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Terence Crutcher is Another Victim of an Unmanageably Overgrown Police State

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In public school, I would hear of police states — totalitarian nations where the police are everywhere and where any citizen might turn in a possibly disloyal person to the police. Absent that level of citizen informants, police states are not limited to totalitarian nations.

In the United States, we are oversaturated with police at the local, county, state and federal (adding to the mix the huge federal national security, intelligence, and military apparatus) levels and are paying the price of too many hair-trigger police, and many more who are not suited for the job. We live in a police state in the United States. No matter how well meaning has been the purpose for such a huge police state, we are suffering the harm from such a state.

Police are a necessary evil and are supposed to serve the public. America’s overgrown police population and overgrown criminal laws entrench that evil and are antithetical to a free and open society. Excessive police abuse will continue until we rein in the overgrown criminal justice system, for instance by starting with legalizing prostitution, gambling, and marijuana; heavily decriminalizing all other drugs; eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing and the death penalty; and eliminating per se guilty rules for a 0.08 blood alcohol level in DWI cases.

Fortunately, most people walk around with phones with cameras to record police abuse. However, that is of no use unless the person sees the abuse and is willing to risk police harassment or arrest for recording the abuse. Police more often have their own video recordings, with various degrees of success and delays in getting those recordings divulged when requested by the press and other members of the public.

One of the most recent atrocities by police is the September 16, 2016, shooting death of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The specific details of the incident will be contested, including why police were so hot on Mr. Crutcher’s trail, why one of them called him a bad dude just moments before one officer shot him dead immediately after he was tased (and why was he tased?), whether his window was or was not closed to prevent him from reaching for any possible weapon in his car (and whether there was blood on the window glass to show it was closed), why police stayed away from his body during the critical first moments after he was shot, and whether he was high on PCP after PCP was allegedly found in his car (and an after-the-killing PCP discovery is of questionable relevance for shooting Mr. Crutcher dead).

The public relations refrain of law enforcement can be that the minority of bad apples should not be permitted to stain the reputation of all police. However, I partly reply that we would have fewer bad apples among police if we reduce the number of police in the first place.

Yes, Terence Crutcher was African-American and the police officer who killed him is white. That does not automatically mean the shooter acted out of racism. However, even if racial motives were absent in the police shooting of Terence Crutcher, that does not change that a disproportionately high number of African-Americans are incarcerated or under supervised release from incarceration and earn lower incomes. That does not change that just as we have too much racism in the general population, we will find too much racism among police, judges, prosecutors, and everyone else in the criminal justice system.

Not helping to reverse racism in the criminal justice system is that non-white officers are under-represented in police departments.

Public perception of racism by police does not serve anyone. Regardless of the study’s reliability level, food for thought includes a 2016 study of several police departments by Harvard University economics professor Roland Fryer, Jr., finding a disproportionately high use of police force against African Americans versus against white people.

If I blogged every time police used excessive force against a civilian, I would need to rename my blog the Police Misconduct Blog. I have blogged before about the unjustified police shooting of Levar Jones, Walter Scott, Eric Harris, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. Enough is enough. All this police abuse must be reversed.

Sadly, so long as the United States continues to have an overgrown criminal justice system and police state, Terence Crutcher’s killing will be far from the last instance of wrongful police killings.