My son is one emotionally charged kid. Despite our love for each other, we manage to find ourselves in altercations every now and then. It's rare, but there are some instances where he is beyond rational reasoning and I find myself having to use physical force. No matter how angry I become, I am always fully cognisant of the relationship: I am the ADULT. He is the CHILD. I am stronger than him. I hold the power, both over him and the situation itself. It's because I understand that, I am able to exercise restraint even in my most furious of times.
There are three reasons power is exerted: 1. To show force; 2. To exert dominance over the less-powerful; 3. Fear of not having control of a situation. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but let's take a closer look at the third by using my dog PJ as an example. PJ is as skittish of a dog as they come. I can think of few things that don't freak him out. I don't know if it's his breed or what, but the only time he seems to not be on high-alert is when we go on hikes. He leads the way, we follow.
Because he's on high-alert constantly, he perceives the world as way more threatening than you or I. If he doesn't know you and you happen to get too close, his warning bark will make you think twice about taking anymore steps in his direction. Respect his boundaries, though, and he'll love you from a distance.
The job of law enforcement is to do exactly what their title entails: Enforce the law. That, by itself, bestows power. Throw in mace, a nightstick, a taser, and a gun and you are multiplying that power exponentially. That title and those weapons tells me that, nine times out of ten, a police officer is the most powerful person involved in any given situation. I recognize that. You recognize that.
So why can't they?
I'm looking at the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings, both of which leave me scratching my head. Both senseless. Fatal. Wasteful displays of power. We're not talking about shoot-outs, but cold-blooded murder. The former was shot on the ground multiple times at point-blank range while the latter was shot (also multiple times) while reaching for a wallet. In the span of twenty-four hours, things went from heartbreaking to just plain sickening.
Why did this happen? It happened because of power and fear. Fear that had to have come from some preconceived notion that ultimately caused them to think they had no control of the situation. Why else do you put five shots in a man that you already have restrained or kill a man who is trying to pull out an ID that YOU asked for? What's your answer? That you didn't know? That you didn't understand the nature of the situation?
Therein lies the larger issue: Understanding the nature of a situation is a crucial part of a police officer's JOB. NOTHING should cloud your ability to do that, not fear, not preconceived notions, not race. Having that ability, THAT'S what gives you real power. Not a badge, not a gun.
I don't bring PJ around a lot of people because I'm fully aware that he is unpredictable. In the same way, a cop that can't properly take stake in the situation before him should not be allowed to wield a gun or hold any kind of power because that cop is unpredictable.
Funny thing is, the way to truly overcome fear is with power. Not the power to hurt or kill, but the power to exercise restraint in a situation you deem dangerous or scary.