Contemporary times have brought about a seemingly dichotomy between the police and our youth. With the increase of technology and information mixed with a wide array of choices afforded to our youth, it has caused a moral split between the two parties. An APBnews.com article entitled, "Juvenile Courts Handling More Violence" states that the number of violent and drug cases handled by juvenile courts during a nine-year between 1988 and 1997 increased, however, recent studies suggest that juvenile crime rates are decreasing at the same rate as the overall crime rate. Although the juvenile crime rate has declined, a larger dilemma looms.
We, as a society, do not trust our youth and view them as wayward and unreachable. If perception is often times reality, the challenge is not only to give the police a makeover in how we sometimes view them, but also how we view our youth. Unfortunately, the negative connotations exemplified in music, movies and videos trickle down to how our youth behave. Life begins to imitate art when fantasy begins to appear real. There are many youths, White and Black, who come from loving homes where parents often are doing the best that they can to produce viable citizens. The perceived "boring" sermons by adults for children to get a good education or act responsibly is often drowned out by the outlandish, loud, and captivating messages of "live for today and forget about tomorrow." It is better to die in a blaze of guns and bullets than to live uprightly. As a result, the homes of responsible parents begin to look like the homes of the misguided ones. How could this be? The status quo or standards have changed.
What was once good is now bad and what was once bad is now good. An example was a time-honored tradition of placing children who misbehaved in school in the corner. This harmless, yet effective strategy did three things:
1. It allowed the student to reflect on reforming his behavior for the future.
2. It was a punishment of what happens when a student became unruly.
3. It served as a model to other students of what not to do.
Now the roles have been reversed, the same situation is perceived as:
1. The more deviant a student is, the more he is revered by his peers as "keeping it real" or gaining respect.
2. The "A" student is ridiculed and seen as the model not to emulate
3. The more students reflect the visions of the rap videos, the more popular they are among their peers.
This is the power of the media. By its ability to capture the youths' imagination by creating images bigger than life, they are able to control behavior and create dysfunctional belief systems among the youth. This scenario creates a direct conflict between the guardians in society characterized by the police versus the renegades in society characterized by our youth. Any Hollywood producer knows that a good story line has a hero and a villain. How many times have you watched a movie and the villain was so glamorized that you begin to hope that he escaped being brought down by the police? Remember, this would be the same guy that you would not want in your neighborhood, but now you are hoping that he beats the system! This drama is played out throughout the United States between the police and our youth. Both sides come to the stage with preconceived notions about each other based on an idea created by the media and accepted as reality by society. Intellectually, we know that the number of honorable police officers hugely outweigh the number corrupt police officers. The same as we intellectually know that the number of decent young adults far outweigh the mavericks in our midst. However, it feels like the minority is the majority. Emotionally, we feel like our perceptions are reality. In fact, we accept the shadows of our perceptions as the truth.
In reversing this picture, some police departments have integrated their role with public schools to educate students on policing in an attempt to bridge the gap. By building relationships through a cooperative approach, not only will students see police officers as favorable, but might also desire to be a police officer when they get older. Police officers have to be more proactive in reaching out to the youth in enhancing the image of the profession. Every contact with the public could be an opportunity for police officers to discourage negative stereotypes of the profession. This is not merely a nice thing to do, it is a must if law enforcement will be perpetuated by future adults who view the profession as positive despite its flaws as well as gain the support of future generations.
When the public has lost confidence it in public service, anarchy becomes the status quo which breeds a state ran Gestapo where citizen's rights are seized in the name of public civility. On the other hand, young adults have to take responsibility in their presentation to the world. As we discussed in previous chapters, what we wear, communicate, or express tells others about us more than anything else. The deviant swagger and one-word answers again lend itself to a careful scrutiny by the police. Confident and articulate individuals do not represent a threat, in fact, more often than not will cause less scrutiny and questions because there is no cause for persistent interrogation. Generally, police officers are not out to harass young adults. Ultimately, they want to make their job and life as easy as possible. There is never an excuse for an officer to pounce on the rights of our youth at the sake of doing his job.
