There has been a lot of news reporting of police killings lately, and across social media, many people have been promoting the #bluelivesmatter or #policelivesmatter hashtags as a means of bringing awareness to the issue. These hashtags are an attempt to mimic, usurp and discredit the #blacklivesmatter movement, and stand as not only a complete misunderstanding of what the Black Lives Matter movement is about, but are also indicative of a false narrative being played out by politicians and the media which suggests that there is an epidemic of police officers being murdered across America.
In fact, police deaths while on duty are actually lower than at the same time last year, and the annual numbers have been declining across the past couple of decades. But aside from the false notion that being a police officer in America is more dangerous than ever before, the use of a “blue lives matter” hashtag is problematic because it represents a fundamentally flawed way of looking at a movement like Black Lives Matter.
First of all, the Black Lives Matter movement is not about suggesting that other lives don’t matter. People who are quick to suggest that #alllivesmatter also make this same critical mistake in categorizing the BLM movement as one that puts black lives above others. The BLM movement is merely trying to suggest that there is a problem of disproportionate police violence and aggression carried out against blacks that is under-reported in the media and ignored by the public. The idea is not that black lives matter more, but simply that society undervalues black lives in comparison to others, as demonstrated by instances like the deaths of Eric Garner or Sandra Bland, or a plethora of other cases in which minor infractions somehow resulted in people dying either at the hands of police or while in police custody.
Second of all, using a hashtag to say that police lives matter, in the context of something like the Black Lives Matter movement, is suggesting that the media and public ignore the instances when police officers are killed on duty. Which is an insult to our collective intelligence. When a police officer is injured or killed while on the job, there is already massive public outcry and the efforts to apprehend the suspects in those cases exceeds the efforts that are usually undertaken when the victim is an ordinary citizen. How many times have we heard the expression “a manhunt is underway” when a police officer is murdered? Compare that to the way regular cases are handled. Look at the funeral processions that are run to honor fallen officers. In addition, the punishments for cop killers are far harsher than those for the average person. The bottom line is that there is no shortage of sympathy or attention given to victims of violence when the subject is a police officer.
The killing of police officers is tragic and should be something that we pay attention to. So, yes, of course, in a literal sense, police lives matter. But so does knowing the truth in the face of hysteria and misinformation, and not succumbing to the ignorance that is spread by those who want to discredit a valid political movement that is trying to highlight a very real problem in America.
Photo credit – Pixabay.com/BruceEmmerling
It was announced earlier today that (now former) Texas police officer Eric Casebolt, a.k.a. “Starsky” or the next incarnation of “Paul Blart,” has resigned from the police force, after video was posted online showing him throw a bikini-clad teenage girl to the ground and later pull his gun on other unarmed youths. In case you missed it, said video is below:
The fact that America’s most currently famous barrel-roller was allowed to voluntarily resign, and was not fired for his conduct, points to the ongoing reality that police officers in this country are routinely not held accountable for their misconduct.
And, misconduct it was. If you watch the video, you will see that Casebolt not only arrives at the scene in an amped-up, overly aggressive manner, but that he also continues to escalate the situation and curse at the kids, even while they stand idly by, not provoking anyone. The girl he ended up grabbing and throwing to the ground appears to actually have been leaving when he goes over to her and brings her back, because apparently in his world, young black girls aren’t allowed to express discontent with an over-zealous cop who thinks he’s acting out a real-life “Grand Theft Auto” mission.
Nope, resignation is not enough for Casebolt. He should have been fired, which would have had more severe real-life consequences for his lack of professionalism and outright brutality. By resigning, he is more likely to be able to get a job with another police force, and most likely keeps his pension. Let’s be real here. Anybody else working in the private sector would have received a much harsher punishment for this kind of behavior. And there should be criminal charges brought against him. While it probably wouldn’t result in much of a conviction or sentence, it would send a message that this kind of thing is unacceptable and unbecoming of the police forces that taxpayers foot the bill for. Even if a lawsuit ends up being filed in this case, it is the taxpayer who will pay up, not Casebolt.
As it is now, Casebolt will be free to move on in life without much in terms of repercussions for manhandling a young girl and basically endangering the lives of everyone in his immediate surroundings. I think if “Paul Blart 3” ends up getting made, he has made a pretty strong case for a leading role.
Over the past year in supposedly post-racial America, we have seen some glaring examples of racist viewpoints running the gamut from an elderly billionaire like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling secretly recorded telling his then-mistress not to bring black people to his games, to college-age youngsters in the University of Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity engaged in a racist sing-along on a bus. These repulsive displays of bigotry caused outrage among many Americans, and rightfully so.
