Column: The media's twisted vision of police

Former tennis star James Blake discusses his mistaken arrest by the New York City Police Department during an interview, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. Video surveillance released Friday of the mistaken arrest shows a plainclothes police officer who has a history of excessive-force complaints grabbing Blake by the arm and tackling him to the ground. (Bryan R. Smith/AP)

Over the last year, there have been a number of calamities involving police brutality and this has been the focal point of all media headlines. The problem of aggressive and unreasonable officers does exist and it needs to be fixed. However, there are also several cops that have been killed in the line of duty by people they chose not to use excessive force on.

In May, a 25-year-old NYPD officer named Brian Moore was shot in the head by a man he pulled up next to on the street to question. Cold-blooded murders like this are horrible and they aren’t out of the question, as the public may believe. However, many are struck with feelings of paranoia, anxiety and distrust in the presence of police officers due to the media’s focus on them as a symbol of violence and fear.

A serious and deeply rooted race issue still exists in the United States. This underlying racism has been brought to light by these police brutality cases that have occurred over the last year such as what happened to Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Even if the officers who use excessive force are not targeting those of different races, the fact that families and friends of the victims believe it is a cause of racism confirms there is a problem. Whether or not these fatal incidents involving police are rooted in racism, they are unacceptable. Not all police officers are brutal as the media portrays, but a change needs to be made to the evaluation process in choosing those elected to be in law enforcement.

The Washington Post recently conducted a study examining fatal police shootings and those officers also shot in the line of duty. To counter popular opinion, this study confirms that half the victims of fatal shootings are white, while the other half are minorities. Eighty percent of the victims were armed. There were many instances where using lethal force was necessary, but also some when it was unavoidable in order to protect civilian lives. These instances are hardly ever mentioned on television, although they occur often.

Personally, driving by officers on the highway I do not feel safe, but rather paranoid. It's interesting how seeing a cop car seems to instill fear, rather than feelings of safety. This image of all cops being evil is largely because of the media’s portrayal of those men and women in the police force who do commit unforgivable homicide, and generalizing it to the entire work force. 

Police chiefs and superiors of field officers are extremely unhappy with the amount of unprovoked fatal shootings that have been on the rise in 2015. Jim Bueermann, a former police chief and president of the Washington-based police foundation, said that many shootings aren’t accurately tracked and work cannot be done to reduce them if they are not all recorded. His foundation is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving law enforcement.  

The police officers that do wrong are often the only ones under debate in our country, although most of those that have the badge are reputable and heroic individuals. 

A media story that circulated last week reported on an NYPD officer who tackled former tennis star James Blake in a mistaken attempt on restraining a different suspect. 

A witness misidentified James Blake as a man involved in a business of selling fraudulently purchased merchandise, and as a result officer James Frascatore tackled a nonresistant Blake to the ground. The tackle was apparently made in anticipation of the suspect fleeing, but in this situation it was completely unwarranted. This specific officer has been the target of four civilian complaints, and involved in civil lawsuits concerning his use of excessive force. 

The tackle on Blake has brought attention to this officer’s actions and Blake made a statement saying “this kind of police officer tarnishes the badge.” It is true that these officers as well as the media play a large part in developing the image of law enforcement, but the future identity of the men and women in the police force should be measured by their many honorable actions rather than few reckless and vehement ones.


Aly McTague is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyvia.mctague@uconn.edu.