By Steve Croyle
TOPIC: Police brutality
Black Lives Matter takes Columbus
Shaun King is a journalist turned activist who is most closely associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. This Saturday he will be joining local activist Adrienne Hood, and former State Senator Nina Turner to discuss the issues of police violence and community safety. The event is fully booked, but the issue is worthy of a discussion that transcends the confines of Hitchcock Hall.
Let’s clear something up. Black Lives Matter is not a hate group. It’s not a terrorist organization. Black Lives Matter is a social movement denouncing the manner in which the criminal justice system brutalizes African Americans. It’s a pervasive aspect of institutional racism that has compromised the Constitution and every bit of Civil Rights legislation that has been passed over the years.
When somebody says Black Lives Matter they are not implying that other lives do not. It’s just that we live in a society that doesn’t seem to mind when black lives are lost in the name of collateral damage. Somebody is bound to comment that more whites are killed by police each year, and that’s true, but African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police. By every objective measure the statistics kept by the Bureau of Justice point to inequitable treatment of African Americans by our criminal justice system. All other things being equal, an African American male is going to be punished more severely for committing a crime than any other demographic.
The African American community has had it. After decades of complaining of abuse that ranges from unethical, to criminal in nature, technology has finally given us a glimpse of what happens during a traffic stop. Cops are rude, disrespectful, and abusive. They conspire amongst one another to trump up charges. They plant evidence. They shoot unarmed black men. We’ve seen examples of all of this. Numerous examples. Right here in Columbus, Zachary Rosen, just months following a questionable shooting, was caught stomping on the face of a subdued suspect. His union, despite clear video evidence of the unwarranted act of violence, is still backing him up.
All cops are not bad, but something sorely lacking in these videos is a cop standing up for justice. That’s because the culture of law enforcement forces good cops to shut up, and stand aside. Buck the system, or file a complaint against your dirty partner and you’ll be shamed off the force, and chased out of town.
In the late 1990s the culture seemed to be on the verge of changing. The two biggest police departments in the US were under fire. LA was in the midst of reform following the Rodney King beating. New York city was reeling from the horrific shooting of Amadou Diallo. Police departments everywhere were under scrutiny.
Then 911 happened and it became fashionable to worship everybody who wears a uniform. The presidential administration seized the opportunity to trade freedom for security, and Americans accepted a more militarized posture in our police force. Decades of prolonged combat operations has created in influx of combat veterans into our police force, resulting in civilian patrol units that approach every shift as an incursion into enemy territory.
Now, with people questioning the wisdom of this culture, we have people complaining that cops are being discriminated against. “Blue Lives Matter” has become a rally cry.
But there is no such thing as a “Blue Life”. Police are human beings. Part of the disconnect we have is this fraternal culture in law enforcement where cops feel a stronger sense of loyalty to other cops, even if they’re bad cops, than they do to the rest of society. Shouldn’t the community come first? The whole community?
There’s also a sense of entitlement. Too many police officers feel that they are entitled to respect. The post 911 “hero” mentality is pervasive, but it should be the other way around. Being a cop is a hard job. It’s also dangerous, but being a police office is an honor. If you’re a cop, the general public is trusting you with a badge, and a gun, and the ability to make decisions that can temporarily suspend or constitutional rights. That’s an enormous responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s also a responsibility that makes the existence of the blue wall a violation of the public trust.
Why do police hate the internal affairs division? What purpose does a culture of secrecy serve? If one civilian is killed unjustly by the police, the entire culture of law enforcement has failed. Bad cops should be reviled by other cops, not protected. It shouldn’t require a federal task force to clean up a police department. It shouldn’t be good cops who fear the blue wall, it should be the bad ones.
There is no acceptable degree of collateral damage. Cops have a simple mission: protect and serve. That, of course, means all of us, regardless of color or creed. It also means protecting and serving those of us who run afoul of the law. Cops are not there to impose justice. Criminals are supposed to be remanded to the court with a minimal use of force.
That’s generally not an issue when the suspects are white, but things seem to escalate in direct proportion with the amount of melanin in a suspect’s skin. Decades of this disparity has created a socioeconomic obstacle that has kept too many African Americans away from opportunities to improve their quality of life, and uplift their community.
People will call Shaun King and his fellow speakers racists, but the institutional racism they are talking about doesn’t go both ways. That brand of racism is all about power. Black cops aren’t roughing up white guys. This door isn’t swinging both ways and it’s a damned shame we still have to talk about it in 2017.
QUICK TAKE I
Osteen’s true colors
Multi Millionaire televangelist Joel Osteen had to be publicly and savagely shamed into opening the doors of his megachurch to the public in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. What’s really unsettling about this act of pure selfishness is the fact that Osteen manages to avoid any and all tax liability because he is a preacher, and his cavernous arena is a church. This should be worse than a sex scandal. It’s a lot easier to forgive a person for succumbing to lust than it is to ignore greed and selfishness. You’d think a preacher with Osteen’s financial and media resources would have been leading the charge to raise money and organize relief for his hometown, but to sit on your hands until the public shames you into action is despicable.
Oh, and watch Osteen closely. See if the tax-free millionaire hits the government up for some money after this is all said and done. You can bet he’ll pad those expenses, too.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the tax exempt status of churches, particularly those that don’t step up for their communities in times of need. Hopefully this is the last time we see so many people in Osteen’s arena.
QUICK TAKE II
Fear the Buckeyes
Buckeye haters are laughing it up over that humiliating 31-0 loss in the College Football Playoff, but Ohio State is poised to be back, and it’s hard to imagine who will stop them. With the Buckeyes returning one of the most formidable defensive lines to ever take a college football field, and coaches touting this secondary as being more talented than the one that sent three players to the NFL via the first round a few months ago, the offense might not even need to show up, but Urban Meyer did not let that CFP debacle slide. He brought in Indiana’s former head coach, and an NFL caliber quarterback coach.
Ohio State’s coaching staff is a three headed monster. Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches of all time, but his top two assistants are former head coaches. Randy Wilson was doing a great job at Indiana before a PR scandal cost him his job, and Greg Schiano had parlayed a strong run at Rutgers into a stint in the NFL. If these coaches can keep JT Barrett from calling his own number too often, this could be a season for the ages. Hold on, and enjoy the ride.