I was on the balcony at Tricky Falls a few years ago, talking to some guys who had come down from Las Cruces to see the Black Joe Lewis show. A police cruiser drove down South El Paso Street, and in the course of the conversation that followed, I said “Cops in El Paso aren’t that bad.” They looked at me like I was crazy.
I was crazy. I’m an old white guy. Even before the pandemic made me a recluse, I rarely left he house after dinner. My interactions with the popo are limited.
All I know is what I read in the paper, and the paper has it’s own bias. Good cops rarely get any ink.
I haven’t always been an old white guy. I haven’t always been a recluse. And I haven’t always gotten a lot of respect from El Paso’s finest.
Some cops are bullies. They think that civilians are the bottom rung of the militaristic hierarchy they’ve enrolled in. They think they outrank you.
I understand that there are situations where a police officer might feel the need to establish his dominance. You don’t want to let a group of citizens turn into a mob. But sometimes it’s just a cop flexing. They abuse their authority.
I think mostly, in El Paso, the police just want to do their jobs and get home. They don’t feel like they’ve been dropped behind enemy lines and they’ve got to fight their way back to the station, like you see in some movies set in Baltimore or New Jersey.
But the stories that make the paper?
Shooting a handcuffed prisoner in the back in the sallyport of the County Jail?
Shooting some skinny kid in the back in his own living room because he asked you to leave and you didn’t want to?
You can try to spin it any way you want, but that’s not right. Let’s strip those cases down to the bare facts, and try to keep the union lawyers out of it.
Official abuse isn’t just about race. Discrimination is usually more about class and socioeconomic status than the color of your skin. Rich people of any ethnicity are more likely to be treated well by the authorities than poor people, regardless of their heritage.
There should be some accountability, but as soon as the public starts asking questions, the situation devolves into an Us versus Them mentality. The union fights hard to get those officers’ off the hook, if the officers get disciplined at all.
And the public doesn’t even hear about it till someone dies. How many cases of extrajudicial “street justice” go unreported here in El Paso?
Why don’t El Paso Police wear body cameras? Body cameras would allow police to defend themselves from unfounded allegations. And body cameras would do a lot to assure the public that the police will behave.
I don’t think that police in El Paso are bad. But I’m an old white guy. And if young people in our community think that there’s something wrong, then we should listen to them.