Of police and men

Every now and then, I am startled by the police presence here in Burlington.Walking down the streets of the city last Friday, I could not help but be astounded by the sheer number of glimmering blue and red lights about, and the equally startling number of college students howling in the streets at the injustices just visited upon them.This turbulent interplay between police and students, which escalates every year with the coming of warm weather, is symptomatic of deep divisions between the city of Burlington and the students of the University, which can probably be blamed on both sides.Burlington’s desire to control the student population is understandable — noise, littering and vandalism are not the sorts of behavior that any city should be expected to put up with — but its reaction has been decidedly less than fair.Talking to off-campus residents about the matter yields numerous and passionate complaints about police conduct — especially with regard to the so-called “quality of life” patrols that crop up every now and then.While most officers with whom these students interact may be, by and large, good people, there seems to be a significant number of officers who are all too happy to abuse their positions of power over students.Why some police officers choose to behave in this way is a point of debate, but I think it best to describe these officials as having little regard for the damage they are doing to the student-police relationship and, by extension, our community.As for the victims of these individuals, this damage can come to be a source of power — for what reason would a police sergeant want officers under them to be continually encouraging resistance and resentment on behalf of the city’s residents?But students need to make this clear to the police leadership.We need action beyond yelling in the streets and fuming in private.We need to open lines of communication, which is why I am now writing this.I would like to implore that all students who encounter police who don’t abide by their credo “to serve and protect” to immediately communicate this to their higher-ups.The process of filing a written complaint against an officer is surprisingly easy —the police station is air-conditioned, staffed by overwhelmingly friendly men and women and right on the way to North Beach.If these problems are indeed being caused by a small handful of officers, then it shouldn’t take long for the complaints to pile up. We just need to become motivated to file them.