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Friday, June 5, 2009

Police in Camden

Article in today's CP about protesters Thursday afternoon who called out the State Police that patrol in Camden for their brutal tactics. I have no idea whether the protesters have a legitimate beef or not. I have no idea if the State Police in Camden who patrol with the Camden PD are brutal or not. I don't generally see much police activity in my little corner of the city. But the validity of the protests is not the focus of my concern today.

I read 7 full pages of comments on this article - 64 posts when I read them. All but one or two were filled with judgment and spewed hate towards Camden, the protesters, the slanted anti-cop article author, and on and on. I'm betting that 99% of these comment writers, if not 100%, don't live in Camden and base their remarks on their own biased views that are inextricably linked to racism. I can just hear their responses now....doesn't matter if drug dealers are black, white, or purple - if they deal drugs, they are scum and deserve to be treated as such. Trouble is, there are very few white or purple drug dealers in Camden. They mostly are black and brown. Therefore, you have to understand the racial target that is embedded in the criticism. Drug violence is just a window dressing for these comment writers to bash people of color and Camden is a centralized location of people of color in which to do it.

Every day the CP has a race-based story in Camden - crime, public housing, unemployment, violence, school dropouts, arson, housing mess, etc. While these topics are not racially based topics, in Camden, they are necessarily going to be race-based. In a city that is 98% people of color, any story is based in racial overtones. Doesn't mean you don't report events. But the CP has some real responsibility here to be journalists when they report and provide context. Is another murder in Camden really news? Sure,it is. And when you get to point out the mean streets of this city as the context it becomes a feeding frenzy for the comment writers who spew the same crap daily.

This is a city, not a prison. Police in THIS city need to work to protect and serve, not patrol like prison guards. I feel sorry for the cops in Camden because they are put into an adversarial position by the way they are forced to do their jobs. They sit in cars, respond to calls, and function as anonymous guards. Of course their job is dangerous and of course they must treat all people on the streets as suspicious.

The question to be asked is why does this continue? Who is determining that Camden should be treated this way? And don't even think for a minute that this is the only way to do policing. Read the comments on the news stories. They reflect the powers that be that have determined that Camden must be kept in line by force (state takeover, state police, state COO). No one outside of Camden is stepping up to say let's try a different way. It's much easier to just bash the city relentlessly.

I see these protesters as people who are stepping up to say, let's try something else. They may not be eloquent as they say it, but they represent what no one outside Camden will allow.

1 comment:

Sandy Price said...

Food for thought: