Can We Drop the ‘Not All Cops Are Bad’ Narrative? (OPINION)

Jun 5, 2020
2:54 PM

Police begin to clear demonstrators gathered as they protest the death of George Floyd, Monday, June 1, 2020, near the White House in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

America is in the midst of some of the largest protests in modern U.S. history, and police are among the biggest instigators in turning peaceful protests into full-blown riots. It’s clear that the nation is demanding changes to the systemic issues in law enforcement. But the very same policing apparatus continues to show us precisely why we need those long-overdue changes.

Police misconduct in America is a malignant cancerous pustule that infected law enforcement when the first citizens were given the authority to police others. Statistically, Blacks and Latinos have always been disproportionately victimized by America’s policing apparatus for the sake of white comfort. It’s a system that hasn’t made any tangible changes since it’s inception.

Reviewing the demographics of those subjected to the modern-day system of legal slavery —as defined by the Thirteenth Amendment— makes this abundantly clear.

Throughout history, whenever Blacks and Latinos have stood up for their civil rights, Americans largely adopted a strategy of hate. Turning movements for change into culture wars. While it may finally be evident to many white people now that Trump’s in office, this is not an anomaly to be credited to him. He is simply using the same strategy the United States is known for and it will not end with Trump leaving the White House. Just as it didn’t start when he got there.

This is America in all of its bigoted glory.

When we speak about police brutality and the systemic issues within law enforcement, we’re clearly not talking about individual cops. We are talking about the culture of policing; the “us versus them” mentality they have towards the public; their disdain for people of color who they see as thugs and criminals and rapists. All of it based on discriminatory stereotypes that are largely perpetuated by those who train police officers.

When a cop gets caught or filmed committing extrajudicial murders or blatantly unjust physical attacks on Americans, you can bet we’re going to single that officer out. If we catch one being racist or prejudicial you can count on us bringing attention to that too. If appropriate action isn’t taken to address their misconduct, we then go public. There are more and more of us doing this every day despite constant threats and harassment for doing so.

As a Latino who has survived two police brutality incidents while handcuffed, and as someone who was taken down at gunpoint with my 14-year-old son in our front yard over a noise complaint, I’ve seen how rural and city cops respond to and treat people of color. There’s not much difference in how either reacts because there’s a cultural issue among police officers.

To be clear, cases of police brutality are not isolated. They’re widespread. They’ve always been widespread. It’s just being broadcast all over the country by the thousands every year.

Police Brutality Is Widespread

What you’re seeing come across your social media feeds shows us what has been happening for decades, even centuries. But you’re only seeing it now because we all have a valuable tool in our pockets. The cell phone. We can broadcast live through various channels using modern technology and police can no longer just take our cameras to hide whatever we catch them doing.

Instead, we can broadcast live to millions of people at any given time. This clearly has had no effect in stopping police from doing what they do. We’ve seen it in countless cases such as the murder of George Floyd. Many cops act as if they are immune to prosecution and they have good reason to think so. They are granted protections in their union contracts with the cities where they work. They are rarely held accountable because of those protections.

Those same assurances allow cops who’ve been fired to work in another department in a nearby city or county despite their record of misconduct. If a cop is found to have abused their authority, their peers and their union representatives jump into action to provide cover.

When Amber Guyger murdered Botham Jean in his own home, her first phone call was to her union representative, not 911. Within minutes, Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association was onsite and was granted access to the crime scene. He ordered officers to turn off their dashcams so he and other cops could speak with Guyger.

In the death of Laquan McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, the officer who murdered him and several other officers got together to discuss what would be in the police report. They then copied each other’s work so that the official report would show a singular narrative. However, a year later after the dashcam video was released, it showed that the reports were all false. Van Dyke was also caught in covering up the murder of Emmanuel Lopez the same way. He admitted to copying the work of other officers for his report during a civil trial against the city of Chicago.

The idea that police officers come together to devise agreed upon narratives that attempt to justify their actions should alarm every single American. They routinely lie on their reports, plant evidence, and lie in court in what is known as testifying. Most officers don’t consider testifying corruption because they believe corruption is defined by having monetary value.

In fact, corruption is defined as a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority. Many officers consider perjury as part of the job to secure convictions against those they believe belong in jail whether they do or not in the eyes of the law. It goes without saying who they use this the most to secure convictions.

When several officers falsify their reports and commit perjury, the crime committed by them shifts from misconduct to conspiratorial corruption. In the above-mentioned cases, the offending officers were never charged and continue to work in law enforcement today—with the exception of the murderers. Those cases represent a system-wide problem in America and it’s not new.

The ‘Not All Cops Are Bad’ Narrative

Much like the reality that all lives do in fact matter, screaming “not all cops are bad” when we discuss the widespread affliction of police brutality in America only serves to undermine the conversation. When we talk about racism and white people, “not all white people” is implied and therefore doesn’t warrant being discussed. We already know there are decent cops out there.

The problem most people see with the “good cops” narrative is precisely what we saw in the murder of George Floyd. Too many good cops don’t speak up or intervene in the face of corruption and misconduct. In discussions with many officers across the country, the most prevalent reason for this is clear: they fear reprisals from their superiors, their fellow officers, and their union representatives. They are afraid of the blue wall of silence targeting them.

In major cities across the country, we see widespread corruption every day in many forms. In Chicago, there is a culture of corruption involving police dealing drugs, putting guns on the streets, committing murder, and perpetrating aggravated assault. Instead of police attempting to reign in the widespread problems, officers seek to intimidate and silence their victims.

Such has been the case for many decades.

Similarly, in New York City, the history of corruption and misconduct stretches back over a century. In just the last year an NYPD cop threw his live-in girlfriend on the couch and punched her in the face and was only suspended for 30 days. Another officer intentionally shut an emergency subway gate on a teenage turnstile-jumper and was merely forced to forfeit 30 days vacation. In yet another incident, a video showed a cop dragging a homeless person out of a fast-food restaurant slamming the man’s head into a door and only had to forfeit 21 vacation days.

It’s precisely this lack of accountability that gives individuals in our national policing apparatus the mentality we witnessed in Floyd’s murder. If there hadn’t been video footage of the incident in its entirety, the officers would have surely escaped prosecution. The narrative against Floyd that is being spread all over social media makes this conclusion more than evident. It’s the same narrative we’ve seen play out over and over in police misconduct cases.

Victims are persecuted a second time by narratives that have been executed by legal teams for the offending officers, by their police unions, and by their friends, family, and supporters such as the Blue Lives Matter counter-movement and reactionary propaganda network.

As we discuss the inherent issues with policing in America – the fear of each other among police officers, the propaganda depicting a non-existent war on cops, and he defamation of victims at the hands of the State—declaring not all cops are bad has and always will detract from what America truly needs: national and federally mandated law enforcement reforms.

The extrajudicial murders of Blacks, Latinos, and yes, even White folks must be addressed. The lack of accountability, police union interference in seeking justice, and cover-ups by fellow officers highlight some of the many different and widespread problems we must contend with ridding America of its police-state. We can no longer accept the normalized oppressive nature of policing minorities in America. We are on the precipice of change. We must not stop pushing.

It starts with accountability.


Arturo Domínguez is an anti-racist activist and political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, see the articles below or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.