Although we unfortunately judge people by our perception of them, our youth must begin becoming more individualistic in their thinking. It seems that it has become in style for youngsters to behave in a disrespectful manner. And as much as society complains about it, it accepts it. I once heard of a case where an Atlanta police officer answered a call for help by an elderly woman. She called to say that her grandson was extremely unruly and she was his primary guardian and could not control him. As the grandmother was talking to the officer, the grandson reportedly began cursing her out telling her what he would do to her. As a reflex response, the officer slapped the youngster with his hand as a result of his disrespect. The grandmother apparently did not have a problem with her grandson being disciplined, but the officer lost his job behind it. We all have our opinions on both sides of the coin as to whether the officer acted reasonably.
In many cases, the same police department that is being labeled as untrustworthy and evil is being asked to take on parental responsibility of rearing children. An old African proverb says. "It takes a village to raise a child". By our actions, It appears that we do not want a village. When parents began emphatically stating that they did not want anyone else outside of them disciplining their children, there went the village! There was no way a female headed household where the mother worked long hours to support herself and the children could thrive on its own. When neighbors, teachers, and police officers were curtailed from disciplining the children, the traditional support of the community (village) was cut out and would be no more. Essentially, the crisis has reached critical proportions and as such has become a police matter. The interconnectedness of individuals makes for situations where unwise choices come to effect members of society who are not directly apart of the scenario. Police officers should rarely come in contact with our youth in a professional capacity other than to steer them along with encouragement when our youth slightly goes astray. Police officers getting into fights and shoot-outs with young adults should be cause for a public outcry!
The way the relationship will improve between police officers and our youth must come from all sides. It would not be plausible to advocate a one-sided quick fix. First, parents must take total responsibility for the rearing if their children. If you bring them into the world, you are responsible for their well being. Do not have them if you can not adequately support them. Secondly, If a parent can not discipline a child because of obligations to support them, the community must be a part of the disciplining process. A parent can monitor what is going on in the disciplining process, but short of abuse, corporal punishment should be the norm. Thirdly, Police departments should supplement and support the community, but not be responsible for rearing children. In female headed households where there is no male figure available, male police officers can play a vital role.
The idea of "Community Policing" promotes officers being an intricate part of the community infrastructure. Unfortunately, for "Community Policing" to work effectively, the village idea has to be accepted and adopted by all parties involved; otherwise, it becomes as outdated as the GMC Pacer. Finally, society has to decide what it believes its moral conscience to be. The old adage "do as I say, not as I do" will not stand up any more with our youth. We can not say one thing and do another and expect our youth not see the contradiction. The Information Age has been a blessing and a curse. It has been a blessing in a sense that no other time in history has information been equally accessible to everyone. Whether you are Black, White, rich, poor, college- trained, or possess a G.E.D., you have access to the Internet. The down-side has been that an increase in information at warp speed has intimidated and stressed many people who are have challenges trying to keep up. Maintaining one's position in such a competitive environment disturbs one's quality of life, particularly, when this is not your choice. Children being reared by absentee parents and Rap videos can not be expected to be viable citizens. They by pass the influences of organized sports, education, and sense of belonging right into the arms of the police who have to deal with them on a different level, because of the failure of these other components. Again, police officers should be role models to our youth. If they are relegated to merely participating in their lives in a crisis situation, an adversarial relationship will naturally arise. That is unfair to the police as well as society at large.
Young adults must take responsibility for their actions. We are hard pressed to find youths that do not have a moral sense of right and wrong. Despite the most depraved environmental conditions, they are generally aware of what is proper behavior. Because of the abundance of information, you can increase your awareness with very little concentration. For some reason, society has allowed the conditions that our youth face, serve as an alibi for them not to be productive and responsible. In any given day, we can find two individuals who address the same set of circumstances differently. The differences between the two people are the choices that they make. In all boils down to choices! Young adults must cease having a negative preconceived notion about the actions of police officers.
