The murders of Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and the latest reported name of Daniel Prude, all have one story in common: their lives were ended by police officers. Moreover, there’s story after story, after story, of commonly white male police patrol workers violating the basic rights of blacks, both male and female. We read story after story about the actions of bad cops – who then go right back to work. So, how did the focus go from getting rid of bad police officers to defunding the police department as a whole?
I ask the question because the “defunding the police” movement is not working. We still have reports of black men being harassed and killed, and crime has went up because of the economic impact of Pandemic-related policies. And in many states where political officer holders ran on a platform of “defunding the police” they lost their election races. And in political polling, even among those who agree that too much is spent on police, the slogan “defunding the police” is derided. To me, “defunding the police” is another way of a segment of the population fearing to do the one thing that would turn around the problems African Americans have faced at the hands of bad police officers: get rid of them.
The new directive should not be to defund the police, but to just plain highlight, report on, and fire bad cops. The names of bad police officers should be house-hold known. Period. We must have a practice of using the considerable media system we have today to put the cyber form of a scarlet letter on bad cops. That keeps the objective of police reform simple, and removes the soft, granola, feel-good, soft-pedal, approach that comes with talks of removing police funding for social programs. By placing the focus on getting rid of bad cops, we will reform police departments in a way that can’t be done just by shifting money elsewhere.
We must get rid of bad cops.
The path to do this has been laid out for us in many ways. Take the findings of the reporting by National Public Radio, or NPR, in an effort to get to the bottom of the rash of racist police shootings of black men. NPR reports that, this year, it, and I quote:
“reviewed thousands of pages of job applications, personnel records, use-of-force reports, citizen complaints, court records, lawsuits, news releases, witness statements and local and state police investigative reports to examine the backgrounds of the officers and analyze details of each shooting. We also interviewed use of force experts, criminologists, police, lawyers, prosecutors and relatives of victims.”
And this is what NPR learned:
• At least six officers had troubled pasts before being hired onto police departments, including drug use and domestic violence. One officer had been fired from another law enforcement agency, and at least two others were forced out.
• Several officers were convicted of crimes while on the force, such as battery, and resisting and obstructing, but kept their jobs. In one instance, officials in a tiny Louisiana parish repeatedly fired and rehired a deputy who got into trouble with the law: three times over 30 years, records show.
• More than two dozen officers have racked up citizen complaints or use-of-force incidents. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., police officer had 82 reviews over use-of-force incidents but was never found in violation; a Vineland, N.J., officer had more than three dozen use-of-force incidents over a five-year period.
• Several officers have violated their department policies and been cited for ethics violations, including a Hollywood, Fla., officer accused of trying to steer business to his company, and an Arizona state trooper accused of misuse of state property.
What NPR learned is that black men were being killed by bad cops. So, logically, the movement should be, indeed, must be, to get bad cops off the police forces of American cities. Moreover, good cops should be known, rewarded, and praised as super people. In other words, we need to build a giant media system that forms a shield around good cops, and encourages good police work. Down with bad cops, up with good cops. Bad cops out, good cops in. A simple plan that can restore trust in our people in blue.
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