The movement to defund police combined with the overall sentiment that sweeping change is needed for all of law enforcement has apparently left cops with some issues of self-confidence and apparent self-pity over their uncertain futures. Police leaders were somehow having trouble coming to grips with the fact that everyday citizens are fed up with their tactics that seem to typically result in death following encounters with unarmed Black people.
All of this was unfolding against the backdrop of nationwide protests following the horrific police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Lousiville as well as the botched law enforcement coverup of the vigilante lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, among a long list of other victims. Police have many times responded to peaceful protesters with violence, heightening concerns about their ability to enforce the law without resorting to force as a first option.
Cops were trying to distance themselves from Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis officer who killed Floyd by using his knee to apply deadly pressure into the neck of the handcuffed and unarmed Black man who was lying face-down on a street. However, police are the first ones to scream the “Blue Lives Matter” in solidarity and are notorious for sticking to the unwritten “blue wall of silence” code that typically looks the other way when any police misconduct happens.
The practice has resulted in many cases of misconduct going unpunished, leaving certain members of the public afraid of any interaction with police at all.
However, despite all the violence and death left in their wakes, the police are somehow saying they’re the ones who feel defeated. Robert Harris, a Los Angeles police officer and leader of the department’s union, told the Washington Post that “the morale is low” at the LAPD because of what he described as mistreatment from an ungrateful public.
“I’ve had members say they feel like a Vietnam veteran returning home to a country that hates them,” Harris told the Washington Post. “It’s not that our members expect thank-yous. It’s the difficulty in knowing that the protesters want to be treated with equality and fairness and respect, and what they’re protesting for isn’t afforded to the officers themselves.” He went on to use the most ironic choice of words when he said that his fellow officers have “taken quite a beating.”
Nevermind the very racist, brutal and corrupt history the LAPD has with policing Black communities, including and especially the infamous beating of motorist Rodney King in 1991 that set off a series of riots in the area. The LAPD still has not reckoned with that past and, judging from Harris’ comments, seems intent on glossing over that very real history that must be addressed before any progress mutual toward trust can be established.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reported that the LAPD was investigating more than 50 instances of police misconduct reported from protests over Floyd’s death and against police racism and violence.
Harris’ apparently warped sense of reality was outdone by the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, who also seemed to ignore history as he was in disbelief that anyone would shun cops and not welcome them.
“Law enforcement is the only profession where you get rocks, bricks and molotov cocktails thrown at you merely because you’re in the same chosen profession as someone else who did something horribly wrong thousands of miles away,” Steven Casstevens said without any apparent trace of irony. “I can’t believe that’s where we are. Aren’t we better than that as a country?”
Those comments one day after the NYPD union president Mike Meara descried the media for treating the city’s police officers like “animals and thugs.” Meara repeatedly said that he and his officers are not Derek Chauvin and should not be punished for the former cop’s deadly actions against one Black man. He sounded exasperated during a press conference on Monday when he said he read a news story that, “In the Black community, mothers are worried about their children getting home from school without being killed by a cop.” Meara followed that up with a tone-deaf question and decidedly false statement: “What world are we living in? That doesn’t happen!”
All of the above is why House Democrats introduced landmark sweeping legislation aimed at reforming the ways in which police departments enforce the nation’s laws. Led by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 ambitiously aims to end police brutality, hold police accountable, improve transparency in policing and create meaningful, structural change when it comes to how law enforcement does their jobs.
But in order for it to get signed into law, it must pass a Republican-laden Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump, who once famously implored police to “Please don’t be too nice when putting “thugs into the back of a paddy wagon.”
This is America.