It’s no secret that there are plenty of people in America who have a lot of contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s fine; those people are well within their rights to be loud, wrong and racist, just as I am within my rights to call them boot-licking beyotches who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. But what happens when lies are spread and propaganda is adopted by people in power? What if, say, an agency that trains law enforcement officers starts promoting dangerous falsehoods that could potentially affect anyone who dares to join the fight against systemic racism in policing? Well, it looks like one law enforcement training group is doing just that by circulating lying-ass documents that claim BLM is a terrorist group bent on overthrowing the government.
From the Associated Press:
The document distributed by the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association contains misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that could incite officers against protesters and people of color, critics said. It alleges Black Lives Matter and antifa, an umbrella term for leftist militants, are “revolutionary movements whose aims are to overthrow the U.S. government” and claims they are planning “extreme violence.”
The association in October sent a link to the 176-page paper, “Understanding Antifa and Urban Guerrilla Warfare,” in an email news update to its thousands of members. The document, labeled “restricted to law enforcement only,” is one of the few publicly available materials on its website. The Associated Press learned of the document from one of the policing organization’s members.
The group’s executive director, Harvey Hedden, defended the document, which he called one member’s opinion and open for critique and debate. He said the association supports the exchange of ideas and strategies to improve criminal justice training but does not endorse specific approaches.
Hedden argued that fact-checking the paper or restricting its distribution would amount to censorship and that its publication would allow for peer review by other trainers.
“There will always be differences of opinion on training issues but so long as the disagreements remain professional and not personal we do not censor these ideas,” he said. “I am willing to allow the trainer to evaluate the information themselves.”
He added, “Just like law enforcement, I am afraid BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others might be overgeneralizations.”
OK, so first of all: Fact-checking is not censorship. If a person says a thing, and I respond by saying, “Nah bruh, that’s not true, and here’s why,” I haven’t silenced said that person; I only challenged their idea. Restricting my right to do so would be censorship.
Now let’s unpack the statement: “Just like law enforcement, I am afraid BLM has earned some of these criticisms and others might be overgeneralizations.”
Listen: A civilian like myself can get up on social media—or even this platform—and say that cops ain’t shit, but I don’t have the power to police the practices and actions of police officers. ILEETA, on the other hand, is distributing false information to officers who are given the authority to police the general public—and pack their biases and ignorance right along with their batons and service weapons while they do it. So let’s not pretend this is a “what’s good for the goose” type of situation.
After all, we’re not talking about some rinky-dink association that has no real influence on law enforcement; we’re talking about an agency that hosts an annual conference it touts as the “largest gathering of law enforcement trainers in the world,” according to AP.
Anyway, legal experts, activists and others agree that it’s complete bullshit for a law enforcement training group to circulate a document like this.
More from AP:
Phillip Atiba Goff, a Yale University professor who is an expert on racial bias in policing, called the document dangerous, noting that the association is an important source of training materials for many small and midsize departments across the country.
“It’s stunning. It’s distressing in many ways. It’s untethered to reality,” said Goff, CEO of the Center for Policing Equity. “I worry that it leads to people dying unnecessarily.”
Goff also said he spoke with police officials who said they were “disturbed” by it.
Officials with racial justice organization Color of Change called on police departments to cut ties with ILEETA on Wednesday.
“This is disturbing to read but not at all surprising to me,” Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns for Color of Change, said. “This is the type of thinking that is sadly pretty prominent within police culture.”
And that’s the problem.