It strikes me that it's not only bad cops who are at fault when a cop kills an innocent citizen.
And while black men and women get killed with alarmingly frequency, white kids are often killed for no good reason. But there's clearly a racial factor at play nationwide.
There's a much deeper problem, though, and it goes beyond bad cops and beyond good cops not stepping up to intervene.
It's institutional. It's societal. It's about a culture that demands we underfund our cops -- because God forbid we should raise taxes! -- then insist they keep crime at a zero tolerance level. It's about turning citizens into statistics, and outsourcing our prison system to corporatists who see nothing but profit.
It's about a culture that worships guns and weapons, valuing them well above the very lives they are alleged to protect.
It's about turning our citizenry into targets in a video game. It's the same culture that has turned "citizens" into "civilians" as if the cops are one big armed occupying force and we the mere motion capture bystanders (or worse, perps) in a huge game of Grand Theft Auto.
When arrest statistics and "perpretrators incarcerated" become the goal of the average flatfoot on the street, when the line item for policing in the budget has to be justified with cherry picked statistics, he's going to have little incentive to actually solve problems.
Police work is hard. By God, it's hard, and there are millions of cops out there who do good, even great work every day.
The problem is, there are also thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of really horrible people wearing uniforms precisely because crime fighting has become less about fixing problems and more about "how many people can I sweep off the street today?".
We see an innocent man shot because he was complying with police orders.
We see an innocent man shot for having a legal gun to protect himself.
And we see the Blue Wall of Silence envelop the killers to protect them, like some grand omerta. We see a cop culture that echoes how badly kids are raised these days as opposed to "in the day," and how you should treat them with not respect but capitulation and deference, as if they are noblemen and we serfs.
Funny thing is, those cops grew up in that same culture. Hell, they helped create it.
And here's the kicker: today's culture is no more or less respectful of authority than any generation of the past. You have only to look at the 60s hippies, or the 50s hoods, the 20s gangsters to see that.
It's just that today, we have instant access to information from around the nation and we see right in front of us the culture from all sides.
It's not a surprise to me that nearly the first reaction of an officer is to shoot first and let the chips fall where they may. When you have the conflicting ideals of putting people away and keeping your numbers down against "serve and protect" (because how are they doing either by shooting people in knee jerk situations?), you are strongly tempted to take the easiest course of action.
And it's no surprise to me to see entire communities rise up against these tactics (sadly resorting to violence and slaughter, as evidence by the tragic events last night in Dallas). BlackLivesMatter is a real and a good thing: it reminds us that there are still entire communities who cannot live their lives and go about their business in peace.
Thing is, we're fighting the wrong enemy: the cops are a tool. They are quite literally nothing more than a tool to enforce the status quo of a society that is terrified of dissent and deviation of thought and opinion.
The real enemy is the society that forces these poor men and women into aggressive stances and situations where they are forced to make a split second decision to shoot or not because there are billions of dollars on the line each and every day across the nation: prisons are profit centers, police departments are cost centers, citizens are civilians in an armed occupation.
The police aren't the enemy. The kids being killed, black AND white, aren't the enemy. Our culture is the enemy and that enemy is pervasive and insidious.
And that enemy is us.
You and me. We have the power to stop the slaughter and violence from both sides. We can turn the relationship with law enforcement from an adversarial one, where the average cop has to have his hand hovering near his gun for a simple traffic stop, into a cooperative one.
We can vote. We can vote to fully fund our police departments. We can vote to establish accountability beyond some "civilian review board" that essentially rubber stamps anytime a gun is used. We can vote to put a framework in place that gets rids of bad cops quickly, and rewards good cops for solving problems, not ending lives, either literally or by putting away (usually) young men in prison and ruining their chances for gainful employment and all that goes with it. (The statistics in minority communities are terrifying. We have a real problem on our hands and it's going to last a long time).
We can vote to fully fund education and keep our kids in school and encourage them to go onto to college and get jobs and become responsible members of our society.
We can vote to fully fund after school arts, sports, and cultural programs, to give people an outlet to express themselves that goes beyond standing on a street corner bored to tears and restless as hell.
We can vote to let people earn a living wage, so that one parent can stay home and take care of the kids if the family so desires, keeping those kids off the streets.
There are a million things we as a people can do to stop this, and none of them involve limiting choices, but the involve expanding opportunities.
We, the people, have to fix this.