The pattern of over-aggressive, overbearing policing revealed (not so much in the incidents themselves as in all the circumstances surrounding and following them) in the deaths of John Crawford in Beavercreek, OH, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner and Akai Gurley in New York, look like they're about to be joined by another cause célèbre: the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH in November last year.
Rice was admittedly carrying an Airsoft replica pistol, and was allegedly brandishing it at passersby; certainly sufficient cause for police to investigate. However, newly released surveillance camera footage shows the two police officers involved shooting the boy within seconds of arriving on the scene, then restraining his 14-year-old sister, handcuffing her and locking her in a police vehicle to prevent her going to her brother - all while ignoring the injured child and failing to provide even the most elementary medical assistance. An FBI agent who arrived later provided the only immediate care to the boy, with EMS personnel arriving soon afterwards.
Here's the newly released footage.
To make matters worse, the performance of one of the officers involved had been very poorly rated at a previous agency where he'd worked, and a long-standing investigation by the Justice Department has alleged that the Cleveland police force as a whole exhibits a pattern of excessive use of force. The public response by the head of the Cleveland Police Union did nothing to defuse tensions in the situation, and his assertions are not backed up by the available video evidence.
I've written before about several incidents of police overreach and the cases mentioned in the first paragraph. This latest revelation merely underscores the extent of the problem. Not all cops are guilty; indeed, I have many friends whom I regard as outstanding peace officers, and to whom I'd entrust my life without a moment's hesitation. Despite that, however, US law enforcement officers and agencies in general are deservedly coming under more intense scrutiny. Their official motto may, in many cases, be some variation of "To Protect And Serve", but increasingly it looks in practice like "Obey Or Die!" That's simply not acceptable in a democratic society.
In an earlier post about this problem I mentioned Sir Robert Peel's principles of policing. More than ever, these need to be reincorporated into our police training, both initial and refresher. The current situation is intolerable. It must - MUST! - be changed, and that change has to start right now.