Saturday, July 24, 2010

Symptoms of a dying community

A Vancouver policeman is currently being investigated for shoving a woman with Cerebral Palsy to the ground while she tried to walk past him on the street in the east side of the city. Even more unsettling then the violent shove was the fact that the officer wasn't alone. Two other officers were with him at the time and as the woman slammed into the pavement, all three officers merely stood over her before turning on their heels and walking away leaving her to get up on her own. The attack was unprovoked and the response to correct the action was non-existant.

The officer has since written a letter of apology to the woman claiming that he perceived she may have been reaching for his gun as she brushed against his belt walking past. I don't believe that for a second. I think something deeper is going on here. Vancouver's East Side is known for it's homeless population and it's low-income residents. Poverty, drug addiction and homelessness are common in this area of the city and I think for the officers who routinely work this beat, they see the people around them who are poor, disabled and homeless as less human. They don't see any good in the community they're working in and it shows in their attitude.

What they see are the by-products of a poor area of the city and they assume that the social problems they're encountering daily are strictly the fault of those who have them. Perhaps they think of themselves as janitors, running about the city cleaning up the riff-raff before the horn toots at the end of the day and they return to their comfortable, sanitary and affluent lifestyles. It's all in a day's work for them. . 

I think the woman was pushed because she was seen by the officers as a piece of garbage they're tired of seeing in a job where power and authority can sometimes be taken to an unhealthy extreme. The evidence for this attitude comes from their desensitized reaction to pushing a woman with a disability to the ground, standing over her like it's her fault for occupying space and then turning and walking away without a second thought. It really makes you wonder how vigilant these officers are in policing the places they already think are too far gone. What does their job mean to them? It's certainly a question I'd be asking myself if I were one of these police officers.

There's an element of fear that goes along with having feelings of apathy and disrespect. It's easy to dismiss the poor, the homeless and the disabled as people. But, by doing so I think people are giving into their own fears of what getting to know them would actually mean. If they knew what they cared about, what their talents were or what potential they had then they couldn't as easily dismiss them and classify them as the bottom feeders of society. 

Attitudes of fear, apathy and outright disrespect kept these officers them from finding out the positives and it also kept them from doing whatever they could to accept, support and assist their communities. Essentially, their attitudes are keeping them from doing their jobs and in this case the only people who suffer are those who were already suffering from the start. 

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