In a Washington Post article titled “I’m A Cop. If You Don’t Want To Get Hurt, Don’t Challenge Me.”, a veteran police officer named Sunil Dutta laid out an argument for why police brutality is justified. Throughout the article, the author makes sweeping generalizations that might be true for him, but do not necessarily apply to all other cops. For example, he starts off the article by stating that “Cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed.” While he may not want to shoot anyone, it is a logical fallacy for him to assume that no officer does. By making this statement, he ruins his credibility by implying that there are no officers who abuse their power.
While this argument was weak, it was not the worst argument Dutta made. He then continued his Op-Ed by victim blaming those who have been murdered by police officers. He says that in a majority of cases, it is only “the people [the police] stop who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.” He argues that these individuals would not have been killed if they had cooperated.
Again, Dutta fails to support his argument with any facts and cannot see past his own bias. It makes no sense that the only person who can prevent a fatality is the victim. If the officer truly wanted to avoid the use of force, they would keep their gun holstered and their hands off the citizen unless they are threatened. While there are citizens who brought on their deaths by attacking officers, they do not constitute the “majority of cases” like Dutta claims.
Finally, Dutta goes on to say that “if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” This sentence, ladies and gentlemen, is what needs to be reformed the most in our current system. Police officers should not have that much power over citizens just because they are wearing a uniform. Citizens are not required to obey every command of a police officer, especially if they are not under arrest. Just because an officer can use the threat of force, they are not entitled to scare any person into doing what they want.
This argument by Dutta shows that police reform needs to begin with individual attitudes in police departments. Officers need to understand that they are not the supreme law of the land and that they work to protect the people. While they do deserve respect from citizens, they also need to treat citizens with respect.