When Protect and Serve Goes Awry

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“…I don’t want my child to have died for nothing and I refuse to let his legacy or his name be ignored. We will continue to fight for justice for him, and for all families who must live with the pain that we live with.

As the video shows, Officer Lochmann shot my son in less than a second. All I wanted was someone to be held accountable. But this entire process was a charade. I pray and hope that the federal government will investigate this case.”

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother

On April 11, 2015 the Washington Post’s headline reads, “Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged, a Post analysis found. Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.”  Cleared and/or acquitted, what does that mean, let’s take a look and the process of committing a crime, the court system of dealing with the alleged assailant and what happens to police officers.  First the article claims that the stats only represent a small fraction of shootings and that of the 54 cases the majority are cases where the victim was unarmed.  The methodology is as follows:

The 54 criminal prosecutions were identified by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson and The Washington Post. Cases were culled from news reports, grand jury announcements and news releases from prosecutors. For individual cases, reporters obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports, grand jury indictments, witness testimony and video recordings. Dozens of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the cases were interviewed, along with legal experts, officers who were prosecuted and surviving relatives of the shooting victims.

The article further goes on to state that two things must occur before a prosecutor will charge an officer they are (1) during the shooting an egregious event must have occurred and; (2)  the prosecutor must be, “.. willing to hang their reputation on.”  Lastly, even if the 2 conditions are met, it’s the jury that decides on the punishment which the not likely to do because of the role of the police officer – “guardian”.

Occupy.com ran a story in May 2013 which provided the following stats and further goes on to identify the killings as oppression Black folk face along with Operation Ghetto Storm’s conclusion that it is a practice of institutional racism since the enslavement of Black Africans and that in order to maintain the “institution” it must recruit “repressive enforcement.”  The study further includes that some victims were mentally challenged or addicts – who may not have been killed if the community members were involved versus the police.

While African-Americans constitute 13.1% of the nation’s population, they make up nearly 40% of the prison population. Even though African-Americans use or sell drugs about the same rate as whites, they are 2.8 to 5.5 times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites. Black offenders also receive longer sentences compared to whites. Most offenders are in prison for nonviolent drug offenses

“Alarmed by the following statements-

“Police recruitment, training, policies, and overall racism within society conditions police (and many other people) to assume black people are violent to begin with.”

“…The fact that a black person is killed by a police officer, security guard, or vigilante every 28 hours (or less) is no random act of nature. It is the inevitable result of institutional racism and militaristic tactics and thinking within America’s domestic security apparatus.”

Over the years I have heard angry Black men and women identify the police as racist, rude, arrogant and crooked.  These descriptors came from folk who had at one broken the law, was recently released from jail or were on their way to incarceration.  While yet another group of folk I talked with indicated that if the person is an alleged drug dealer, thief, rapist or what have you they are facing the consequences of their behavior(s) or the behavior of folks they keep company with.  Interesting how the same incident when viewed from a different lens will produce such a dichotomy.

Who are the police and what is their role in our society today?  To answer that question, let us take a look at the history of those who have chosen to protect and serve and the progression of this profession from the English influence of Sir Robert Peel and Colonial America.   An English term known as “kin police” was used to define people who were responsible for overseeing their relatives. Later the responsibility moved from Individual citizens to groups of men living in the community known as “frankpledge system”-

In medieval England, frankpledge was a system of law enforcement and policing in which members of society were mutually responsible for the behavior of their peers. The system included everyone in the community, but the highest nobility and their households.

The origins of frankpledge may stretch as far back as early Anglo-Saxon England, when a rudimentary jury system allowed for an accused man’s neighbor and peers to vouch for his innocence or guilt.

This system of policing was mirrored in America in which constables, sheriffs and citizen-based watch groups were responsible for policing the colonies.

Did You Know:  Law enforcement was not the top priority because there was no option to collect taxes.

Which brings us to the first Metropolitan Police organization created on September 29, 1829 whose role was to manage social conflict, resulting from urbanization and industrialization in London by Sir Robert Peel.  Peel believed the role of the police should be to prevent crime versus detecting it after it occurred; sounds a bit like the plot of the movie, “The Minority Report”.  A detective thriller set in Washington, D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit a crime.  In medieval England, frankpledge was a system of law enforcement and policing in which members of society were mutually responsible for the behavior of their peers. The system included everyone in the community, but the highest nobility and their households.

Peel also thought in order for the new Metropolitan Police to be viewed as legitimate, there were some principles that needed to be understood: They must be under government control, have military-like organization and a central headquarters locally located in the community.  The men should wear uniforms, with badge numbers be even tempered and disciplined would make the best police officers. Sounds great until the influx of immigrant groups in the 1700s – hence the term “melting pot” in the late 1700s of Germans, Irish and Italians provided growth in population and an increase in social disorder.  Racial and ethnic conflict had become a problem; this social climate initiated another form of policing which could no longer be managed by the current establishment.

