A radio host made a powerful statement on the role of police in America after officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, in Baton Rouge on Tuesday.
Peter Rosenberg, a host for Hot 97 in New York, was speaking with an unidentified police officer on Wednesday when he asked if Sterling’s death ― which was recorded by a witness in a graphic video ― “looked bad.”
The officer hesitated, prompting Rosenberg to launch into a powerful appeal to the nation’s law enforcement officers.
”This is the problem I have with police officers, no disrespect to you. Y’all don’t ever want to point at someone else and say, ‘You can’t do your job well,’” he said. “Police officers never want to say when y’all do a bad job.”
“So that’s the reason the public thinks all of you are bad, because you won’t ever call someone out and say they murdered someone in cold blood, it happened again.”
Rosenberg continued, urging officers to “lead the movement instead.”
“How about instead of people rioting, police officers get out in front of it themselves, and you guys are the first ones on the front lines? That’s what should happen.”
As Vox notes, the officer’s reluctance to criticize one of his brethren points to what’s known as the “blue wall of silence.” Such an unwritten code among law enforcement has long been linked to cops failing to comment on the unethical actions of others out of fear of being labeled a snitch.
““How about instead of people rioting, police officers get out in front of it themselves, and you guys are the first ones on the front lines? That’s what should happen.””
This tendency has largely held true as many high-profile cases have come to light in the last few years of law enforcement officers killing black men in America.
Following a multimillion-dollar settlement awarded to the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed by New York police, the president of a New York police union called the payout “obscene” and “shameful.” Another union in Ferguson, Missouri, declared the anniversary of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s shooting “Darren Wilson Day,” in honor of the cop who killed him.
A recent Gallup poll found the public’s trust in police is at its lowest level in 22 years.
Multiple videos of Tuesday’s shooting of Sterling have emerged, including a clip that appears to show the man was unarmed. However, the Baton Rouge police department has provided little detail about the incident, continuing to say Sterling had a gun at the time of the shooting and calling his death a “horrible tragedy.”
“Instead of you struggling to say, ‘Well, I don’t know, it could be…’ ― They murdered that man. We just saw it,” Rosenberg said on his show Wednesday.