Whenever a police car appears next to me on the road, a sour taste in my mouth and an unsettling feeling in my tummy can’t help but appear with it. Unnecessary panic strikes as I stealthily check I’m not breaking any laws. I never am when an officer is around, but that hasn’t stopped one from pulling me over for absolutely no reason in the past.
Sure, simple discomfort at the sight of police isn’t too bad—especially when news breaks that another black teen has died at the hands of police. But it’s all connected. Even before the current warzone in Ferguson, Missouri, Americans see today on their Facebook feeds, the streets of low-income, minority neighborhoods are all home to a never-ending war: the people vs. the police.
While New York is free of sharpshooters, tear gas and rubber bullets, it’s not free of police abuse. About 300 miles south of Plattsburgh, the New York Police Department, which “serves” and “protects” many Plattsburgh State students when they’re home, killed another black male: 43-year-old Eric Garner.
While his summer death on Staten Island stirred protests, tears and fear among his community, his supporters refrained from using violence. Violence doesn’t fix problems. If citizens want war, those created to protect them will give them war—as we’ve seen through the militarization Ferguson, Missouri, underwent.
Camouflage? Check. No-fly zone? Check. Censorship? Check.
What can fix problems, however, is trust. The New York Times published an article Sunday highlighting how Camden, New Jersey replaced its police force back in 2012. The result? Officers who show they care through their actions. They now hold meet-the-officer fairs and have even challenged kids to playful push-up contests.
Imagine seeing officers, knowing their names, waving hello and feeling safe around them, rather than scared and afraid to leave the house. It’s a world many of us have yet to encounter. It’s a world that could end police abuse—or at least help decrease it.
Imagine Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson had met in the past. Imagine the Ferguson Police Department held meet-the-officer fairs, and Brown and Wilson shook hands there once. Maybe—just maybe—Brown would still be alive. Rather than shooting Brown at least six times (twice in the head), Wilson might have spoken to him. And if it were true that Brown had stolen cigars earlier, perhaps Wilson would’ve simply arrested him, and Ferguson, Missouri, would not be suffering the chaos and heartbreak it is today.
As Camden, New Jersey, has shown us, citizens and officers can coexist. Americans don’t need to live in a constant warzone of the people vs. the police. What about living in a playground instead?
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