Have you ever driven past a police car and had that nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach, even though you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong? For some, that feeling is quite familiar — but not because of an irrational tendency to worry.
Police brutality and the use of excessive force by police officers have been present in the United States, and other countries, for many years and has sadly resulted in tension and mistrust between citizens and police officers. Although there have been several recent events which might have tested one’s trust in police officers, we need them to keep us safe, so action must be taken on both sides to restore a mutual trust.
On Feb. 24, an incident at Loyola caused students to question the actions taken by Campus Safety officers who were conducting a search of two men not affiliated with Loyola who were accused of scalping tickets outside Gentile Arena. When a few students noticed officers patting down the men in Damen Student Center, a student approached the officers to question what was going on and was eventually arrested by Campus Safety for interfering in the officer’s investigation, according to a statement released by the university.
However, a video posted online by a spectator showed Campus Safety officers using excessive force when arresting the student, which resulted in outrage from the student community.
Talk of racial profiling and police force spread on social media and among students. A statement released by the university assured students this incident wasn’t race related; however, the video footage confirmed the use of force by the officers. Students even took action, trying to hold Campus Safety accountable for this incident by creating and circulating a petition to hold Campus Safety accountable, as well as holding a walkout and town hall meeting.
Unfortunately, these incidents aren’t uncommon. The use of excessive force by police officers has been an issue for many years and not just in the United States. Incidents like these can make people feel unsafe, even when next to those whose jobs are to “serve and protect” the public.
On Feb. 16, a police officer from Oakland, California wanted to visit a local coffee shop to meet the staff and have a cup of coffee. However, once he arrived, he was refused service. An employee told him the shop had a policy of asking police to leave for the emotional and physical safety of its customers and staff.
People shouldn’t be fearful of police officers because they’re the ones who are supposed to keep people safe and give the public some peace of mind. Because of events like the one that occurred on our own campus, people, such as employees of the Oakland coffee shop, are claiming they don’t feel safe around those who are meant to protect them and, as a result, are severing any sort of relationship with them, even commercial. And although the use of excessive force has caused this fear, trust needs to be restored so police officers can do the job they’re meant to: Keep people safe.
In order for this trust to be restored, a change needs to be made. Police officers need to reevaluate the ways in which they take action in situations, whether that be systematic retraining or taking other steps in reducing the need to resort to using excessive force. Of course, excessive force should never be used and holding police officers accountable when they have wrongly done so is important, and this has been reflected in Loyola students’ reaction. Once a conversation can be opened between a community and its police officers, a change can be made and trust restored.