How Others See Us

UnknownThe following excerpts are from the May 15, 2015 issue of “The Week.” The comments come from editorial journalists in France, Ireland, Switzerland, and Germany. They should cause our thoughtful consideration. Why is it many Europeans see us in the following ways?

Le Figaro (France): “The sheer flagrance of police brutality against black Americans leaves one speechless. A single killing of an unarmed suspect would be unthinkable in a European country… The prevalence of guns among the population is part of the problem… Police are too quick to draw and use their weapons because they constantly fear being threatened by armed men.”

The Irish Times: “The utter breakdown in trust between the police and the policed has blighted U.S. cities. [This] is part of the so-called ‘broken-windows’ policing theory that encourages cops to crack down hard at the slightest hint of suspicious behavior. The resulting mass incarceration of young men of color has destroyed millions of lives. The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate… 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”

Neue Zurcher Zeitung (Switzerland): “Arrests which are the last resort for European police trained to defuse situations calmly are the very first tool for American police. This excessive and unwarranted belligerence has reduced the crime rate, but at the expense of black Americans civil rights. To restore those rights, U.S. police will have to transform their mentality,”

Handelsblatt (Germany): “[The U.S. police problem] is the paradox of limited government… Americans are used to police who regularly use excessive force… Americans tell themselves they have checks on government power. But in reality, they have produced a system where authority can shoot–or confiscate–first, then ask questions.”

The following, in summary, are their criticisms.

  • “Broken-Windows” policing.
  • Lack of gun control.
  • Overlooking rights of black Americans.
  • Arrest being the first, not last, resort.
  • Using excessive force.
  • Mass incarcerating blacks.
  • Few checks on governmental authority.

Are we able to clearly see ourselves? We live today in a global community and are its citizens as well. What will be our contribution to building a strong democracy in a diverse world? What do we offer the world in terms of the most fair and effective methods to select, train, equip, and provide police services to a community?

  • Are we out of step with the rest of the democratic world?


  1. That may be how folks in other countries see our police. But what about how we here at home see them?

    One of the things that harms the image of police is when people see them breaking the laws we are all supposed to obey. Little things like speeding, turning without signaling and using a cell phone when they are behind the wheel convey a separate and unequal situation. People are right to question why police who do that feel they are above the law.

    It seems small to point this out. But it looms large in how everyday police behavior shapes public attitudes.


    1. This is a very important observation. We have the technology and methodology today to survey citizen attitudes regarding police. I talk about it in my book, “Arrested Development” and how a police leader needs on-going information on how his or her officers are conducting business — especially from those who actually USE or RECEIVE police services — especially arrested persons!


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