Watch a simple explanation of why it's so hard to improve policing in the U.S.

Reforming our police system seems like a no-brainer. So why does very little usually come of plans to do just that?

With more and more stories of police brutality making their way across the news, you might figure something has to happen eventually. I mean, on a very basic level, the police are meant to serve the public, so there should be some level of accountability ... right?

Yeah. About that:


That's right: Police in 14 states get their own bill of rights separate from the rest of us.

In Louisiana, they even get protection against discrimination despite being a job that people willfully enter into and not a class of people being unfairly punished for their natural-born traits.

But the worst part about it? None of this is new.

Back in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a commission for justice reform that specifically addressed policing in black communities.

There was even a plan in place to weed out cops who were racist or violent. And yet, here we are, 50 years later. Cops who are disciplined for behavior are still formally protected, to the point where they're guaranteed good recommendations at other police departments even after they've been fired for — you guessed it! — racism and violence.

None of this is particularly surprising either, however, when you consider that organized policing at many times throughout history has been used to make sure that slaves, laborers, and the poor all "knew their place." As formal police departments replaced constables, sheriffs, and local militias in the mid-to-late 1800s, their jobs were less focused on merely keeping the peace and reacting to incidents and more on stopping people before they even had a chance to disrupt the proper "order" of things, whatever that might mean.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Police arrest a civil rights protester in Newark, N.J., in 1967. Photo by Evans/Getty Images.

The craziest part about all of these police powers and protections? The police don't necessarily need them.

2015 was the safest year for police in record history. American crime rates are also at a 25-year low. And on the incredibly rare occasion that an offending officer is actually brought before a grand jury? There's still just a slim chance they'll be indicted for a formal trial, thanks in part to their cozy relationships with the district attorney's office.

The streets are generally safer today, and individual officers are pretty much immune to all potential consequences. Yet police departments have spent billions of dollars on armor, guns, and other military equipment — and are still pushing for more. SWAT units in particular have quadrupled in the same period that crime has gone down. That might sound like a correlation worth considering, but statistics from the ACLU suggest that SWAT aren't particularly effective. (Some of them also claim to be immune to public records laws, too.)

When you treat people like they live in a war zone, it makes them feel like they live in a war zone and not a community. That makes things worse for everyone. Photo by Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images.

As John Oliver once said: "The phrase isn't 'It's just a few bad apples; don't worry about it.' The phrase is 'A few bad apples spoil the barrel.'"

There's a cultural impulse in the states to always clarify that most individual officers are well-intentioned, upstanding citizens. That may be true. But that also enables a system that allows corrupt and abusive behaviors to continue. And the fact that we're so afraid to outright criticize the enforcers of the state says a lot about the troubling power dynamics at play.

Fortunately, there are places like Denver, Colorado; like Dallas, Texas; and like Washington state, where law enforcement officers are taking it upon themselves to clean up their acts and make their communities stronger and safer, together.

Let's just hope that other police departments follow suit.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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