At 5 years old, I became a victim of excessive use of force when I was brutally attacked by Santa Claus.
Perhaps it was my mother who told me this, but I distinctly remember believing as a child that Santa would blow pepper in your eyes if you didn’t go to sleep by a certain time on Christmas Eve. One night, on Dec. 24, my eyes started itching. It eventually escalated into a strong burning sensation, and I knew who had done it.
As someone who always made an effort to be nice, I was sure that I hadn’t violated any of the “naughty” laws. My family didn’t even celebrate Christmas, but I was 100 percent sure that Jolly Old St. Nick had violated my constitutional right to stay up until 11 p.m. I don’t want to make this about race, but my research shows that this rarely happens to white kids. Black Eyes Matter.
I am now 30 percent sure that my eye troubles were caused by something else. But if you think my belief in Pepper Spray Santa is stupid, I once believed something almost as stupid. I believed in the totally fabricated myth of the brave men and women who risk their lives to protect and serve us.
There is no such thing as “good cops.”
I stopped believing in good cops long before the city of Milwaukee released the police bodycam video of the violent arrest of Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown. I was aware of this before I saw the Philando Castile video. Long before Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher or Sandra Bland, I had stopped believing in good cops.
But now I know it. And you should, too.
Sure, I’ve seen cops do good things like give homeless men their shoes and do the Harlem Shake. But no one is bad all the time. I bet Donald Trump compliments his Secret Service agents on the way downstairs to the room in the White House basement filled with kittens for him to kick. Even Satan had a nice singing voice.
But doing a good thing doesn’t mean a person is good. I know racist people who have black friends. Just because Bill Cosby never dropped a Quaalude in Phylicia Rashad’s drink doesn’t mean he’s innocent. And every bit of empirical evidence points to the fact that there are no good cops.
We don’t have to venture far from the incident between Brown and the Milwaukee Police Department to prove this.
Let’s imagine that the cops who beat and tased Brown on Jan. 26 were the only “bad apples” in the department. The footage of that incident wasn’t sent by carrier pigeon from the International Space Station; it was recorded on a police bodycam and was available immediately.
It is impossible to believe that no one saw that footage until last night. Or last week. Or last month. The officers’ supervisors knew what was on that tape, and those officers continued to work. The Milwaukee police chief watched the video and knew that the officers on the scene said in their reports that Brown was physically aggressive. He knew that was a lie.
A good cop would have arrested those officers for filing a false report, at the very least. If there were good cops on the scene, they would have reported the offending officers. If the Milwaukee Police Department had a single good cop on its force, those “bad cops” would have been reluctant to brutalize Sterling in public.
In February of this year, a study on the Milwaukee Police Department’s traffic and pedestrian stops by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that traffic and pedestrian stop rates in Milwaukee are more than six times higher for black people than for white people. The data revealed that black and Latino drivers were searched more than whites by Milwaukee cops, but were 20 percent less likely to have drugs or illegal substances.
In fact, every similar study done on police departments finds the same results.
- A study of traffic stops by law enforcement officers in metropolitan Nashville, Tenn., shows that police stop 1,282 black people per 1,000. That’s right. They stop more black people than there are in the city.
- In Philadelphia, an ACLU report shows that, even after controlling for other factors, 69 percent of the city’s police stops were for black drivers, even though they compose 48 percent of the population.
- In San Francisco, data shows that black drivers are eight times more likely to be searched with consent than white drivers, but white drivers are more likely to have contraband.
- In New York City, 91 percent of all the people who were stopped and frisked by the Police Department in 2017 were black or Latino.
In fact, when the New York Times examined 14 different law enforcement divisions in four different states, black drivers were more likely to be searched without their consent in every single one of them. But the more stunning revelation was that in 13 of the 14 divisions, it was white people who were more likely to be found with contraband.
The only reasonable rationale for this is blatant racism and abuse of power. When this is combined with the disproportionate killing of unarmed black people by police, it is impossible to reach the conclusion that most police are bad.
Because if most police were bad, that would mean the few good ones would either arrest or report the bad ones. This never happens, which means that the police officers who stay silent are complicit.
If I’m part of a bank-robbing gang, according to the law, I am a bank robber. Just as there is no legal difference between the person who drives the getaway car and the ones who put the gun to the bank teller’s face, there is no difference between the police officers who abuse and those who wear the same uniform as the abusers and turn their heads the other way.
The ones who tased Sterling Brown are bad. The ones who co-signed the police report are bad. The ones who watched the video and let abusive cops go back to patrolling the public are bad.
And, yes, I know that even though the numbers and data don’t show it, there is a slight statistical chance that there are a few police officers who are oblivious to their fellow officers’ abuse. There may be some who break the blue wall of silence when they see instances of corruptions. There very well may be a singular instance of an actual good cop.
And yes, Virginia, there may actually be a Santa Claus.
I’ll believe it when I see it.