against all evidence that shows they clearly cannot be trusted.