There are a host of issues that have to be addressed to effect effective police reform: overcriminalization, lack of transparency and accountability, union-negotiated protections, racism, and so on. In some states there's also the issue of self-defense. As a life-long resident of New Jersey, it always made me uncomfortable that the local super market could hire someone licensed to carry a firearm to protect their store but I was not permitted a license to carry a firearm to protect myself or my family. These, I suppose, are progressive values: you can exercise a right when you have the wealth to influence the state. New Jersey has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. But these laws, in New Jersey and elsewhere, rarely apply to law enforcement, on or off-duty. New York state recently passed new anti-gun legislation they forgot to exempt all police from and worked diligently to correct their mistake.
This disparity between the right to bear arms for the "civilian" and the right to bear arms for government agents is another issue that makes the questions of police reform so "complex" because it contributes to the sense that police officers and other government employees are a different class of citizen, with different rights and privileges, than those of us who pay their salaries.
Take this not unique attitude a cop in San Jose, now suspended over his comments, had no fear sharing publicly. Via CBS News:
In one of his tweets, [Officer Phillip] White said: "Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter."
In another, he said he would be off-duty at the movies with his gun if anyone "feels they can't breathe or their lives matter."
The tweets and hashtag played on protest slogans "I can't breathe" and "black lives matter."
Efforts to reach White through the San Jose Police Officer's Association were not successful.
The tweets and White's Twitter account have been deleted amid a social media firestorm over the comments. White's department, union and a college where he coached basketball all condemned the comments.
White was suspended with pay and not fired, not just because of the police officer's association but because California actually has enshrined job security for cops and other public employees into its state laws, be they unionized or not.
White talks about his "God given" and "law appointed" right to use lethal force in self-defense, confusing natural rights with government privileges not just because he's probably not that intelligent but also because of the systematic effort in this country by the establishment to confuse rights and privileges while curtailing natural rights like the right to bear arms from self-defense as much as they can get away with.
In California, Phillip White, who saw nothing wrong with going on social media to announce his right to defend himself and his family using lethal force in the context of peaceful protesters, and other law enforcement officials across the state enjoy the right to defend themselves and their families, on or off duty, using a service weapon paid for by taxpayers who the state treats like criminals when it comes to exercising the right to self-defense.
Parity between the rights and privileges of citizens and the rights and privileges of government employees is a crucial first step toward any kind of substantive change in the attitudes held by too many cops.