By Yvonne Sam
Sadly, we have arrived at a “here we go again” moment. While police brutality can happen to anyone at any time, no matter the salary scale, where you work, what position you have, what you drive, or whether or not you were doing the right or wrong thing, the fact is, police brutality is continually happening to a certain group more than any other. That group is members of the Black community.
Notwithstanding, there are some inherent socio-psychological reasons that most people seem to keep ignoring. Is every police officer always at fault when an encounter goes bad? No, but far too many are. On the converse, are there citizens contributing to the negative outcomes they suffer? Yes, unfortunately, but not always.
In order to have a balanced and fair perspective, I need to say that we should not stereotype all police officers, any more than they should stereotype all “Black” people.
However, here is the other side of the coin. There is a growing and disturbing trend of bad cops, who are slipping through the cracks and not being punished to the full extent of the law — or anywhere near it.
Individuals who, for a variety of reasons, from seeming mental instability to overt display of racism, should neither wear a badge nor ever have the authority that comes with it. Officers, who abuse the citizenry they are supposed to serve, are a danger to both the public and other fellow officers.
In a police encounter, what power does a citizen have? Much more than most people seem to realize. Firstly, view compliance as power not weakness. Concentrate on your survival and not your rights.
One may seriously ask the questions: why are they out there? Why would they do that?
It appears that cities need bodies that can pass the fitness test, the polygraph, the drug test, the criminal background and reasonably complete the academy. Therefore, if they can meet the above-mentioned requirements, attitudes, affiliations, racism and subtle mental issues are often overlooked.
However, in the field, these misfit issues tend to surface, accompanied by “and here we are again”, “and here we go again” moments. Therefore the following recommendations are timely and relevant.
There are sundry ways to tackle the issue of police brutality against Blacks: you should undertake battles you have at least an equal (or more equal) chance of winning. That is not likely the case if you are facing a bad cop. You are likely to lose if you do not comply.
You can never change how people treat you, until you change how they see you. Words and labels shape perception and perception shapes how people are treated.
In a police encounter, what power does a citizen have? Much more than most people seem to realize. Firstly, view compliance as power not weakness. Concentrate on your survival and not your rights; they are infinitesimal and are of no assistance when you are in jail, in the morgue or in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Later, there is a huge list of powerful, lawful and legal remedies at your disposal that you were previously probably unaware of.
Granted, tensions can mount and a citizen has every right to be angry, when he/she feels mistreated. But a bad police officer is looking for a reason to mistreat you, even more. Some even know how to provoke citizens, who are angry or afraid. As you escalate the encounter, he or she will escalate, at least one step higher. And when you commence acting out, fail to think or refuse to comply, you just presented the reason to him/her on a silver platter.
Respond, based on wisdom, instead of reacting based on anger. Remember that police officers are trained, so you have to be trained for the encounter as well.
During any police encounter, simply comply rather than die, leaving them stunned with no need to use a gun.
Aleuta continua– the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Chair of the Rights and Freedom Committee at the Black Community Resource Centre. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.