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Essays on Issues, Ideas and Reflections on the Times. Published now and
then. Opinions pro or con are welcome.

Is it acceptable for police to whip people?

North Miami Beach, FL January 22, 2010
A.H. Schectman

          Over  the years I have seen pictures of police officers in other countries wading into milling crowds of people who were rioting or demonstrating using whips or sticks or rods to control them.  I was disturbed this morning to see a picture of a Haitian man wielding a pistol threatening a cringing woman. He also had either a whip or stick and appeared to be wearing a police officer’s cap.

           I could not accept a dog being beaten by its owner and certainly do not think beating people is humane. Using dogs to cause fear in people to control people is inhuman, also.

           Crowd control seems to be necessary when authorities believe ordinary citizens are in danger.  Certainly huge numbers of people who are demonstrating for some cause or another can become frightening and authorities sometimes react with too much response and too little thought.  When mobs form and some individuals become violent, decisions must be made quickly by those in authority. Over- reaction is often the rule and individual police who are in harm’s way often rely on weapons they carry.  United States officers as far as I know do not carry whips or sticks and do not routinely beat unruly citizens.  If they do they should and sometimes are indicted for  brutality.

           Turning water hoses (water cannons) on crowds sounds less harmful although the force of  water is like fists and and kicks.  Hurling cans of tear gas is reminiscent of gas warfare by soldiers.  I guess I’m not happy with any violence by people in authority against ordinary citizens.  It is also a proper question to ask; who will  benefit by using extreme measures to control crowds? I am struck by the notion and those pictures that governments  (police) make war on its citizens. This is wrong here and is wrong in other countries.


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