Convert outrage over police brutality into solutions

Davis Clark

Over the last year, the issue of racially motivated police brutality has rightly come to the fore of the national conscience. The U.S. has a grappled for centuries with race in America, but the more recent deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police officers have reignited tensions about the perennial issue.

A case of police brutality in McKinney, Texas, captured national attention June 5. While responding to a complaint about a suburban pool party, Cpl. Eric Casebolt of the McKinney Police Department threw down a 15-year-old African-American girl, shoved his knee into her back and drew his pistol on other teens — many of whom were also African-American.

Casebolt’s actions were shocking. Sadly, such behavior has become far too common. Yet, this case is especially useful for consideration because, without needing to assign or deflect blame, one can see how cases of police force quickly become mired in complexity.

The case is still developing as facts emerge, the victims pursue recourse and Casebolt prepares for potential lawsuits. In the meantime, media sources have flooded news agencies with facts, interviews and opinions about the events of that day. Public outcry has resulted in peaceful protests in the McKinney neighborhood. But, there has been a disappointing lack of discussion about explicit ways in which national attention can be converted into long-term solutions.

Recognition of the problem is the right start, but it is only the first step. If response to this issue stagnates before treating the real problem, not just the symptoms — firing a single officer, launching specific investigations — then the chance to use recent support to convert recognition of the problem into prevention will pass. These cases and the resulting public responses are recent and ongoing, so criticism for shortsightedness would be harsh. But, media and public opinion move quickly, so this country must focus upon how it will confront racially motivated police brutality.

Doing so will involve specific changes in the fields of police education and public understanding.

Police education programs must specifically target race factors in recent police-brutality cases. Mandatory programs exist for continuing police education through classes that consider race relations and racial tensions. But, grappling with such issues in light of recent cases with honest, new programs will, at the very least, maximize potential to root out deeper issues that contribute to violent behaviors.

Before major improvements on the issue can be made, the public and the media must embrace responsibility in effecting change. Both must make greater efforts to understand the trying circumstances police find themselves in every day, which are often life-or-death circumstances that inflict emotional and physiological damage. Those extenuating circumstances do not deflect blame for wrongful behavior, but the public must acknowledge these circumstances in order to understand police policies and avoid the wrongs that are born of police forces too afraid to keep the peace because of criticism.

Classroom education only goes so far — the real test of change is how police forces will perform on the streets. But, deep reevaluation of police stress, national racial bias and existing public readiness to criticize police without understanding their struggles will allow this country to move past this jarring issue.

Clark is an English senior from Lake Highlands. He is an Associate Editor.