Suddenly you can’t read a news site home page without running across another report of police shooting or maiming unarmed citizens, often citizens who happen not to be Caucasian. I suspect such incidents have been occurring at about the same frequency over the past few years in the U.S. as has been the case in the past few months, it’s just that national news organizations have decided these events deserve more attention. I think they’re right.
The reports are disturbing to me, especially since one of my sons happens to have brown skin and soon will begin driving a car, and in many parts of the country including my home state of Texas, merely having dark skin subjects a boy to a higher level of police scrutiny than would otherwise be the case.
A lot has been said and written about this topic lately, by people with more expertise and knowledge than me, but that’s rarely stopped me from adding my 2 cents in the past, so why now?
This is just a little story about what occurred a few days after my family and I moved into our present home in little Richmond, Texas, population 14,000 or so, at the southwestern edge of the Houston megalopolis. There was a knock on the door one late afternoon. On the front steps was a city policeman.
He said he’d noticed that someone had bought the house and moved in, and since we lived along his police patrol route, he thought he would stop and introduce himself to us. We could call him and let him know if we ever went on vacation, he said, and he would keep an extra eye on the place while we were gone. We shook hands and he left.
A small thing, but from then on we knew it was Officer Ronnie in the squad car when it went by, He knew who we were, just like he knew the rest of the neighborhood. He became friends with one of my neighbors, who gave Officer Ronnie some space in his back yard to plant a garden. On a couple of occasions, I dropped by across the street and we had a couple of beers when Officer Ronnie was off duty. For a few months, Officer Ronnie was dating a woman who lived down the street.
The point is that Officer Ronnie knew us and we knew him. We appreciated seeing him on patrol. It would have been unthinkable for Officer Ronnie to brutalize someone during an arrest. That wasn’t in his character.
Residents in cities such as Houston or St. Louis or New York probably could never enjoy the kind of citizen/police officer relationship we still have here in Richmond. There are simply too many people to make such personal relationships possible because of time constraints.
But it’s also a matter of attitude. Officer Ronnie was more like a protective older brother or sometimes a referee. I have to wonder, even at the big-city level, do Americans really need a quasi-military force with helmets and body shields and an attached arsenal? Or is a protective older brother good enough?