Police Departments Must Learn That Respect Goes Both Ways


2014 seemed to be the year of attention on the police. We had so many incidents of police seemingly overstepping their bounds, especially when it came to black and minority young and not so young men that we now have an ongoing protest and national debate on police brutality and reform. This may have been a long time coming.

Police departments and supporters have tried to make this national call for police reform to be about a disrespect for the police and authority, but no amount of that attempted spin will work to convince us that police are the ones dealing with a systemic and ongoing problem of respect. The fact that there are some people who do not like the police does not taint an entire movement that is simply trying to draw attention to a dangerous situation that is just not getting any better.

And the issue of cops being out of control is made even worse when police officers act no better than gangs in how they respond to people who dare to try to stand up to bad behavior on their part. One case in point is the reaction by the hundreds of police officers in New York City who turned their backs on the mayor of New York as a sign of their disrespect for him for daring to say something in support of protestors and their right to protest police actions. The police officers’ disrespect for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his right to speak up is in their minds justified even though they don’t think he has the right to speak his mind. Their actions certainly don’t help the situation.

And then there is the officer in Ferguson, Missouri, who admitted he called the Michael Brown makeshift roadside memorial “a pile of trash.” To say that after a man, a boy, was killed, rightly or wrongly, is such a sign of contempt for that community and those that are mourning the loss of a life, and it certainly gives credence to those who think the police have issues with a certain group of people.

There was also the incident in Los Angeles, at a police officer’s retirement party where the singer sang an awful song mocking Michael Brown’s killing, in a room full of cops, and no one stopped him and apparently there was some laughter. The lyrics went in part like this:

"Michael Brown learned a lesson

about a messin’ with a bad … police man

And he’s, bad, bad Michael Brown

Baddest thug in the whole darn town

Badder than an ol' King Kong

Meaner than a junkyard dog

Two men took to fightin’

And Michael punched in through the door

and Michael looked like some old Swiss cheese

His brain was splatter on the floor."

None of these incidents do anything to help the notion that many have, and the point of protests, that police officers and police departments, often have an antagonistic attitude about minority communities, and while police demand respect from the public and those communities, they clearly show none to the people they are supposed to be caring about.

By no means do I think all police are bad. And I, like most people, including most of those asking for reform of police procedures and better training on dealing with minority communities, do support and respect the police for what they do everyday to keep us safe. But that does not mean we don’t have a right to ask for reform and a better policing of the bad apples in the bunch. When police circle the wagons on bad cops and bad behavior on their part, they do themselves a disservice. It is an old lesson, you have to be respectful to get respect. The same way they want communities to rally to drive out bad people and behavior in their midst, that is all the public wants from them as well.

Photo Credit: WikiCommons


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