A uniform malfunction

This is part one in a two-part series examining public sentiment on law enforcement.

Matthew Hoy

I received a very threatening phone call while at work a couple of weeks ago. I called Minneapolis police and insisted it wasn’t an emergency, but they sent two officers.

For 20 minutes, the officers told me that because the incident happened on the phone, they wouldn’t consider it a verbal threat. Every question I asked was met with a sigh, my concern for my own physical well-being proving to be an annoyance for the officers.

From last fall to August, there have been 439 complaints of police misconduct in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune reported. Though my situation wasn’t violent or extreme, it was a reminder of today’s negative cop culture.

The situation reminded me of a video posted recently on Upworthy of a young man who recorded his experience being frisked by police in New York. His cellphone recording is a harrowing listen.

The officers, who had stopped him minutes earlier, repeatedly threatened to punch him in the face. At one point in the video, they begin pushing him away from the road.

Examples like this are all too common. Police misconduct cases further disdain for law enforcement.

It seems everyone I know who isn’t a rich, white man or related to a police officer has a story or two about rude, unhelpful or abusive cops. As a result, my peers often resent the institution itself. It’s an adversarial relationship that some police officers, in a ridiculous twist, exacerbate.

Some law enforcement officers have decided to treat everyone like garbage, treat every situation like an inconvenience and solve every problem with hostility. This is in the name of creating a tough-on-crime attitude and ensuring that police remain safe from the people they are meant to be protecting.

This attitude pervades cop culture today. Some officers — and those who have lost respect for police — cast law enforcement as forceful, cold holders of power rather than the agency responsible for enforcing and protecting the rights of Americans.

If we are to remedy this extreme public relations problem, law enforcement must embrace independent oversight and recreate its image.

In part two of this column, I will explore various ideas on how they could do so.