Saturday, May 9, 2015

Chidike Okeem ― Are Police Officers Gangsters?

Perhaps the most insufferable chant that erupts whenever a police officer is caught red-handed in murderous violence or malpractice of any stripe is: “All Police Officers Aren’t Bad!” Curiously, however, we never hear similar arguments about black people whenever a black criminal captures the interest of the national media. Lamentably, black criminals are treated as ambassadors of black culture and are used as justifications for the existence and continuation of abusive policing. Despite the protestations of many who claim that cops face a barrage of calumny and an insurmountable degree of abuse from unappreciative citizens, there is no problem of reasonable people believing that all police officers are evil. There is, however, a problem of many people failing to condemn bad police officers, even when they are caught engaging in the most reprehensible and immoral behavior. There is a failure of people to recognize the insidious culture of the blue wall of silence—the idea that cops are not supposed to report their fellow officers when they see bad behavior.
Police are treated with such preposterous veneration in America that they are even considered exempt from critique by the sitting president of the United States. When, in July 2009, Sgt. James Crowley imprudently arrested black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates outside of his own Cambridge, Massachusetts residence, President Obama correctly said that the officer acted stupidly. This led to crazed denunciations of Obama from the American right for even daring to question the conduct of a police officer—as if criticizing a police officer is tantamount to questioning a deity. The attacks that Obama received for making that remark demonstrates the unwillingness of some to admit that police officers are capable of wrongdoing where black citizens are concerned—even when that black citizen is one of the most celebrated black intellectuals in the nation. Shamefully, in order to be considered Constitution-loving patriots in the United States, black Americans are expected to smilingly surrender constitutional rights, gleefully embrace the inconveniences created by aggressive policing, and enjoy the barbarism of police brutality.