Slave patrols or “paddyrollers” first emerged in South Carolina was the first publicly funded police agency designed to manage the race based conflict in the south.  They were created to specifically maintain the slave population and their responsibilities later extended to White indentured servants.  Three principal duties were to:

  1. Searches of slave lodges;
  2. Keeping slaves off the roadways;
  3. Disassembling meetings organized by slaves;

Known for their brutality and this type of policing remained in effect until after slavery ended – or did it? Of course not the Ku Klux Klan emerged to control the African American slaves/citizens along with the federal military and the state militia who were even more violent than the “slave patrol”.  Some believe the slave patrol was the first attempt at policing while others believe it began in New York in 1845, St Louis in 1846, Chicago in 1845 and Los Angeles in 1869 and others, it should be noted they kept (3) characteristics from England – 1.  Limited police authority; 2. Local control and 3. Fragmented law enforcement, which caused communication problems and still do today.


Did you know:  The relationship between politics and the police were such that not only did politicians hire police officers to protect their political power the police often encouraged citizen to vote for them.  Do you see a clearer picture now of the role of those hired to protect and serve?  Politicians had direct control over the hiring of police chiefs and consequently the chief was now working for the politician and not the community.  During this era due to the extreme political influence, there were virtually no standards for hiring or training police officers.  Essentially, politicians within each ward would hire men that would agree to help them stay in office and not consider whether they were the most qualified people for the job.

Racism, the concept of racism may be defined in many ways and has long roots (Gullestad 2002). A traditional definition is ‘[the belief] that intellectual, cultural and moral qualities are genetically transmitted among the main racial groupings of mankind, that racial groups can be graded according to these qualities as inferior, with the racialists’ own group at the apex’ (Sherman in Barker 1981:3).  Some folk defines racism as hate among folk of a different color, race, creed, religion, length of hair, street address, attendance and at church, single mothers, penniless fathers and sexual orientation.  Recently, racism has become the almighty definition of police brutality – specifically the shooting of young black armed or unarmed men and women.  Social media known as Facebook and other sites have become the ultimate soap box for concerned citizens to succumb to polluting the video streams with what appears to be police brutality on African Americans.

The question posed, “What about cops who kill?” how should the police who commit extensive violent acts to include the murder of armed and unarmed citizens be harnessed.   What seems to be a rash of killings among young black men should serve as reason enough to engage in providing resolution or a process of achieving “justice” for the families of those who were slain.  Unfortunately, there are so many variables in the catalyst for the police involvement, variances in police patrol from state to state and so many theories proposed to curb the damaging behavior I can only add information to this complex 21st century issue.  Based on my findings, it is the jurors who are reluctant to convict as they are not willing   to convict the person responsible to “Protect and Serve”, coupled with intense media coverage before the trial, high stakes situation, the behavior of the community immediately after the incident, whether that is violence or verbal pre-determined that the deceased is a “victim” before the body is removed from the location.

Throughout history there have been organizations designed to protect the innocent and regulations designed to protect the innocent who are guilty.  The Bible tells us, in

Romans 13:1-4 ESV – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. ..

For those of that have had loved ones killed by those deemed to “protect and serve” until such a time or if such a time presents itself that the management of the police men and women who brutalize or kill unarmed innocent people we must and I implore you we must not take the law into our own hands.  What we can do is go back the roots of our predecessors, each one teach one, each neighbor should police their street neighborhood, look out for one another, talk to one another and most importantly listen.  When and if you find yourself elevated by God, reach back and pull just one with you, it is going to take the strength of each family member to come together and first believe that what happens on the South Side will most assuredly affect the North Side.  I charge each one of us to first break down the racism and division within our own heritage and then perhaps “A Change Gone Come.”


Of the 1136 individuals have been killed in 2015 – 578 of them were white, see table below.

Table 1.

People Killed by Police in 2015
White 578
Black 301
Hispanic/Latino 193
Other/Unknown 27
Asian/Pacific Islander 24
Native American 13
Women 53
Men 1081
Unknown 2







2 responses to “When Protect and Serve Goes Awry”

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  2. MsConcerned Avatar

    CLEVELAND – In a creditor’s claim filed with the Cuyahoga County Probate Court Wednesday, the City of Cleveland requested $500 from Tamir Rice’s estate as his “last dying expense.”

    The claim, which listed the City of Cleveland as the creditor, stated the $500 owed by Tamir Rice’s estate was past due and was for the emergency medical services the 12-year-old received after he was fatally shot by Cleveland police in 2014 .