The Role of Police
Ta-Nehisi Coates has an interesting piece at The Atlantic that is worth a read: The Myth of Police Reform. While the whole piece is worth a read, I would highlight two points.
First, he raises a key issue about the overburdening of police that we, as a society, have engaged in:
At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one’s children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can’t be every place.
Without a doubt we put a lot of social problems in the lap of law enforcement. As such, some of the tragic events we have seen lately are not surprising (Coates lists some examples in the piece).
Second, he makes a very useful point about the way the basic relationship between the African-American community and law enforcement has operated over time (specifically in the contrast between power and authority):
African Americans, for most of our history, have lived under the power of the criminal-justice system, not its authority. […] When African American parents give their children “The Talk,” they do not urge them to make no sudden movements in the presence of police out of a profound respect for the democratic ideal, but out of the knowledge that police can, and will, kill them.
But for most Americans, the police—and the criminal-justice system—are figures of authority. The badge does not merely represent rule via lethal force, but rule through consent and legitimacy rooted in nobility.
These are both, I think, thought-provoking points making the piece worth a read and the overall implications worthy of further thought.