We Need Aviation Police Reform, Too

2015125685ca1324953In light of recent events, where a United Airlines passenger was hauled off of a plane and suffered multiple injuries, we decided to focus to the reform of aviation police. The officers who assaulted passenger David Dao were not Chicago Police officers, they were instead airport security officers. In order to protect citizens and airline passengers more, airports nationwide should get rid of airport security officers and only employ trained police officers. Using the Chicago United Airlines case as an example, I will demonstrate the issues that exist in our current system.

The first problem with using airport security officers instead of police officers is that they are not required to have nearly as much training as police officers. For example, Chicago Police officers are required to spend six months in the police academy, compared to just four months of training for aviation police. It does not make sense that someone in a position of authority who is allowed to use force on citizens should not have to undergo extensive training. Those two extra months could’ve educated these officers on how to interact with nonviolent citizens.

If this situation were reversed and there was a violent and dangerous passenger, how would these officers have responded? There is no way of knowing if these under trained officers would have been prepared.

The second issue with the aviation police system is that there does not seem to be consistency in protocol. According to the head of security at the Chicago Department of Aviation, the officers were not supposed to respond to a call like this one. The official also did not know how the officers were instructed about the use of force.

This situation shows an inability on the part of the officers to follow protocol and disorganization within the Department of Aviation regarding when force is necessary. If the officers were explicitly told not to respond to a call like this, then why did they proceed to do so and injure a passenger? Also, if the agency official did not know how much force the officers were allowed to use, that shows an underlying issue with the agency as a whole. If there are not strict guidelines each officer has to abide by regarding force, then more situations like this are bound to happen without reform.

A change needs to happen in airports. Instead of hiring untrained and undisciplined aviation officers, only trained police officers should be hired. This will create more oversight from police departments to ensure that all protocol and department guidelines are being followed. Also, with the increased use of body cameras in police forces, police officers in airports will also be equipped with these devices, which could prevent passengers like David Dao from being assaulted.

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We Need Federal Laws Against Stop and Frisk

200_snfDuring the 2016 Presidential Election, “stop and frisk” was a topic that was highly debated between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. For those of you who don’t know, stop and frisk is a controversial police practice where an officer can detain a “suspicious” individual and lightly run their hands over their body to see if they are carrying a weapon. The justification behind this practice is that it prevents crimes from happening, but in reality the practice does more harm than good. The practice of stop and frisk should be banned in police departments nationwide because it is racially biased towards minority men.

 

In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the way the NYPD was conducting stop and frisks was unconstitutional. The main argument in the ruling was that between 2003-2013, the NYPD was targeting minority men with their stops, which violated their constitutional rights. One statistic the court cited was that Black and Hispanic men were more likely to be stopped for “furtive movements,” or for looking like they are trying to hide something. This is problematic because it shows how officer’s unconscious or conscious racial biases can lead them to target minority men. If they are unconsciously racist toward minorities, then of course they will think they are “acting suspiciously” when they are not doing anything wrong.

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This issue is not just found in the NYPD. Evidence of racially biased stops were also found in Philadelphia in 2015. They found evidence that “one-third of all stops and 42 percent of all frisks were conducted without a valid reason, and the vast majority of the people searched were black.” In addition, “out of 794 illegal stops, 71 percent targeted black people.” This shows that not only are these stops racially motivated, but a majority of the stops are being performed illegally! If an officer can’t differentiate between a valid stop and an illegal stop, then the practice of stop and frisk will only lead to more corruption in our police system.

 

This problem does not only exist in New York and Philadelphia, but they are two prime examples of how our citizens are being mistreated by the police. A program that was designed to help our society has unfortunately given the police more power than they should have. Officers should not have the right to simply stop someone they deem as being suspicious. They also should not have the option to stop someone just because of their racial biases. We do not need our citizens to be stopped and frisked, we need police reform.

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Militarization of Police: A Threat to Democracy

According to multiple definitions of the term, militarize means “to equip with military forces”, “to train for war,” or “when society organizes itself for military conflict or war.” While these definitions make sense for the way our armed forces operate, they have no place in our police force.

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Over the past few years, our society has seen our police force become more and more militarized. Police officers are equipped with armed vehicles, heavy duty weapons, and crowd control instruments that can permanently injure protesters. So the question is, what effect does this have on an officer’s mentality?

First and foremost, the militarization of our police force makes officers think that the use of force is more acceptable. If they are equipped for  violence and have the tools to inflict harm, it makes sense that they would be more willing to.  There could be instances where an officer has the option to peacefully detain a suspect or control a crowd, but chooses to use force because they have the power to. This doesn’t seem right, does it?

Police militarization has the power to turn a peaceful protest into a riot. According to the First Amendment, Americans have the right to assemble peacefully and protest against the government. However, in recent years, we have seen protesters brutally attacked and beaten by officers just for not complying with their requests. According to a NewsWeek article, the following are situations that have occurred between the police and peaceful protesters:

  • During the Ferguson Protests, a cop yells “Bring it, you f****** animals, bring it!”
  • During a Chicago protest, a cop yells at the crowd “Run, you bastards, run!”
  • During a peaceful protest in Ferguson, police attack protesters with tear gas

Americans have the Constitutional right to peacefully assemble. Therefore, why are we allowing our police force to attack innocent people while they are doing so? When police officers are given more powerful weaponry and bring it to protests, they are going into the situation planning to use force, not saving it as a last resort.

Our police force is not our military. There is no need for officers to have the same weapons that members of our armed forces have. If a police unit is unable to handle a peaceful protest and keep the public safe without force, then they cannot do their job. We need police reform, not police militarization.

 

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Body Cameras For All Officers

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During the Trump administration, there has been very little talk about police brutality, even though it has been one of the most widely publicized topics in the United States for the past five years. There have been cases where police officers have used unjust deadly force on a citizen and they were not punished for it. One of the biggest reasons for this is a lack of clarity about what actually happened during the altercation between the officer and the citizen.

In order to hold individuals in our police force accountable, all officers should be required to wear body worn cameras while they are on duty. The most obvious benefit of this would be that every officer’s actions would be monitored, which would reduce the amount of uncertainty when an incident happens. In cases where an officer uses deadly force, the footage from a body camera would help determine whether the force was justified or if the officer unjustly used force. It saddens me to think about the number of families that have been torn apart by police brutality, especially when their family member’s killer was not punished for their actions. Many of those victims could’ve received justice if the officer on duty was wearing a body camera.

When officers are forced to wear body cameras, they know their actions are being monitored and do not engage in misconduct as often. According to a study by Cambridge University,  in seven areas that have already implemented the use of body worn cameras, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of complaints against police officers. This shows that wearing body cameras causes officers to think twice before they act and have a higher accountability for their actions. In past police brutality cases, the officer may have thought twice before using deadly force if they knew their actions would be recorded. This could’ve saved the lives of countless Americans, especially those in the African American community.

Since the death of Michael Brown in 2014, there have been at least 2,756 people killed by police officers. How many more lives need to be lost before we realize our police system needs body cameras?

 

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