The overwhelming tendency is to allocate 100% of the fault to one entity or the other. That agenda-driven process is almost never either useful or accurate.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
“Bring the guilty bastard in, and we’ll give him a fair trial.” I overheard the senior officer on a three officer court-martial board say that to the other two officers in the hallway just prior to entering the room where the trial was about to begin. The accused was found guilty.
As soon as news of a black being shot by the police is released, there are often one of two typical knee-jerk reactions:
- “If he had not resisted, he would still be alive.” or
- He is black; that is why he is dead.”
And here is an interesting, all too common approach, “I demand an instant investigation, ending in the immediate firing of the officers involved, followed by murder chargers.” That is today’s version of, “Bring the guilty bastard in, and we’ll give him a fair trial.’
In the highly interconnected world that we all live in together, blame and credit lie everywhere. There are almost no instances where either blame or credit are correctly assigned to one party or the other. Marriage. Business transactions. Sports controversies. Political dustups. Wars. And when cops kill blacks.
Reforms in how we police ourselves are needed, and needed now. Yes, how we police ourselves; after all, the police work for those whom we elect. Reforms are also needed in education at all levels, and politics in ethics, term limits, campaign funding, how our military responds to threats, infrastructure, etc. I am not saying this to make the need for police reform seem trivial, but to point out that we need reforms everywhere.
Let’s lay out some helpful truths:
- We need to understand the difference between intelligent, necessary profiling and racism. For example, intelligent profiling dictates that if you are looking for an armed man who is stealing opiates from drug stores, you would not start looking at nursing homes, or FB groups that advocate for more gun control. Racist profiling starts with the conviction that a black dude did it. There is also an important difference between racial and racist, and that distinction can apply to profiling. Intelligent racial profiling would lead you to believe that if you chased a suspect running away from his home in a virtually all-black neighborhood into a latino secion of town, that you would announce the suspect on the run is likely black. An example of racist profiling comes when the assumption is that the suspect had to be black, because that is what blacks do.
- Police departments are not systematically racist. Yes, there is racism in some police departments, but it is far from systemic. There were 10M arrests made in 2019; if 10,000 of those were based on racist motives, that would still be only 1%–hardly systemic. And most people, even activists, cannot name 10 instances where racism was suspected or proved in an arrest. Likely not even 15 with a Google search.
Now, let’s get to the discussion of who is responsible for what. Police are responsible for being well trained, treating civilians with respect when appropriate, and using the lowest level of force needed to deal with a situation while still protecting themselves, other officers and bystanders. They cannot be held responsible for not always doing everything correctly, especially when what is correct is defined in hindsight. Tens of thousands of patients die every year because doctors do not always do everything correctly. But 99% of them did their best. That is true of cops as well. And aggressive legal action must be taken in both professions with the 1% of the bad news doctors and cops.
“Follow the order, then do something about it later.” That was the good advice I received in the Army. If you thought an order was stupid or wasteful, do it anyway, then deal with it later. Applied here, when subject to an arrest order, or simply told to be still and not move, do it. Don’t add resisting arrest to whatever else may be going on. And don’t put yourself in danger by challenging the man with a gun on his hip–or in his hand. Go along calmly and safely, and if you are innocent and being subject to a racist arrest, perhaps you can win a big false arrest lawsuit. And if you are guilty, you have not compounded the charges against you. Either way, you are alive and not injured. Now, stop. This is in no way a blame the victim stance. It is me saying that suspects and those under arrest have certain responsibilities for their own behavior, which if violated can cause them harm.
Today’s Key Point: Both sides, the cops on one hand, and the suspects on the other, have clear responsibilities, responsibilities which must be met.
And protesters also have responsibilities. And well beyond the obvious like not depriving a family of its livelihood by burning down the family business. Or not firing dangerous, commercial grade fireworks at the cops. I am talking about the deeply damaging, often repeated, hours-long, face-to-face verbal and body language abuse. Here are some examples:
- Shouting “Coon!” or “Uncle Tom” in the face of black cops.
- Chanting, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” or “F#&* all cops.” while 2 feet away.
- Parading around with signs saying, “ACAB” (All cops are bad.) or “F-12” (somehow that means f#&* the cops.). Or simply, “Defund the police”
Correctly, much has been reported about the frequent unfairness of the black experience. We are actively encouraged to find ways to understand more about that experience. We also need to understand how more and more cops are being treated shabbily–and worse–as well. What would your life be like if you had to spend hours face to face with some of the people you have sworn to protect and to serve were dishing out this kind of hate hours at a time while only a few feet away? And what would you, your family and friends feel like if on top of this, they wanted to either reduce or take away your pay and benefits?
Returning Vietnam Vets were often spat upon, and called “Baby Killers.” True story. In recent years, that has been corrected with “Welcome Home” campaigns. Some of us are acting badly with cops. The rest of us need a “Thank You” campaign directed to supporting the cops. While enacting reforms. Hey, no one wants the right reforms more than the 99% of the cops who are the good ones.
The answer to who is responsible when cops kill blacks is that we all are. Some more than others, but we all have a role.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple, Google, or Stitcher.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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