This article is the second in a two-part response to Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s public attempts to defame my character personally and professionally in the Huffington Post and on Fox News’s The Kelly File.
Mr. Clarke’s launched these attacks in response to an article I published last month entitled Stop Blue Lives Matter. In this article, I describe efforts by the Fraternal Order of Police to pass legislation that allows cops that kill to do so without consequence, and place additional barriers in the path to victims of brutality seeking justice. In the first part of my response to the officer seeking to label Black Lives Matter as a hate group, I refuted his arguably slanderous and libelous attacks on myself as a person. In this article, I will respond to his attacks on my work as a professional.
Sheriff Clarke, Police Still Don’t Have Dangerous Jobs
In Stop Blue Lives Matter I write,
“As a profession, the police are in a far less dangerous position than one might think. In fact, it would be fair to argue that police don’t have a very dangerous job at all. According to the FBI, in 2015, ‘41 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty…’ This is a 20% decrease since 2014. Not only are their jobs relatively risk-free, but the risk has consistently gone down for decades. In 2013, for example the United States saw the fewest police deaths by firearms since 1887…. ‘Police officer’ doesn’t even make the list of the top 10 deadliest jobs in the United States. Farmers, fishers, construction workers and truck drivers all put their lives at greater risks for their professions than police officer do.”
In reality, lightning is waging more of a war on the police than people of color are.
Still Clarke responds, “To begin with, while it is our job to serve and protect in the most dangerous conditions, to have Dr. Potter undermine the cost of that sacrifice is reprehensible and entirely full of lies.”
This is a misrepresentation of the goal of my article. I in no way attempt to undermine the sacrifice of law enforcement. What I do, though, is describe the actual threat of death experienced by law enforcement officers and contrast it with the overplayed and statistically incorrect narrative that the police have jobs that are so dangerous they should be ready to kill at any moment. The idea that police have a dangerous job is based on the notion that black people are dangerous. It is based on the idea that all communities of color, poor communities, and other target communities are filled with dangerous and “bad” people. It is based on the idea that the police have the right to serve and protect some communities, but not others. It is a prejudiced and unfounded argument that serves to incite and defend violence against people in these communities. This is the reprehensible lie I am trying to undermine.
Mr. Clarke goes on to argue that the police must “serve and protect in the most dangerous conditions.” These dangerous conditions include working in what Clarke describes as the “American ghetto.”
In part one of my response to Mr. Clarke, I describe how these “ghettos” are communities that we call home. I describe how these “dangerous conditions” are the environments we live in every day. But the danger is not the people – the men, women, children, elders, mentors, youth, friends, and families – that live in these “ghettos.”
We are advocates, teachers, service providers, shelter workers, volunteers and paid employees in all sectors. We live and work day in and day out in these communities that officers say they fear. We don’t see criminals when we look at our children. We don’t see thugs when we look at our men. We don’t see threats when we look at our women. We do not have bulletproof vests. We do not have special protections. We don’t go home to other communities, take our colors off and pat ourselves on the back for walking in an area where people are victimized more often than others. We do our jobs in these “dangerous communities” without promoting and defending the murder of innocent people. We do our jobs as professionals and as community members and family with concern for all involved. And we do our jobs without asking for permission to kill the people we work for.
We are the ones that have been exterminated, enslaved, euthanized, exploited by those that benefit from a political system that was built when only wealthy white males were considered to be people. We are the ones that are fighting to keep our children out from under the barrel of a police gun. We are the ones that have been physically, culturally and politically brutalized by systems of injustice and the law enforcement officers that uphold it. The danger is discrimination. The danger is segregation and poverty. The danger is racism and classism and ablism and homophobia. The danger is people dressed in blue uniforms with guns that think people of color are big “bad dudes” that are ready to kill at any moment. It is not the people that live in these “dangerous communities” that are the threat – it is the people like Sheriff Clarke that are the true dangers to us.
Sheriff Clarke, Police Are Not The Victims Of Their Own Brutality
As evidence to back his claim that community members are criminals and the police are under attack, Clarke quotes an academic from a conservative think tank (whose tower is arguably much more Ivory than mine) that writes, “40 percent of cop-killers are black, yet they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. A police officer is nearly 19 percent more likely to be killed by a black assailant than a cop killing an unarmed black person.”
Despite the creative application of statistical analysis, only 13 police officers were killed by black people in 2014. Of the close to 1.1 million officers hiding behind badges, only 51 were killed in the line of duty in 2014 and only 41 in 2015. That’s .005% and .0037% of the police population respectively. And while Sheriff Clarke believes the “slimy people” of the Black Lives Matter movement pose the most significant danger to law and order in the nation, 82% of these alleged cop killers were white.
