Police in the United States

It wasn’t until I left the US that I realized how invasive our police force is. The are everywhere. As a poor kid in a bad neighborhood, I was often subject to their harassment for doing things like: walking on the sidewalk, going to work, coming home from work, being in the mall, being in any store, shopping, walking home with groceries, etc…

Honestly, it’s hardly even something you think about. Cops hassle you if you live in a bad neighborhood. That’s how it is. And you can’t do anything about it, because they have guns and a legal right to shoot you. So you smile and let them question you while your groceries are going bad in the heat. You smile and pretend that you aren’t humiliated.

Two of my friends were shot dead by police when I was growing up.

One was because he stopped his step-dad from beating his mom. His step-dad was angry to be stood up to by “that little brat” and told the cops that he had been threatened and that my friend had a gun. When the cops saw my friend Billy, they shot him more than 20 times. He never had a gun (of course), but that didn’t matter after he was dead. They said they did the best they could, acting on the information that they had.

The second time it was “by accident.” A cop fired into a crowd (in spite of training not to do that) and a stray bullet hit my friend. It only took the one bullet, as luck would have it. It caught her in the head. Some would say that she shouldn’t have been out late at that desert party in the first place, but I would say that cops shouldn’t just shoot at people. Ever.

I thought this was just something people feel in every country, but it’s not.

In fact, when I was in Japan I was surprised at how kind and helpful the police were (if you saw them, which was rare.) Same for France and England. In South Korea I was shocked to learn that people sometimes get angry at cops for “hassling them” and punch them in the face. This is a $200 fine (no criminal charges). But here’s what makes that even more outrageous: the cops don’t hassle you for nothing there. If you are being so rude and loud and awful that the cops are called on you, well, that is a very rare thing. And cops will do anything there to avoid arresting you. If you are drunk, they will drive you home. If you are angry, they will calm you down. They don’t like to get involved, and if they do, they like to minimize their involvement.

In sharp contrast, our for-profit prison system holds more people than any other country on Earth. And our police are very obviously in the business of keeping those jails full so that they can turn a profit for investors.

I know that those of you from nicer neighborhoods might not get this. Cops don’t tend to pick on the rich because they can afford lawyers. But trust me, this is a huge issue, and one that we as a country need to address.

Think about how much nicer it would be if the cops only came when they were called.

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