In 2008, I was a young man who had never witnessed any police brutality. Sure, I’d heard stories of people getting their hard earned money taken from them for things like speeding when no one was around or other minor injustices, but never something major. I was taught as a small child that police were there to protect and serve and that I could always call or trust a person with a uniform and badge. Growing up, I had no real reason to doubt this claim. My experiences with cops were almost always positive. Growing up in a right wing conservative culture, there was an implicit claim that police, like those in the military, were of a superior breed to average Joes. The uniform proved they had character, honor and were self-sacrificial and people in uniforms were revered almost to the point of worship by many people around me.

One summer evening in 2008 I was walking in down the street in Seattle in front of some bars and restaurants.  As we walked we came upon a 30 something year old black man (we’ll call him Joe) trying to fight a random innocent middle aged white guy. After several tense minutes and everyone else clearing away, the white guy just kept backing up with his hands up. I decided to stand right there in case Joe started throwing punches. I was scrawnier than the bouncers who were onlooking but I wasn’t going to be the wimp letting some poor guy get beat up. Long story short, after Joe had a talk with me his arm draped over my shoulders, the police showed up sirens blaring. As Joe put his arms up (mostly…) he was met with a barrage of fists and elbows as he was pressed up against a tree. His head thudded against the pavement. I was 15 feet away yet I swear I felt the rumble in the concrete under me as blood trickled from Joe’s forehead down the sidewalk.

Then and now ask myself what the heck those guys were thinking. He had his hands mostly up and open. As I recall, there were four of them in full gear. These were the “professionals”. I was so confused because this shattered my understanding of what policing was. I wonder what ever happened to “Joe”.

Joe sure got me thinking that there were probably scores of other people that have a different impression of the police than I ever had. I’m sure seeing this kind of treatment of a fellow human drives many people to be bitter and hateful causing a spiral of wreckage.

I believe that there needs to be serious heart change and system change in order for this problem to be alleviated. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors and our enemies. Everyone of us must seriously consider who is our enemies and ask ourselves how to love them well. We must love our neighbor by encouraging them when they do good, calling them out when they do evil and offer solutions as they try to navigate a complicated world.

Here are a few policies that I believe peacemakers should advocate for:

End qualified immunity

There is a legal doctrine in the US and most of the world called qualified immunity. In short, this means that the men and women sworn to protect us have less responsibility to act ethically than you or I do. It makes it very hard to police officers to be legally liable when they commit crimes. Police officers should be held to the same standards as we are. They should be criminally and civilly liable for crimes they commit on the job. If all people are created equal, all people should be held to the same standards. If police had to buy their own liability insurance (like doctors and nurses do) they might think twice before killing or injuring people. More info here

End civil asset forfeiture

Imagine driving down the road and you get pulled over for some reason. You have a wad of cash on you since you’ve been traveling around to churches playing music for a missions fundraiser (true story) and the cops take all your money without being charged with a crime. Then they can take about 80% of the loot for their local department YES, in the land of the FREE, in many states police can take your money or gift cards and such and make your prove where you got it from sometimes taking months, years or never… to get it back. BILLIONS of dollars are stole from people every year by this disgusting practice. You think this might cause some communities to be bitter, especially poor people who don’t have bank accounts and carry large amounts of cash. More info here

End no knock raids

Back in the old days, law enforcers had to wait until criminals or “criminals” were in safe locations, before they started shooting except for very rare circumstances. Many people die every year at night in their bedrooms as plain clothes officers barge in their room and kill them. This is NOT a myth. Also, police departments regularly raid the wrong house scaring, even killing, the wrong people. How would you feel if your brother got killed in his bedroom? You may be a tad bitter at those who proudly wear a uniform of a group of people who engage in such reckless, disgusting behavior. More info here

End victimless crimes

Want less police to die on the job? Want less people to be stolen from, injured or killed by police officers? Simple solution: reduce what police officers are required to enforce. If there is no verifiable victim to come forward and ask for restitution, there is no crime.  Having swat teams break down doors or impound (steal) cars because someone is growing a medicinal plant or owns a plastic/metal object called a firearm that has one too many bullets, is unhelpful and immoral. There are MILLIONS of pages of laws, so many laws that the average professional accidentally commits 3 felonies a day (This is not hyperbole. See this.) You are a criminal!  If you want less police interactions, there needs to be less laws.  More info on victimless crimes here

More body cameras & film interactions

Aren’t police officers supposedly “our employees”? If so, shouldn’t we be able to check up on how our employees are doing their jobs? Body cameras and filming police makes citizens and police more accountable.

Community policing

Some of the greatest accountability in life comes from community pressure. If each small area (let’s say 20 city blocks or a small town) had it’s own contracted police officers, we would be much better off. First, we would know them by first name. They would have more incentive to make their customers pleased if they saw us at the grocery store and kids’ soccer practice. Most people would be more likely to respect their requests since we would all know each other. Second, if there were more localized police, it would be far easier to switch bad apples out for good apples. If they had contracts that could be renewed or not, they would have intensives to do a good job keeping their community safe. More info here