Whether or not they choose to admit it, there is clearly a breakdown of trust between police and the African American community, and that distrust has spread to the rest of America. We have seen police chiefs refuse to release potentially damning videos to the public (Keith L. Scott, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald), tamper with evidence (Laquan McDonald), we've seen police plant evidence then collude to cover it up (Walter Scott), we've watched as police stood by and said nothing when one of their colleagues performed an illegal chokehold that proved fatal (Eric Garner). We've repeatedly watched police render no medical assistance after they've mortally injured someone, leaving citizens to die like animals (Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher, Tamir Rice, Kajieme Powell, among many others). Yet police unions continue to be the harshest critics of police reform.
When one group of Americans is brutalized, there is no "justice for all." Every American is at risk.
But last straw came when the Fraternal Order of Police chose to endorse Donald Trump for President. The FOP didn't have to endorse any candidate. And yet, in the wake of all the compelling evidence showing racial profiling, in the wake of the 2015 study showing that unarmed blacks are 3.5 times more likely than unarmed whites to be the shot by police, in the wake of the July 2016 report by the Center for Policing Equity showing that "black residents were more likely than white residents to be targeted for use of force," in the wake of all the high profile police shootings and resultant protests and riots, the nation's largest police union, comprising roughly 40% of the country's sworn officers, endorsed an openly racist candidate for President. In their September 16 press release, they backed Trump with such enthusiasm that they used three exclamation points!!!
And Donald Trump is not just any racist candidate. He recruited alt-right, white nationalist Steve Bannon as the CEO of his campaign. Trump is endorsed by numerous white supremacists, Klansman and neo-Nazis who recognize his sometimes coded racist language for what it is. For example, lamenting that America is no longer "a 92% white/European nation," Rocky Suhayda of the American Nazi Party wrote in September 2015. "We have a wonderful OPPORTUNITY here folks, that may never come again, at the RIGHT time... Donald Trump's campaign statements, if nothing else, have SHOWN that 'our views' are NOT so 'unpopular' as the Political Correctness crowd have told everyone they are!" He is consistently supported by only 0-1% of the African American population in the polls.
What does this tell us about how much the police care about African Americans? The nation's largest police union is basically saying to Black America, "Your lives don't, in fact, matter at all. Black blood does not matter. We give you the collective middle finger." Well, Black America, you have lots of allies who are standing up with you, and we are demanding police reform because America is better than this.
Compounding his racism, Trump has made comments making his contempt for due process known. He supports mass incarceration at a time when there is bipartisan support to dismantle it, supports militarization of the police departments, and supports stop-and frisk. This sets the stage for more and more Tulsas, Charlottes, Charlestons, Clevelands, New Yorks, Milwaukees, Baltimores, St. Pauls, Chicagos, and Fergusons. More protests, more riots, until perhaps there is no one left to protest. If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider that one in four US women already has a relative currently in prison, the vast majority of whom are people of color.
Sadly, the FOP's endorsement denigrates those good cops who bravely put their lives on the line everyday to do the right thing, and those cops who want to improve their profession and support police reform.
Police reform is a national emergency that needs to be addressed before it continues to tear our nation apart. Clearly there is something wrong with the way police officers are trained. "Warrior policing" is emphasized instead of de-escalation techniques, and cops are not taught enough how to recognize their own implicit biases and check them (biases all of us Americans hold, myself included). America imprisons more people per capita than every other country in the world. We hold 25% of the world's prison population, even though we don't even have anywhere near the high crime rates.
It saddens me that instead of trying to improve the way policing is done, rebuilding trust with the communities they are sworn to protect and serve, we see police departments dig in their heels to fight police reform at the expense of people's lives and our nation's unity.
Seared into our collective consciousness is the image of hundreds of cops turning their backs on New York Mayor Bill deBlasio in January 2015 as he delivered a moving eulogy for a slain police officer. Why? Because deBlasio had previously questioned the department's racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk policy and publicly admitted that he had had "The Talk" with his black teenage son--the same talk ubiquitous in households of black boys --- about how to survive an encounter with the police.
Yes, these truths make police and many white people uncomfortable. But we, as a nation, cannot turn our backs. We must rise above, do the hard work of truth and reconciliation, examine our own implicit biases, and heal our wounds. We must become a nation that is genuinely a place of Liberty and Justice For All. We are better than this.