Certainly there is plenty good reason for much of the nation to be talking about, and focusing its attention on, the police violence and injustice in places like Ferguson, Missouri, NYC, and the entire state of Florida. However just as protesters and citizen advocates have been saying all along, there is also plenty good reason to talk about police violence across the entire country. What has been happening in Missouri, in New York and in Florida happens everywhere. Those open and aware enough to admit it have known that for decades – entire generations – and if you need a bit more proof, well now you can add Utah to the list.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, murder by cop is growing faster than any other demographic in the state of Utah, even more so than bad drug deals, gang violence, and scorned lovers. Wow! That’s a tough crowd to beat!
And let’s not forget the recent FBI report that showed violence among citizens dwindling while murder by law enforcement is up, up up – the highest in the last 20 years
Data pulled together by the Salt Lake Tribune shows that 45 people have been killed by law enforcement across the state in the last four years, 15 percent of all homicides statewide in that time. Of all those murders, only one back in 2012 was declared unjustified – even then charges against Det. Shaun Cowley for killing unarmed teenager Danielle Ward were eventually dropped.
And it would seem that Utah police spokesperson Ian Adams took cues from former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, saying folks couldn’t hold the murders by “peace officers” against police because other people commit murder, too. That’s quite a defense! Adams went on to suggest that perhaps the police could stop killing people if other people stopped killing people first.
Adams wrote in a statement:
Police are trained and expected to react to deadly threats. As many deadly threats emerge is the exact amount of times police will respond. The onus is on the person being arrested to stop trying to assault and kill police officers and the innocent public. . . . Why do some in society continue to insist the problem lies with police officers?
Perhaps because it is often the “innocent public” Adams references that are often on the receiving end of the violence and murder committed by police.
Adams is also not just a spokesperson for the Utah Fraternal Order of Police; he is also a West Jordan police officer, himself, so that might account for his perspective on the matter. It’s also worth noting that Adams has also shot a man who was carrying “a fake gun made of a bent piece of metal with taped-on laser pointer” earlier this year. Luckily, Adams only shot that man in the foot.
Now, it is worthwhile to consider officers’ perspectives in the matter of police violence. After all, law enforcement does face an awful lot of awful out there, and that can’t be easy on one’s psyche or opinion of one’s fellow human beings. But what needs to be understood by law enforcement and the system as a whole is the class warfare and racism inherent in the system.
What all of us together must consider are the larger questions. How do we change our society from the bottom up to help ensure better lives, better living conditions? How do we create more opportunity for people to pull themselves up by their own American bootstraps, as we’ve all been told to do since childhood? How can we help curb mental and emotional illness at the root so there is less social disturbance day-to-day? How do we find our way toward equality and end sexism, racism – all those “-isms” that cause us so many problems?
And how can we help train our peace officers to, in fact, learn not only how to keep the peace, but nurture it?
The end to police violence is not going to be fast. It won’t happen overnight by any means, and it’s not anything we can protest into change alone. No, it’s something that all of us need to work toward together, both the government that represents us, and the interpersonal interactions between private citizens.
As much as we all hate police violence, and tough as it may be to hear when your fellow citizens are being gunned down left and right, the responsibility is on all of us. We must all take responsibility and learn to be good citizens, just as much as the police need to learn to curb their knee-jerk violent reactions.
Together we can, and must, change.