However, while reading Facebook comments pertaining to the recorded chants of the SAE members proclaiming that “there will never be a n____” among their brothers, I came across a critical observation made from a former colleague regarding how American society and the media treat examples of racist attitudes from individuals versus institutional racism, as well as the consequences (or lack thereof) that come along with them.
The “bus o’ bigotry” incident of SAE led to the University of Oklahoma launching an immediate investigation into whether the people in the video are actually students from the university, and threatening to kick the fraternity off the campus if that were the case. That didn’t matter, though. The chapter was promptly shut down by SAE leadership anyway. Donald Sterling was forced by the NBA to sell the Clippers, and received a lifetime ban from the league. All in all, fairly clear indicators that such blatant displays of racism are not going to be tolerated and are unwelcome is today’s America.
Yet, there were also recent examples of both individual and institutional racism that didn’t seem to ignite as much of a response from the American public as the ones mentioned above, nor did they have immediate consequences that were as severe. At least not for the institutional part.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a report weeks ago, highly critical of the Ferguson police department and court system for its use of racial bias in policing. Data was compiled for months, which indicated higher incidences of the use of force with blacks, as well as other practices deemed unconstitutional. Racist emails that had been circulated among officers in the department and others in the city’s court system were also found in the probe. Those emails led to two police officers resigning and a city clerk being fired.
But it wasn’t until weeks after the announcement of the investigation’s findings that the Ferguson police chief, Thomas Jackson, finally voluntarily resigned. There hadn’t been widespread condemnation and outrage directed at Jackson or the Ferguson police force for the findings of the DOJ. At least nothing that could compare to the beatings that Sterling and the SAE bus bigots received in the media and online. It is frustrating how, in America, what a person says seems to carry more weight than what a person actually does. There are even racism deniers, such as the conservative, corporate-mouthpiece hosts of Red Eye Radio, Gary McNamara and Eric Harley, who assert that institutional racism just doesn’t exist anymore.
Just as there are surely more than a couple of individuals across the country that share the same repugnant attitudes of Donald Sterling or the former SAE frat boys, we can’t sit back and pretend that the Ferguson police department is the only American institution that is plagued by racism and discrimination. And when it is demonstrated that institutional racism exists, there should be just as much, if not more, outrage directed at said institutions from the public. Because it is this type of racism that has severe real-world implications and effects. We can’t help what some individuals or groups of people may think of other races, but we can and should do our best to ensure that the institutions meant to serve all Americans do so in a fair and just manner.
Photo source – Pixabay.com – WikiImages
Nearly 25 years ago, the videotaped beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles Police officers caused outrage in Los Angeles and throughout the nation. The video became a singular, notorious representation of the use of force by police. The case came to represent a hotbed of racial tension, and the officers’ subsequent acquittal of criminal charges lead to the outbreak of the Los Angeles riots in 1992.
Flash forward to the present day, there are high-quality video cameras on countless types of mobile devices and phones. In addition, the advent of portable video recorders has lead some police departments to equip officers with cameras that record the arrests they make and the people that they encounter. As a result, there have been more and more incidents of questionable (at minimum) police uses of force that have been captured on video that, with the advent of the internet, are readily available to the public in an instant. However, there seems to be significantly less outrage these days when incidents similar to the Rodney King beating occur.
Case in point, the recent video of a CHP officer repeatedly punching a black grandmother in the face and head along a Los Angeles freeway. The video has gone viral on social media, but it does not seem to have the galvanizing power that the Rodney King incident did in the 1990’s. Perhaps it is because the officer is using his fists instead of batons. Maybe.
But even beatings that result in death do not seem to enrage the community or the nation as they did with the King beating. In Orange County in 2011, Kelly Thomas was severely beaten by two Fullerton Police officers and later died of his injuries. The incident generated some local protests, but it was not national news on the level of the King beating. However, like the King case, the officers involved were later acquitted of murder charges, much to the disdain of many who followed the case.
Perhaps we have simply become desensitized to real-life violent imagery, made accessible largely through social media and the web. In an age of videotaped beheadings and other forms of extreme torture and murder easily accessed on shock websites at the click of a button, acts of brutality (whether by the police or not) sadly become a little more mundane. Violence has become digitally watered down in the public’s consciousness, and public sensitivity has waned as a result. Ironically, the more cameras and outlets that have become available as objective witnesses to police use of force, the less people seem to care.