Sunday, November 29, 2009

Worcester man dies in custody

It would be so good to be able to look at a story like that of the unfortunate Kenneth Howe and be able to assume that what the police are saying is probably true. We need to be able to trust them to know right from wrong, do the right thing and 'fess up when they mess up.

But it is clear from these comments that this is not the situation today.

Police are working people, not so different from you or me. They have been organized into a semi-military corps, trained in the use of violence, and sent out, armed, into the streets every day to deal with the ugliest and most dangerous situations and out-of-control people that most of us wouldn't want to go anywhere near.

To do their job well they need the support and cooperation of the community - the entire community. Including support when they have to get rough with someone who is resisting or endangering them or endangering others. To earn and keep that support, they need to protect their reputation for honesty, integrity, fair dealing and following the law without favor, discrimination or prejudice.

But it is unfair to expect the police to police themselves. It is totally natural for working people to stick up - and cover up - for each other; all the more so when they are comrades-in-arms who need to completely trust each other in life-and-death situations. And it is only human to take better care of those who have power, money, reputation, manners and influence than those who have none.

The bottom line is that every city or town needs an independent civilian review board, so that in cases like this we can have confidence - and they will know - that the truth will come out. We need that - but the police we send into harm's way every day need it at least as much!

The police work for us, not for some boss who gets his orders at the Country Club. They must be held responsible to us. From that will flow the respect, understanding, appreciation, cooperation and support they need from us.
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