Essay by: Clay Smalley
Essay Subject: My good friend and professional cyclist David H. Sylvester has announced a new Hugs & High Fives Tour. This summer Dave will travel, on his bicycle, from San Bernardino, California to Philadelphia, PA. He will be stopping at many cities along the way.
There has been a massive impact on society as of late with regards to police brutality. The most recent happenings involved Alton Sterling, who was shot in the chest while two police officers were on top of him holding him down. There has been a lot of unrest in mainly the black community which manifested itself in the death of multiple police officers after a protest rally against police brutality in Dallas this week. Although not all police officers are brutal, when a few commit terrible acts such as this, it makes it seem like the entire force is responsible. On the other hand, the people who shot the police officers are not helping their cause either. So, the entire country seems to be picking a side or just attempting to ignore what is happening all together. The police brutality has brought many racism issues to the forefront of the social conversation, which I feel need to be addressed. It is no question that many people in this country are still racist, but when the people who are racist are supposed to protect and serve those that they do not accept there is a problem. In the wake of the Alton Sterling shooting there has been a lot of unrest that will not go away. However, I feel that it can be reduced by taking action for the future.
According to Andy O’Hara, Sergeant (ret.) California Highway Patrol, with regards to police officers acting out violently, “There are other emotional disorders and problems involved, including prior anger issues, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and substance abuse, that are often more likely responsible for the individual’s violent behavior.” So, I feel that further screening must be done prior to allowing someone on the force. First of all, fear is the main trigger that causes people to act out violently in situations, so we as a country must find a way to get the point across to police officers what is real fear and what is irrational fear spurred on by racism. There needs to be a system in place that is not subjective to the person in the line of duty. For instance, you may not shoot a person unless they shoot at you first. The lives of these people matter, and if you signed up to be an officer, then you should not be the first to shoot in any situation because then you are not trying to protect the person with the gun. The people who have these PTSD and anger issues should not be allowed to be on the force. It seems that past events in their own lives lead them to be unstable and irrational when in the line of duty. If one is not able to control their emotions when in the line of duty, they should not be in the line of duty at all. It seems as though those with PTSD from previous events in their lives have a switch that flips on when they feel fear, and they take it out on whoever they are fearful of at the time, and in this case it was Alton Sterling. So, I feel that police screening for anger issues along with counseling before and during time of service should be required by law. It is not good enough to have people that pass physical tests to be qualified to protect and serve our people. As we have seen in the past few years, there are obviously officers that are unstable in emotional situations and are turning into dangerous and irrational weapons against innocent people. Therefore, I feel that the social unrest right now will not go away, but we can do something about it for the future by implementing more thorough screenings of police officers for deep psychological issues along with continued counseling for active and non active officers.