Just in the past few days we have seen news reports of several disturbing violent actions by law enforcement officials that seem completely out of proportion given the circumstances.
In South Carolina, a police officer shot a man in the back who was running from him. The suspect was wanted for non-payment of child support. The officer, who fired eight shots and only hit the victim with one of them, has been fired and charged with murder.
In San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriff's deputies were videotaped beating and kicking a man suspected of stealing a horse. The man, while no angel, did not appear to provoke such a vicious attack, as he surrendered without a fight.
Last month in Madison, Wis., an unarmed 19-year-old was shot and killed by a city police officer after assaulting the officer. The teen, Tony Robinson, had been jumping in and out of traffic and behaving bizarrely, but that in itself is certainly not reason for violent force.
These incidents follow the deaths of Anthony Hill in Atlanta, Eric Garner in Staten Island, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland (the boy was waving a toy gun around).
In December I commented on the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown, which led to extensive rioting and unrest. The unrest was triggered when a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson after the evidence overwhelmingly found the shooting was justified. What's more, even Attorney General Eric Holder's politicized Justice Department did not bring charges against Wilson.
However, the Justice Department's report on the Ferguson Police Department also found that numerous officers sent racist emails around, which gives credence to black Ferguson residents' claims that they have been treated unfairly for years. The city fired two police officials and a court clerk over the emails.
This disturbing pattern of rogue law enforcement officials needs to be addressed. It is true many cops are under extreme stress, fear for their lives and are frustrated with hardened criminals being put out on the streets after doing little time for serious crimes.
But it also seems there's a "gung-ho" contingent of officers whose machismo and abuse of authority gets the better of them. It's high time law enforcement agencies across the nation thoroughly evaluate their operations and root out the bad apples.