Two days ago, five cops were killed during a Black Lives Matter protest. Their deaths are unacceptable, but due repeated police violence, not surprising.
I took a couple of days to write this article, in part because I wanted it to be as thorough as possible and also so I can see the reaction by the media and the public, before I finalized the post. I’ll begin with a prediction I made over a year ago, in a similar post. I also needed to try to figure out how to not sound like I support violence against police. Perhaps the easiest way is to point out that such violence is just an example of populist uprisings, and I have repeatedly asserted that such uprisings tend to fail.
“There is only one way to quell this violence: put the police force in its place. Remind it that they are here to protect us, not hurt us. When the police force begins to hold bad cops accountable, the people will again side with the officers. Until that happens, this type of scenario will only become increasingly prevalent.” I wrote this over a year ago. I often feel like Cassandra, a figure from Greek mythology, who was given the ability to see the future, but was cursed to have no one believe her.
Since then, many people have been killed by police. In the last few days, two well known shootings have occurred, while another has been left more or less ignored. The two that have come to the attention of the media are the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Neither committed any crime. Neither was a threat. However, that did not matter. In the third case, the person may have appeared to be a threat. In that instance, it seems as though the person was trying to get the cop to kill him. Unfortunately suicide by cop is not uncommon, and that is in part because people are aware of just how easy it is to get a cop to shoot.
I’ll get back to why the media is ignoring the third shooting in a moment, but first I want to point something out. This was not an act of terror. These people did not kill indiscriminately in order to incite fear. These people had a very specific target, and took at that target with a high degree of precision. This is also not simply a crime. It is not murder. This was an act of war. These people have come to the conclusion that the law enforcement system is waging war against them, and it’s not too far from the truth.
Now, for why the media is ignoring the third instance, Dylan Noble. It’s not because the person appeared to be a threat. The person appeared to be a threat in the case of Alton Sterling too, at least according to police narrative. It’s because in this case, the victim was “white.” There is a narrative that police shootings are a racial issue. They aren’t. In fact, evidence suggests that a cop is more hesitant to shoot when the target is a minority. This is a systemic problem of a corrupt law enforcement system and indeed legal system as a whole. But as long as the media can limit the contagion to the minority populations, the police will not face retaliation from the majority.
To show that this isn’t merely confirmation bias and to show that there really has been little attention about the third case, I’ve decided to link to Google Trends information. It will become quite apparent that Noble simply isn’t getting the kind of attention that the other two are getting. This contradicts the notion that the “Black Lives Matter” movement carries an implicit “too.”
How to Proceed
I will reiterate my prediction. Things will continue to get worse, if the police system does not clean up its act. And this is absolutely on the police system. There is an imbalance of power between the police system and the masses. The police have “legitimate” authority to kill. They have authority that we the people do not. But we have a responsibility as well. It is time to stop apologizing for the actions of cops. It is time we stop automatically trying to figure out what the victim has done wrong. Victim blaming is unacceptable.
Part of the problem comes down to abusive laws and how they are enforced. Force, and especially lethal force, should not be used against civil infractions. Eric Garner came into contact with the police, not because he was acting violently, but simply because he was selling loose cigarettes. He ended up dead, because of extremely minor tax evasion. Many more die because of the war on drugs. One could argue that the police are simply doing their jobs, but “just following orders” has been an excuse to commit far too many abuses.
The thin blue line needs to come to an end. Police need to hold their own accountable. If a cop breaks a law, they need to be held to the same standard to which everyone else is held. Unfortunately it’s actually dangerous for officers to do this. There are many cases where those few cops who are willing to do the right thing and hold their own accountable end up abused by the rest of the police force. This must stop. When a whistle blower points out corruption, that person must be protected rather than abused.