The Police and Civilization!
Europeans and people of European descent, and to some extent, the rest of the world, have been taken in by the erroneous notion that ‘civilization’ means skyscrapers, cars, computers, rocket science and everything else that comes with science and technology. You ask anyone and that’s what they’d tell you.But how civilized is a PhD student who kills innocent civilians in a movie threater? How civilized is a medical doctor who kills his kids to get at his wife? How civilized is a well-known physics professor who coordinates a web of child pornography? We never think about them, do we?
In essence, those who don’t have the materials mentioned in the first paragraph are considered to be outside the ‘civilized world’: primitive, savages! However, we seem to have forgotten the atmosphere that made or still make all these things possible: the cordial treatment of fellow human beings; the forging of meaningful coexistence; the capacity to know that other people have feelings and needs; the capacity to empathize and sympathize, and the ability to realize that pain in you is as bad as pain in another person. Without these realities, we are just vicious savages with cars and computers!Anyone in this world knows the phrase ‘POLICE BRUTALITY.’ This is a ghastly sight to say the least. These people, mostly men, treat humans like animals; beating them with no remorse or human compassion. What comes to mind immediately one sees such brutality is: do these officers have feelings? Do they feel anything inside them? Are they humans? Does police academy teach them to be beastly in their treatment of suspects? Anyone who views these brutal images would be convinced that police officers acting in such a devilish and inhumane manner aren’t themselves humans. They are an epitome of exemplary and contemporary savagery!
On June 20, at a train station in Sydney, Australia, six police officers brutally tasered and mercilessly dragged down the stairs a 17-year old South Sudanese young man in the full view of his friends. The officers, emotionless and cowardly, descended on the teenager like hundreds of jubilant villagers excited as they kill a monstrous elephant for a meal.And we know the case of the Brazilian student, Roberto Laudisio Curti, gased and tasered to death by police in Sydney in March 2012. Or the case of Jamie Jackson during Mardi Gras celebration in Sydney in March this year! So police brutality knows no color, to some extent!
Anyone with a heart and conscience would see these videos and be appalled. However, the police see such videos as routine and normal. Even as one of the teenager’s friends, a girl, kept on shouting “Excuse me! Would you grab your brother like that?” the police officers didn’t budge. One wonders what danger an unarmed 17-year old boy would inflict on six armed, grown men. Besides being treated with beastly savagery, the teenager was charged with made-up offenses to top up their savagery. The charges were later dropped after an investigation.The police are basically above the law! Who holds them accountable? Ombudsman? I don’t think so!
What makes it even more appalling is not that six grown men would descend on a kid like excited beasts in the wild. Indeed, what makes it dangerously appalling and worrying is that the officers would do it in the full view of people without any care, compunction. It’s like these officers had left their humanness at home and came to work with beastly, animal-like hearts.While research in Australia shows that Africans, and mostly South Sudanese, are more likely to face emotionless heavy-handedness and police savagery, police savagery is a global phenomenon. You can google police savagery in any country and realize that police officers get away with brutal treatment of average citizens. Their acts are seemingly academy-training justified as being within acceptable standard procedures and a few, whose actions are too satanic to be justified, get a slap on the wrist if they are ever disciplined.
In June this year, The Australian reported a story of officers in Sunshine, a suburb of Melbourne, in which the officers were making fun of immigrants. “The officers in Melbourne's west have been caught mocking African migrants and their local community on racist stubby holders.” If the law enforcement officers have such attitudes then how do we expect them to perform their duties with fairness? This is either a systemic failure or what marks the society generally!Assistant Police Commissioner, Andrew Crisp said that “This is completely at odds with the high standards the community rightly demands from its police.” However, because these officers are not punished severely enough, their attitude never change.
A number of South Sudanese young men have died under police savagery but no one has ever been held accountable. Erjok Manyiel, Kon Agau, among others, are some of the young men the community believes were killed by the Victoria Police! How can you actually prove the police are at fault when the police force is above the law? Would the police officers act as if they are above the law if they know the society would come ferociously at them? As a community that has no strong voice and political representation, South Sudanese Community in Australia suffers in excruciating and lonely silence.While the majority of the police could be seen as decent and civil in the execution of their duties, the fact that police savagery is condoned, or even allowed, and those who perform them not being brought to book, the condoning of such savagery tarnishes the whole of policing as a profession.
While police brutality knows no color boundaries, it’s even grave when the racialized state of mind plus the jittery state of racial relations put the minorities at the receiving end.Is police savagery and emotionlessness when interacting with assumed suspects something taught to them in their academies or is it something born out of individual personality and cowardice? Do they see societal reluctance and indifference as an official stamp to act as they like? Think about it!
