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Why distrust police authority?

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One of the things which the troubles in Ferguson, Missouri have brought out is the question of distrust. So many people simply don't trust police authority. Why?

The are certainly socioeconomic factors involved, and there's no use denying that. Yet how far can that be used as an excuse for a lack of trust? Even conceding the point, don't we reach a time when they simply don't matter? Sure, crime is higher in high poverty areas than in the more affluent parts of the country. We get that. We get too that the temptation to commit crime is higher among the poor, and at times that's arguably a mitigating factor. But does that excuse the crime or the criminal?

We get as well that the higher crime areas attract greater police attention. But shouldn't they? It's where the crime is, isn't it? And it leads us to wonder if, maybe, just maybe, at least some of the mistrust is predicated on that: the people 'harassed' by the police know the cops will be looking for them because to some small degree they know they're in the wrong. They know the questions they're going to be asked will be ones they prefer not answer precisely because they understand that the only answers they can give are the wrong ones. And they know that certain actions are wrong: try stealing from a thief if you don't believe it.

Then we face what the Missouri Highway Patrol, Ferguson Police, National Guard and various federal authorities face with the nightly (though apparently decreasing) marches in Ferguson. Would you trust a group of angry looking young men walking towards you, their faces hidden with bandanas, with gunshots in the background and bottles tossed towards you? No? Then why should a cop?

We know that poverty and all the ills it brings isn't necessarily the fault of the poor. But we also know that crime cannot be excused merely because you're poor. And we think a lot of distrust of police authority comes from that and not from the poor being held down by the broader society. At some point, you're responsible for yourself. If you stay clear of trouble you won't likely fall into it. And most people, even the poor, understand basic right and wrong.

Very often, yes, distrust of the cops is born of fear. Yet that fear might only be of getting caught.

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