Maybe There Are No Good Cops?

If there are good ones, they need to speak up.

A protester stands with arms raised near a line of officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in riot gear Sept. 20, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C.
A protester stands with arms raised near a line of officers from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in riot gear Sept. 20, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images

In the wake of the police-shooting deaths of Terence Crutcher, Tyre King, Keith Lamont Scott and (insert the name of the next victim here), there will undoubtedly be quickly assembled news panels with ex-cops and former police officials regurgitating the same stale arguments. As they bombard media outlets with the usual litany of excuses meant to placate the disturbed mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles of future potential victims, perhaps the most-oft-repeated staple in the bucket of bulls–t will be the reminder to the rabble-rousing public that “not all cops are bad cops.”

As the great orator and philosopher Yeezy of Illinois once said: “How, Sway?”

If we apply the same standards of justice and law to police officers that we use for every criminal organization, terrorist group or gang that ever existed, we can only arrive at one conclusion:

All cops are bad.

This is not a pronouncement wrapped in hyperbole. It is as sound as the solution to a basic math problem. It is as obvious as sunshine at day and darkness at night. It is founded on the simple reasoning of human nature, legal precedent and commonsense logic.

The first line of defense in absolving the police officers who choke cigarette sellers or shoot reachers for wallets is usually the representatives of the police unions. They are unfailingly dedicated to the side of police shooters, no matter how apparent the guilt. These defenders of the dealers of death are selected by the police bodies at large and paid by all cops. They are union officials emboldened to do this specifically.

The friendly constable who helped you change your flat tire on the side of a Cleveland highway gave part of his salary to defend the man who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice two seconds after he saw him playing with a BB gun. The cute officer who gave you directions to the Empire State Building paid the attorney’s fees for the lawyer who freed the man who hopped on Eric Garner’s back and clamped down on his windpipe until his heart stopped.

If you sat home, committed no act of violence but sent $7 to ISIS, you would be arrested as a terrorist because you would be guilty of aiding the enemies of America. And yet, even though every cop in Chicago aided and abetted the policeman who put a bullet into the head of Rekia Boyd by paying for him to walk free on the grounds that—get this—it was intentional, so therefore it could not be reckless, we have been fooled into holding them guiltless.

If a well-meaning, good-hearted citizen sat in the back of a room while his cohorts planned a murder, he would legally be a co-conspirator—and therefore a murderer—even if he didn’t pull the trigger. Like the cop who backed up Michael Slager’s story and signed the police report with the lie that said Walter Scott reached for Slager’s Taser, even though he had already been shot in the back while running away. Or the 16 police officers on the scene who saw the murder of Laquan McDonald and said nothing during the year before the video was released. Only one man pulled the trigger, but they are all murderers.

Maybe there are no good cops.

If there were good cops, one of the Connecticut state troopers would have been reluctant to conspire with other officers to concoct charges against a man with a legal gun as they were caught on video. If there were good cops, one of the cops in the same van as Freddie Gray would have said, “Slow down.” A good cop would have strapped him in well. If any one of the six officers found innocent of his murder, or the 11 who interacted with him during his arrest and detention, were good cops, they might have raised the question of why he was arrested even though he had committed no crime.

It is difficult to believe that there are good cops who genuinely want to protect and serve but who also stay silent when fellow officers with predilections for racism or violence are not called out on the carpet. The cop who shot Tamir Rice had a documented history of instability in pressure situations, yet no other officer pointed it out. Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who strangled Eric Garner,  had been sued three times for violating the rights of black men but still wore a badge and carried a gun. There are men in white hoods who never light crosses on lawns or tie nooses around necks, but if you see them in uniform, you just know they’re Klansmen.

Let’s cast aside the incendiary statements and look objectively at an organization whose members have done the following:

If you saw those facts, you’d call it one of the most corrupt, villainous organizations in America. We know that this organization kills blacks more often than it kills white people. It is a fact that police officers arrest more black people for dealing drugs, even though more white people actually sell drugs. One cannot dispute the fact that black drivers are stopped by police more often and, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, are three times more likely to be searched. That is the definition of systemic racism. An organization that is inherently corrupt and racist is—at the very minimum—bad.

Maybe all the people who wear police uniforms aren’t black-hearted villains. It would be too easy to say that. But it is not incumbent upon black people to believe the caveat thrown in our faces that “not all cops are bad cops.” Tell that to Mike Brown’s mom. Whisper it in the ear of Korryn Gaines’ son. Write it on the wall of the cell where Sandra Bland hung.

It is the responsibility of the mythical “good cops” to rid their departments and precincts of the pariahs; it is not ours. If they do not do so, then it is absolutely fair to lump them in with the rest of the men and women who wear the same uniform. They have the burden of proving to us that they are not all murderers, rapists and abusers of freedom.

Until then, I’ll just believe what I see.

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