Where’s Australia as a Progressive Society?How do we know that the police officer didn’t lie about a given person having exceeded the speed limit? How do we know that police isn’t stopping people because of their physical appearances? How do we expect police officers to rat themselves out when they are wrong? How do you know it wasn’t the police officer who racially slurred the African first?
Police officers err every day; however, the law enforcement has been structured in a way that it allows many officers to act as if they are above the law. Well, they actually are! All these questions are asked in every nation, not only in Australia! What makes them worse in Australia is that Australia is seen as a progressive, inclusive society! Well, some Australian police officers act as bad as Indian, South Sudanese or Kenya police.However, in Australia, Racism (hatred), unlike in North America where it’s subtle, is ‘in your face.’ From attacks on foreign students, to racial abuses on tourists on public transit to police calling African young men ‘monkeys’ and ‘mudfish,’ one just wonders if this is only a police problem or it is a societal problem across Australia. Is Australia an openly RACIST society or is the silent majority good and the vocal minority left to shape the face of the country many of us see as decently progressive?
The savage hit-and-run killing of a South Sudanese young man, William Maker, in Perth, Western Australia by a European-Australian young man, Luke David Taylor, speaks volume about Australian moral and racial maturity. Besides, the way Ms. Julia Gillard, the first woman Prime Minister of Australia, was treated as a woman makes someone like me worry that Australia as a society has a lot to do to join decent, value-based civilizations. This rotten, valueless, emotionless, vicious and materialized understanding of civilization is the root cause of police brutality and overt hatred in Australian society.If the current prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, then an opposition figure, could treat a woman in a very uncivil and misogynistic manner, then what do we expect young people to do to people of other races? While I know Australia is a decent, progressive society many immigrants, including South Sudanese, have called home, the Australian society needs to show the face of what we know of it: an inclusive society. We might not erase racism and hatred as they are part of human nature and some even genetically inspired, however, Australia has to show that its face is not the savagery we see in public transit or in the stone-age mentality of some police officers in Australia!
Young African men live in fear from those who are supposed to be protecting them. As one African man told AAP in Melbourne: “He started chasing me and when he caught up to me he said: `Wogs are faster than niggers'…If a cop can say that to me, who can I complain to? What do you do when it's the police who are harassing you?”Police savagery and racism don’t undermine victims, it tarnishes image of Australians in the world and humanity of the police officers. What human being with feelings and conscience would taser and brutally manhandle an unconscious teenager surrounded by six monstrous police officers? What responsible, conscientious human being, with kids and family, would ignore the plea of a young teenager in relation to ‘in your face brutality?’ How can a driving, ‘civilized’ teenager stop, back up and intentionally run over a person and kill him in 2013? Sometimes Australia NOW feels like Mississippi and Alabama of the 1960s and Canada of 1990s.
These savageries have to be holistically dealt with by Australia as a society. The police find loopholes within the moral fabric of the society to get away with most of the things they do. Whether it’s police shooting and killing a teenager in Francisco (US) because of a $ 2 bus fare, or police firing nine shots to kill a teenager with a knife in Toronto (Canada), or a police officer calling African young men ‘monkeys’ and chasing them with no cause; one has to know that the police profession needs soul-searching.If these officers commit these atrocities and sleep soundly at night then we have a big, civilization problem. It means the police academies dehumanize these officers to turn them into emotionless robots and hatred-and-fear-filled savages. However, if these officers get affected by the atrocities they commit, then the police academies need to restructure their teaching methods to train decent law enforcers; not cowardly robots with guns who fire at a mere sound of door creaking.
Australia, be the decent country you are! Change the racist face a few would want to give you! I have been to Australia five times and I was appalled that every single officer in the airport, working for different federal agencies, wanted to search me! It’s a random check, they say! How can an officer see me searched by one officer next to him and still requests to search me! We are different agencies, he said! I just went through security with no glitch, got searched by a different officer with a different agency after leaving security check, but…‘hey…mate…you’re visible I gotta search you too!’ another officer there! Go figure!What make us human are not the houses we live in, the cars we drive, the schools we went to. What makes us human is the capacity to feel the pain of others, the sympathy and empathy, the values and the ability to see that a stone on my toe hurts the same way it would hurt on David's or Lee's or Ahmed's or Deng's. Without those feelings and values, we are nothing but automotive savages confusing material wealth for civilization: values and virtuouscoexistence!