White Americans are shocked, shocked to discover that they are living in a police state.
On the 25th of May 2020, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered African-American George Floyd in cold blood while officers Tou Thou, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng looked on. The murder was recorded on video and posted to Twitter. The Minneapolis police department (MPD) then announced that Floyd had “died a short time” after a “medical incident.” The MPD police union president, Lt. Bob Kroll, said: “Now is not the time to rush to judgment and immediately condemn our officers.”
Outrage grew, as the video spread across the USA and the statements of the police were reported. People remembered previous incidents: Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile. African-Americans began to protest across the USA and white allies joined in. As of this writing, The Guardian has over 500 articles on the murder of George Floyd. The anger was also fueled by the failure of the workplace safety and health care systems to protect African-Americans in the COVID-19 epidemic. African-Americans were willing to risk infection to make their voices heard.
As the protests grew, reporting followed. Former police officers went on record, explaining that cops, even “good” cops, routinely cover for each other’s crimes. Previously marginalized accounts of police abuses became mainstream. What African-Americans have long known has become public knowledge: police murder with impunity. Police routinely arrest on false charges and lie under oath.
The catalog of police abuses is long and deep. Police officers rape with impunity. (CNN: “No one interviewed for this story could give an estimate, even ballpark, on how underreported [police rape and sexual harassment] might be.”) They ignore real crimes despite plain evidence. One Minneapolis officer returned one of serial killer’s Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims to him, despite clear warning signs that the victim was in danger. That officer retired this year, with congratulations from his department.
Police unions are criminal gangs. As well as protecting criminals on the force, they extort high wages and extraordinary benefits from their city employers. Police salaries are high to begin with, on average $54,000/year (1.5 times an average teacher’s salary) but, unlike teachers who work long unpaid overtime hours, police officers are always paid overtime. New York public defender Emily Galvin-Almanza:
When you got a really stupid arrest, it would be within an hour or so of the end of the cop's scheduled shift. Shift ends at 6pm? This really bad arrest would be at, like, 5:30. Why? Well, because processing an arrest takes time, but it's also really easy. So you can make time-and-a-half for sitting in the precinct typing up some papers and waiting to talk to a DA. This REALLY adds up. – tweet
Killings – murders – have continued, and will continue, because the police lack all accountability. It's not just qualified immunity, which protects them from being found liable for things that would bankrupt/jail the rest of us. It's the money. Follow the money. Derek Chauvin, the cop who murdered George Floyd, could still get his million-dollar pension even if he is getting those checks while serving a sentence for homicide. – tweet
(Read the whole tweetstorm.)
When a police officer is caught doing something that would have anyone else doing hard time, it is the union bosses who step up to defend them. Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors Group on Kroll: “Mr. Kroll has repeatedly and openly propagated racist ideology within the public sphere while serving on the Minneapolis Police force.”
Police are not labor; they are the representatives of the people who give the orders and share in their privilege. On a factory floor, they would be management. As officers of the law they are government, corrupt racist government.
How did this happen and what is to be done about it?
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who choked George Floyd to death, was a 19-year veteran of the force, involved in several shootings, one also lethal. If one watches the video one can see he is calm, even happy, as he murders George Floyd: he has done this before, or at least rehearsed it. The police officers who kill are found to have long wide wild records of assault and murder. Habitual criminals, inside or outside police forces, commit multiple crimes.
Police forces, especially police union bosses, have a stranglehold on local government officials. This is achieved in a number of ways: the simple threat of dropping law enforcement, the popularity of police among white people who don’t know better (all those cop shows which show heroic police officers don’t help), and, in some cases, outright blackmail.
US police forces are built on a military model, and esprit de corps is central to an effective military. Police cover for each other. Even cops who aren’t themselves criminals cover for the criminals, so where better to be a criminal? If you’re a racist bully who likes beating up and occasionally murdering, or a rapist who picks out easy targets, the police force is a sanctuary, where you have comrades who will defend you.
This must end.
The military model of policing has to go. As Sir Robert Peel, who invented modern policing, knew, the police must see themselves as of the people. Some factions say “Abolish the police.” I am not for that. I’m an old social media bird; I’ve spent too long watching attempts at establishing a society without laws and law enforcement, and I know that lawlessness fails. The trolls, the sociopaths, and the greedheads – they will take advantage of the openness of a society without formal law and formal law enforcement. The anarchists who praised the early social media were soon shouted down, and the commercial social media sites, with all their abuses and problems, now dominate the scene.
I believe that many cops are not by inclination criminals, but they will go along with criminals; willing accomplices, if not actually planning and participating the crimes. If I thought firing them all would help, I would support that, but they would most likely turn into an insurrectionary force; they are halfway there already. What is probably needed are truth and reconciliation commissions in each city, followed by criminal trials for the worst offenders. This would have to come from both state and federal levels, led by the US Department of Justice.
If the innocent officers and less egregious offenders still want to be police, new customs and ideals must be devised. Ways to lead the police to identify with the public as part of their base and hold justice as an ideal. People must be found to lead. If much of the force are people who go along and get along, then we must seed the force with people who will lead the rest into standing for justice.
Outside of the police forces, we need to remember and strengthen the separation of powers between and within the branches of government. There must be inspectors who monitor the police (perhaps they can be part of strengthened public defense offices) and courts and judges who keep the police law-abiding.
All of this, plainly, is not going to be done in the current administration, or with the current Senate. Many of the recently appointed judges will probably interfere with it, as well. It is going to take a thorough housecleaning to achieve justice, but it will be worthwhile.
We must stop seeing police as above and separate from the
We must stop allowing the criminals among them to commit crimes with impunity.
We must turn them into public servants.