In 2015, my friends and I witnessed a police officer shoot an unarmed black man to death. He was 19. His name was Keith McLeod. He was murdered over a fake prescription for cough syrup. The officer was placed on administrative leave, which is protocol. He was not fired. He was not charged. The Baltimore County police chief called Earomirski, the murderer, “one of his finest officers” in a press conference days after the killing. The entire department defended and condoned the murderer’s actions.
This isn’t an unfamiliar story. Thousands of black men and women have been murdered by police over the past decades. These officers do not face consequences, they are protected by their departments and peers. Officers that do face convictions for fatal shootings are in the minority; they’re the exception.
According to NBC news and the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database: from 2005 to 2017, only 98 nonfederal officers had been arrested in connection to fatal police shootings, 35 officers had been convicted of a crime, 29 officers were acquitted, 10 cases were dismissed, and only 3 officers have seen their convictions stand.
To put these numbers into perspective, according to Mapping Police Violence, 900 to 1,000 people are killed by police every year. There were only 27 days in 2019 where police did not kill someone. 99% of killings by police from 2013 to 2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime. So out of approximately 12,000 fatal police shootings over the 12 year time period recorded by the Henry A. Wallace database, only 3 victims received justice.
There are people who will hear this and still tell you that “not all cops are bad”. They might even attempt to justify these numbers.
“Only 1,000 people killed a year? That isn’t too significant”
“Black people commit 50% of all crime in the US, so them being shot more often makes sense” (this statistic isn't even true, it's a false claim thrown around by racists)
“94% of black murders are committed by other black people, why focus on police violence when you should be focusing on gangs”.
Those are just a few of the comments I’ve received from people attempting to justify violence perpetrated by their own states and their own government. Instead of facing reality and confronting the injustices at hand, they deflect. To spoon-feed statistics and information to those ignorant of these facts just to have them deny it in order to protect their "not all cops" philosophy is honestly just infuriating. These instances of ignorance aren't too rare, either.
The other day, someone I went to school with a few years ago told me that I "can't say all cops are bad. That's the equivalent of saying all black people are bad for the few who are criminals. This isn't a racial issue with George Floyd. Because it was a white officer and a black man, the media blew it up and turned it into a race war. I guarantee if it were the other way around, there would be no coverage. Cops proudly represent an institution which is designed to protect and serve".
There were a lot of issues with the statement my ex-classmate made, one of those issues being his "that's the equivalent of saying all black people are bad for the few who are criminals" claim. The difference is: cops sign up to be cops. You can take off a badge, you can stop facing those “all cops are bastards” statements at ANY point by simply not showing up to work. Black men and women are unable to check out of the generalizations they face. Generalizations made towards someone's race and generalizations made towards someone's occupation are completely incomparable, yet it's the "not all cops'" favorite argument to make.
Another issue with my ex-classmate's statement is the claim that “this isn’t a racial issue with George Floyd. Cops proudly represent an institution which is designed to protect and serve”.
That's the problem.
“Cops proudly represent an institution which is designed to protect and serve”, yet that’s the complete opposite of what this institution actually does. The US justice system is designed to protect and serve the interests of white people, if anything. This institution is based in the oppression of minorities, so using the point that all officers proudly represent, support, and enable this racist institution as a pro-cop argument to say that “not all cops are bad”.... is pretty contradictory. When black lives are lost at the hands of police due to their complete neglect for human life, you know they're not there to "protect and serve" you.
To claim the murder of George Floyd isn’t a racial issue is also the furthest thing from the truth. The racial disparities and mistreatment of minorities present within the US justice system and police forces around the country is a well known issue. It's no secret that black people have been victimized by the police force since its inception, and nothing has changed. From slave patrols and Jim Crow laws to racial profiling and fatal police shootings, the United States has a history of anti-black policies and behaviors.
Due to this history of violence and anti-black behaviors, the majority of officers who join the police force have a need for power and control, a need which minorities both currently and historically face the brunt of. They know this. They know what they're signing up for, they know what they can get away with, and they use that information to fuel their power-hungry, violent desires. The few officers, the “good cops”, that don’t abuse their authority against minorities aren't innocent either, as they're still protecting the ones that do take advantage of this system.
According to a national study by the US Department of Justice in 2000, 84% of officers stated that they’ve directly witnessed a fellow officer use more force than necessary. 61% of officers stated that they do not always report serious abuse that has been directly observed by fellow officers. 52% of officers report that it is not unusual for law enforcement to turn a blind eye to misconduct.
So yeah, you might not be a violent, frenzied criminal cop yourself, but by joining this system, you’re protecting the ones who are. As soon as you become an officer, you are complicit in the crimes your fellow officers have committed, you are giving more power to the system that has been hellbent on harming minorities, both physically and institutionally, since the beginning. "All cops are bastards/all cops are bad" is not only an individualistic statement, but also a systematic one.
words by eva