“Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.” – Helen Keller
In the past year, there has been much publicity regarding professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem for what they claim is a “stance” against social injustice. Being in law enforcement for 22 years, I believe I have the right to comment on social injustice, especially from the enforcement viewpoint. Does social injustice exist from an enforcement standpoint? Absolutely. Let me explain why. Social injustice is not a one-sided reality though. This stance or movement suggests governments or law enforcement organizations are the sole cause of social injustice. That is absolutely not an accurate or fair assessment of the realities of social injustice.
African-American communities, for example, are close-knit, concise alliances; they don’t allow many outsiders into their culture, especially law enforcement. Their culture is different on many levels – a topic for another discussion. Law enforcement organizations have always had a difficult time recruiting African-Americans into the profession. Many don’t want to be alienated by their communities or labeled “Uncle Toms.” Therefore, law enforcement organizations are predominately white and tasked with enforcing laws in close-knit communities, where law enforcement is viewed as racist mainly due to a biased view on social injustice.
Here is the harsh reality regarding social injustice. White police officers are tasked with the enforcement of laws in communities that are riddled with crime – robberies, domestic violence, shootings, drugs, homicides, etc. Majority of these crimes are condensed in African-American or other low socio-economic status areas. As a law enforcement administrator, why would I increase enforcement efforts in a predominately white community where there is an absence of high-profile crimes? Does that make any sense? As previously noted, African-American communities rarely communicate or cooperate with law enforcement. Therefore, police officers have little, legally relevant information they can use toward their enforcement efforts.
To put it bluntly, white police officers are now blindly tasked with enforcing laws in a community that declines to cooperate with law enforcement. Can you see where social injustice may now start revealing its ugly head? Good police officers will usually know who the “players” are out on the streets. However, there is a thin line between “player” and “citizen” in African-American communities. Let me explain. Players refer to drug dealers who rule those communities. Many of these players are the primary breadwinners for their family and close friends. Loyalty towards their race and family regularly takes precedence over criminal conduct; therefore, it is difficult for the police officer to distinguish between good and evil.
The good citizens have to survive in those communities. The fear players impose on the good citizens wins out every time. Survival can simply mean turning a blind-eye toward criminal activity and keep your mouth shut. Anybody with any legal background will concede that you cannot win a case without quality witnesses. That is difficult when you have a community blinded by either biased loyalty or fear. However, law enforcement will always be blamed for losing high-profile cases and continued violence. In reality, many of these cases were already lost due to the lack of community cooperation, not the effort or lack of effort to solve these crimes by law enforcement. Is that not another form of social injustice?
For example, I responded to a homicide investigation that occurred on Mother’s Day where a big event was being held at our local park. The victim was shot multiple times in a crowd of hundreds of people. Everybody knew everybody in that crowd. Most, if not all, of the information received in that case, was received anonymously. There were potentially hundreds of eyewitnesses to that homicide but nobody came forward due to biased loyalty and/or fear. A seemingly quickly solved homicide, right? This case took months to build and we eventually lost that case at trial. A mother lost her son on Mother’s Day! A murderer is out on the street due to social injustice, but nobody wants to acknowledge that side of social injustice.
This “stance” against social injustice is quite vague. Do you see the irony using kneeling as a “stance” toward change? What social injustices are YOU referring to and what exactly are YOU doing about it? Most law enforcement officers wear their uniforms with pride and integrity. Police officers of all races genuinely want to help the communities they serve. There will always be exceptions to the rule; there are bad apples in EVERY profession. This ill-informed perception that governments and law enforcement are the sole sources of social injustice is just plain wrong. We ALL have to acknowledge our role with social injustice. Social injustice is a two-way street easily changed through communication and cooperation. It’s really that simple.