How the Media, the Narrative and the "Good Cops" are Just as Much to Blame as the Bad Cops
1. On April 29th, 2017, Roy Oliver, an officer that served in an Iraqi war that has left 1 in every 5 of their veterans crippled with PTSD, was involved in a fatal shooting this evening. A war that begun under the false pretenses of weapons of mass destruction and subjected our serviceman and servicewoman to nightmarish events, killed the 15 year old with a single shot to the head.
2. On August 9th, 2014, Darren Wilson, an officer transferred from a precinct so prejudice it had to be shut down by its city council amidst massive public backlash and investigations revealing very clear department-wide targeting of a specific community, was involved in a fatal shooting tonight in Ferguson, Missouri. Responding to a call, the slain teenager had reportedly fit the description of an earlier store robbery. The victim: formerly of the targeted community the officers' former precinct so infamously used to be a part of.
3. On November 23rd, 2014, Timothy Loehmann, the dishonest officer once deemed to have "an inability to emotionally function" by his prior police department, had his shooting a day prior of a 12 year old boy officially turn fatal today. The officer, in addition to being deemed 'not emotionally functional', was also reportedly insubordinate and untruthful to his former supervisor.
4. On February 26th, 2012, George Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed community watchdog with a dark and aggressive past, was involved in a fatal shooting this evening. After repeatedly being directed to stop following the victim by dispatch, he disregarded and pursued anyway. The man arrested years earlier for "resisting arrest with aggression", has also had a restraining order placed against him by his former fiancé for domestic violence. George had also been reported to have put in 46 separate calls to the local police department for suspicious activity involving members of the same community as the victim. Despite all of this, he was not detained at the scene of the crime.
5. On October 20th, 2014, Officer Jason Van Dyke responded to a call just before 10:00 p.m. Continuing a disturbing trend that is potentially extremely biased towards a specific ethnic background, that community saw another fall victim to a police shooting tonight. Chicago, a city with a historic reputation for police scandals, has amassed the most fatal shootings of any U.S. city over the last four year span, now standing at a staggering 70 police killings. 66% of those fatally shot were of the same ethnicity as tonight's victim, leading to high levels of mistrust and poor relations between the community and their police department. Backing up several other officers, multiple shots were fired and the victim left unresponsive.
Down below will be the corresponding facts to the theoretical headlines that could drastically change your perception of the unfolding events, if the media wanted to. Typically, the first things you hear and what you hear most will have the most profound impact on your memory and perception. That's the power of the narrative and wording.
Yet an officer's past is never questioned. Questionable or not. The local and national media as a regular practice assume to paint the slain black male as someone that brought it upon themselves. If the roles were reversed and the backgrounds of the officers in question were released when controversies occurred (or at least just as much as the victims' seem to be), the public may have a completely different view about our country's black community and their relationship with law enforcement. Instead, these were examples of just 5 more male members of the black community gunned down while not possessing a gun (or in 12 year old Tamir Rice's case, not having a toy gun not prohibited under his state law).
The way the game starts is right after the shooting happens. The victim is ID'd. Calls are made for fellow cops to start digging up background dirt or character spin on the person. After some dirt is dug up, it's anonymously leaked to their favorite local media outlet. From there, they let the media handle their dirty work. Happens all the time. Often times before all the facts are out and able to be digested. And it's done to set the narrative.
1. 15 year old Jordan Edwards was shot and killed after leaving a party. The initial press release from the Balch Springs, Texas Police Department was that Jordan was driving in reverse aggressively at the shooting officer and he felt threatened. That statement was walked back by Police Chief Jonathan Haber after released body cam video proved that was not the case, and that the teenager was driving away from the cop car.
2. Michael Brown conveniently had only partial footage released about him allegedly stealing from a local store shortly after he was killed by Officer Darren Wilson. The full video was released years later, to much less media coverage, proving this not to be the case. Darren Wilson's former precinct, Jennings, Missouri, was shut down by the city council in 2011 because of rampant levels of racism and high amounts of social tension. The last of the 6 and fatal shot to Michael Brown was made execution style, indicating that the officer was over the victim as the shot went through the top of his skull. The Ferguson Police Department also walked back the officer's initial claims that he stopped Michael Brown and his friend in the street that night because they fit the description of a potential store robbery, after it became clear that Wilson had no knowledge of any potential robbery or footage before approaching the two teenagers that night.
3. Not even a full 24 hours after 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by cops for playing in the park with a toy gun, the local media ran with stories of his mother's past drug use and his father's past domestic violence. This as justification in shooting an unarmed black boy before he even got to junior high school. The cop, Timothy Loehmann, lied on his Cleveland Police Department application after already having a history of lying and insubordination, at his former precinct. Deputy chief Jim Polack of Timothy's prior precinct, Independence, Ohio, said his handgun performance was "dismal" and that he was "distracted and weepy" and uncommunicative during firing range training. An internal memo recommended he be terminated, and he resigned less than a week later. Only to resurface and be hired by the Cleveland Police Department 15 months later.
4. A suggestive photo of a threatening 18 year old Trayvon Martin in a hoodie spread all over the news networks immediately after his death. That, along with an apparent past marijuana use, was used to shape the way any and all information following it would be perceived. George Zimmerman had put in 46 separate calls to the local department involving suspicious activity involving black males. He was told repeatedly to step down by dispatch and that an actual law enforcement officer is on his way. This, along with his lengthy record of aggression, meant nothing as he was not even arrested at the scene of the crime.
5. Laquan McDonald was shot and killed by those multiple bullets walking away from an officer. It was reported as nothing more than another black teen gang member killed in the streets of Chicago at the time. It wasn't until it was evident video would be released more than a year later that the precinct backtracked on Officer Van Dyke's claims that a single shot was fired and that the victim was supposedly coming at him. In reality, 16 shots were fired within seconds of Officer Van Dyke leaving his squad car with 7 other officers around him. All 7 of those cops corroborated Van Dyke's lies to protect their brother.
The culture is to protect your own. And in a profession where things can be real dangerous and can get real ugly real fast, that mantra can be understandable at times. Most times officers are out on a island, responding to calls in potentially hostile environments. And there are plenty of good cops out there that do their job, do it well, serve their community, and don't protect bad cops. And to them I say thank you. We need more cops like you.
But when you knowingly protect or look away from a racist fellow officer committing a crime or, worse, a murder, you're part of the problem. In fact, you're even worse, because you're masquerading as one of the good ones enabling the hateful ones, paid to protect and serve our communities while putting our lives at risk. Betraying all of our trust while leading us to believe you're not a 'bad apple'. And it's part of the reason cops are sometimes painted with a broad brush of negativity within some communities. The culture of shielding dangerous officers at all costs needs to stop if we want the communities to trust our cops, and, in turn, have our cops be able to start seeing some of our communities less as generalized threats in all situations and more on a case by case basis.
"The bad apples are ruining it for the good cops." It's what you hear all the time. But here's the truth. Those that knowingly enable bad behavior are culpable and responsible. In the judicial world, it's called aiding and abetting. In the world of policing, it's far too often considered: protecting your own.
Hordes of cops across this country would leave themselves open to charges of aiding and abetting dirty, racist, murderous colleagues if killing an unarmed black man was charged the same way as walking around with a dimebag was.
Special Thanks to Editor Salina Lebron