First and foremost police officers are adults due a certain amount of respect for the years of experience they have accumulated. That's just basic respect any youth should practice with adults. Secondly, young adults should understand that the world is not necessarily the way they view it from their limited experiences. The average youth has never experienced any real hardship compared to youths of comparable ages in other countries. The poorest family in this country looks like a millionaire compared to people in many parts of the world. When we were growing up, it was true what our mothers said when we wanted to throw away our food. There are kids truly starving in Africa and Asia. As a result, the police in other countries are often comprised of the military. They are not confined to proper behavior under a Constitution. They have no cognizance of human rights let alone civil rights. Thirdly, our youth should think more strategically about their future. In the same article entitled, "Juvenile Courts Handling More Violence," reports that minority youths face harsher treatment at every stage in the juvenile system.
According to a Justice Department study, white youths represent a larger part of the juvenile population committing more crimes each year, black offenders are more than twice as likely to be detained, more likely to go to court and more likely to have their cases moved to adult court. With these statistics, minority youth offenders have to be more prudent in everything they do as it pertains to engaging with the police and the judicial system. The fallout with youth offenders of all ethnicities is the pattern of behavior that is created. Once a pattern of criminality is established, it begins a downward spiral that enters into adulthood. If this pattern behavior is not squelched from the outset, it sets the stage for life-long criminality.
Contrary to popular demand, police officers are not public enemy number one. Having your way with the police is not about taking advantage of individuals. It is a philosophy of life that asserts that you get what you give in this life. In most instances, we get what we deserve and demand. It goes without saying that a small percentage of rouge cops have made it bad for the profession as a whole. It does not behoove members in society to declare war on the police. The status quo would be total chaos and that would be the worst state of affairs. In many cases, the demons that we attempt to characterize as the police are actually ourselves.
No one under sixty years old should be without an education. There is a direct correlation between lack of education and criminality. Many of the ills we blame on others are the result of our inability to enrich and cultivate ourselves. As young and mature adults we choose to participate in the drama of life. The choices we make often have a direct bearing on how we will interact with the judicial system. Yes there are instances when injustices creep in and we feel victimized by having our integrity questioned. However, far too may of us are engaged in lifestyles, associations, and activities that place us in the predicaments that we find ourselves. There has to be a national call to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their actions.
The solution for society to redirect itself is two-fold:
1. Citizens must commit to an idea of Self Mastery where he assumes total responsibility and commitment to personal growth in all aspects of his being. The individual commits to the idea of life-long learning, deeper insights into a spiritual connection with a higher power, and a sensible diet with a physical regimen. Through Self Mastery the individual overcomes self hatred, low self esteem, violence, and non-productivity. These intangibles supersede the need for artificial stimulants, materialism, or codependency. People who judge themselves to be successful feel empowered and value their existence because they are dedicated to preserving it. This can never be the responsibility of people outside the individual.
2. Citizens must commit to the idea of holding people responsible for their actions. People Management is the idea that we monitor the people in our lives and determine if they meet the standards of treating us and others with the proper dignity and respect. Part of our problem has been allowing love ones to take advantage of us as well as others. We cannot dictate the behavior of others, but we can surely isolate them to the point where reform is a better idea than solitude. Society has to be brutally honest about what it wants. It can not have it both ways. You cannot say you value family, productivity, integrity, and safety and then allow depravity, irresponsibility, lewdness, and violence to be the status quo.
The existence of a police force emerged within civilization because it had been discovered that without it men would destroy each other with the similar tools of destruction that they destroy themselves with today. The police are there to keep the dike from totally over flooding. If man chose to act according to his higher self, he could make police departments obsolete overnight. It is our choice to have the world that we want. The world that we have created is a reflection of ourselves. This we can not blame on the police. As Hubert H. Humphrey said, “There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.”