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Monday, March 2, 2009

What Do We Tell Our Children About Police Brutality

From early childhood our children are taught to trust the police. We tell our sons and daughters that if they are lost that they should look for a police officer to get help. Our schools warn our children to be wary of strangers and to seek the police if a stranger tries to lure them away...

But, more and more, I worry that the strangers we should warn our children to stay away from might include those that wear a police uniform as well.

After all, how do we reconcile the contrasts between the picture of a friendly officer helping a child, like illustrated above, and that of the brutal reality of a child, (now identified as Malika Calhoun) being viciously beaten by a sheriff's deputy on the news as we've all seen recently?

Our children give us questioning looks when seeing this or hearing discussions about it. They are confused, they are told to trust the police but here is a police officer harming a child... or other stories that have also been in the news recently:
How do we explain to our children why they should trust the police after they see or hear stories like these? Should you tell them they should still trust the police when they know of family members who have been abused by the police or even when they see police brutality themselves like these fifth graders did in Seattle?

Or, should we be teaching them something else in the light of this brutality, that they should treat the police as they do any other stranger, as unworthy of their trust?

Seattle and King County are prime examples of how difficult it is to honestly tell a child they should trust police when we know our city and county cannot even fire the officers that they know are dangerous and supposedly want to fire.

For just one example take the case of King County Sheriff's Deputy Denny Gulla, who has been accused molesting three different 14-year-old girls but who remained a deputy even on top of other complaints like assaulting prisoners, making a pass at a high school senior, videotaping a gang beating for his training video and pulling over his lover's husband and threatening to shoot him in the "mother-fucking face."

As far as we know, he's still a deputy in the King County Sheriff's department since it was only last year that they finally put him on a brady list, but still couldn't fire him. How do we tell our children to trust the police when the one they trust could be officer Gulla or the officer who beat that young girl?

All these stories, when also tied to one's like officer Gulla, show that some deeply disturbing people can become police officers and remain in authority even after developing a history of alleged abuses against children.

Which leads me to wonder whether I would be a responsible parent for telling my children to trust the police instead of fearing them like they should any potentially dangerous stranger on the street.

After all, it's been proven that even the strangers in uniform can harm our children as much, if not more than, any other stranger who offers candy to children in a dark van could.

Perhaps it would be more responsible for us to instill in our children the cold hard realities that most of us already understand... that the police are not here to protect and serve us...

the police are here to protect and serve themselves.

Until that changes, until a real system of accountability and disciplinary transparency is created, none of us are safe... not even our children.

So, what do you plan on telling your children?


Calladus said...

I think you should add the Corpus Christi case in your list too.

Packratt said...

I think you mean the story about the Palm Beach deputy that was arrested in Corpus Christi for skipping his bond for charges of child rape?

If so, it's in the list as "A Palm Beach Sheriff's Deputy wanted for allegedly raping a child."

But, if there's another recent Corpus Christi case I'm unaware of, please do let me know.

Thanks for the suggestion.

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