How Others See Us

images-2The following is from the May 15, 2015 issue of “The Week.” These comments bear our thoughtful consideration. Why is it many Europeans see us and our police as overly aggressive?

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.

Have we been able to clearly see ourselves? We most certainly live today in a global community and are its citizens as well. What will be our contribution to this diverse community with regard to policing? What are we offering to the world in terms of the most fair and effective way to police a free society and its many diverse communities?


  1. Hi Chief,
    Interesting points of view from Europe, but I’d like to see/hear more about how they deal with their mentally ill. We (collectively, to include this blog) have been “artfully dodging” this issue. A mentally ill man (diagnosed) purchases a firearm, murders several innocent people (apparently not stopped by the process already in place) and we change a state flag in response. At some point short of changing the Constitution rights of law abiding citizens (keep your European gun laws-evidently they didn’t work well on a recent train in Belgium), we need to address this topic in an adult, lawful and safe manner.


    1. Absolutely, John. It is this “system-dialogue” that I preach. I have encouraged mental health advocates and practitioners to get into this discussion of police improvement. I am convinced that we can develop better systems and methods to respond to those among us who are mentally ill. A good friend of mine always reminds me, “It’s not about doing this or that, but about doing everything to improve the work we do!” Additionally, we must let data, not emotions, drive our discussions! Press on!


  2. Well, John obviously it seems that our armed law-biding citizens have been unsuccessful in preventing mass shootings, individual shootings, gang shootings, police brutaity and unjustified police shootings, and shootings being committed by ex-cops and cops off duty, so it seems that our 2nd Amendment and the weak or no gun laws in the red states has been a totally failure plus being a failure in the rest of the country as well.


  3. Hey John, Australia pass strict gun laws after they had a gun massacre shooting in 1996 and guess what the murder rate went down dramatically and they had no massive gun shooting for nearly 20 years.


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