Police officers are not being murdered en mass, and they are definitely not being attacked specifically by black people. Their statistical attempts to make the deaths of 13 officers grounds for declaring a war of blue against black in the United States is as ridiculous as it is dangerous to communities already fighting against police brutality.
Sheriff Clarke, Police Still Are Not People
Sheriff Clarke writes, “Potter adds to this falsified information purporting to show that police are above the law. To the contrary, police are held to a higher standard and under immense pressure to act with an almost super-human level of restraint when faced with immediate danger and the most testing and stressful of situations. The U.S. Supreme Court recognizes this in numerous decisions on police use of force that take into account that police act under circumstances that are tense, rapidly evolving and uncertain – and that their actions should not be reviewed through the lens of 20/20 hindsight.”
Clarke’s legal analysis skills are as strong as his profiling abilities.
Law enforcement officers are public positions. Blue is the color of a government uniform, not an identity. Blue represents a protected occupation, not a community that currently or historically has had to struggle for the most basic rights and protections in the United States. There is no such thing as a Blue life. Blue is not an identity under the law, and although this line has been a statement that police officers and sympathizers alike have responded negatively to, I will repeat it:
Police are not people.
As described in Harlow vs Fitzgerald, “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Further, “As recognized at common law, public officers require this protection to shield them from undue interference with their duties and from potentially disabling threats of liability.”
This layered immunity from the consequences of killing under the color of law is made possible because in the eyes of the law, police are not people. Blue is not an identity. Police are a protected class of government employee. Despite Clarkes opinion of federal policy, police are by all accounts considered to be above the law. This is only legally possible because, according to federal policy, police are not people.
Finally, I would like to address Clarke’s complete misrepresentation of my work to disband the police unions. As I describe in Stop Blue Lives Matter,
“The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) describes itself as embodying ‘more than 330,000 members in more than 2,200 lodges. We are the voice of those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities.’ They have used this voice to organize police unions in municipalities across the country, negotiate police union contracts in these locations, and pass Law Enforcement Officers Bills of Rights (LEOBORs) in 14 states. These contracts and policies are designed to ensure that police that kill and brutalize community members can escape trial, conviction and literally any form of accountability whatsoever for their actions. They function as obstructions to justice that allow killer cops to walk free and force community members to take to the streets to demand reform.”
In response, Clarke writes:
“…it’s also worthwhile to note that the Dr. Potters of the left are adding another target to their list: the union.…Watch out, Teamsters and Nurses, Potter and the Democrat party will be coming after you next. After all the union support the Democrats have lost with Hillary Clinton’s haphazard lurch toward total and complete abandonment of the middle class, one would think they would be a little more forgiving of the freedom of unions to represent the concerns of its members.”
Let me be as clear as possible, I am not a democrat - although the democrats have traditionally supported the unions, while Republicans have taken staunch anti-union positions. I am unaware of a Democratic agenda that promotes union busting in general; and I am absolutely not part of this imaginary agenda to “come after” the unions. Further, I am not personally or professionally anti-union. I have actually been unionized, come from a union family and am an outspoken advocate of exploited workers.
I am also personally and professionally against union-busting, in general. So much so, that I would not publish a strategy to disband the police unions until I found one that did not threaten unions in other fields. Fortunately, I was able to find and articulate just such a strategy. In Stop Blue Lives Matter I write,
“The nation’s leading law enforcement agencies are prevented from unionizing by the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act. After the Watergate scandal, there was a brief political window in which the public and government officials were afraid enough of abuses of authority by law enforcement, that there were willing to enact legislation that placed greater constraints on their ability to engage in misconduct and brought “efficiency and accountability” to law enforcement organizations operating at the federal level. Legislation that adds the national network of state and local law enforcement to list of those prevented from unionizing under the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act would ensure that police are held accountable by the federal government, facilitate the elimination of police unions, dissolve existing police union contracts, and prevent future obstructions created by additional police union contracts and legislation. The petition to support this reform can be found here.”
Clarke closes with, “In the meantime, Dr. Potter will continue to attack the men and women who put on uniforms and serve their communities with their hearts, minds, and muscle, while she writes behind her computer screen about how they remind her of modern-day slavers.”
Again this is a misrepresentation. I will continue to support communities targeted by police in their struggle — in our struggle — to protect our children and families and friends and neighbors from being criminalized for the color of their skin, the abilities of their body, the amount of poverty they must endure every day, the god they pray to, the country they came from, what gender(s) they are and what gender(s) they love…to protect them from being murdered for these same reasons. And yes, I will continue to write. From the grassroots. I will continue to educate. And I will continue to organize.
Some of this work will even be done at a computer. Using the internet. Here’s a link to my other articles on Huffington Post. The also serve to provide information about the struggle against police brutality, and they were also written at a computer.
Click here to read Part 1 of my response to David Clarke