Rightwing Dishonesty in Police Brutality Debate

The problem with having an honest debate about police reform with the political right is that, they both reject that there is a problem to fix in the first place. Secondly they don’t make any attempt at understanding what the left actually wants. Instead they construct straw-men like this:

The Left wants the police — I suppose the entire criminal justice system — abolished. And we see now a preview of what would happen if they got their way: rampant violent, unchecked crime.

Implying that because you protest police brutality or say defund the police it means you don’t want any police.

As a counterpoint to this dishonest narrative which the right tries to create I pointed out that this is not a historically unique situations. Many other countries have been through reforming their police or building it up again. Germany had to do it after the war. I offered an example from my home country Norway which had a police brutality problem.

The size of the police force is of absolutely no relevance in this discussion, because the debate was about what the left seeks. It was a way of showing that just because somebody doesn’t like how the current police force operates, doesn’t mean they don’t want any police force.

Also, the US federal government has no direct control over state and local departments — that’s precluded by our federal system.

That is quite irrelevant in this discussion. The sticking point here isn’t about whether the whole force can be rewamped in one big sweep by a centralized decision. Again you are attacking straw-men.

Nothing prevents reform at a local level, driven by local grassroots movements. But there is a need for a national debate about what sort of police force you want. Even though US police are controlled locally, all US police operate in very similar fashion. It is not like some police operate like Swedish police while other are more like UK police, while another precinct is like Japanese police. There are common police tactics and procedures all over the US. The central government could provide guidelines suggestions and pressure to invoke local reforms aided by local activism.

Yes, Police Misconduct is a Major Problem in the US

Despite all the screaming hysteria, the problem of police misconduct relative to the population of this country — almost 330,000,000 — is not a large one.

This myth has to be laid to rest. Because this is such a common claim by right wingers I made a list of examples demonstrating why police brutality is a serious problem in the US. For crying out lout just look at the damn statistics of police shootings for different countries. These are adjusted for total population, and measures police shootings per 10 million people.

Look at the list where the US is located. The US is only flanked by deeply troubled third world countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq , Nigeria and Honduras. 47 people are killed by police in the US per 10 million people. Which is worse than a war torn, dysfunctional country like Iraq. That is just embarrassing.

The US should be closer to countries such as Germany with 1.3 police shootings. Compare with the UK at 0.5 and the US looks even worse. In a typical year US police kill around 1000 people, while UK police kill 3. That is big difference.

Mostly it’s concentrated in big cities where — surprise! — progressive Democrats have been running things for decades.

First of all American demcrates are not very progressive. By European standards they are to the right of our conservatives. They have done very little for the poor, and have not been effective in enforcing gun regulation.

How is it, for instance, that a city like Baltimore, with a progressive Democratic city administration featuring a majority of black officeholders, has a racist police department?

You conflate two different issues. Police brutality and institionalized racism. The US has a police brutality problem regardless of race. Just look at how they brutally beat up peaceful demonstrators and attack foreign news reporters. They are thugs out of control. Our reporters don’t get attacked like that e.g. in Russia. I mean when your average quasi-totalitarian state has better behaved police, you ought to realize you have a problem.

That the US police force has institionalized racism has been proven in many different ways. Here is one proof.

Some time ago there was an article which I cannot locate anymore about a black police officer talking about how black can end up getting targeted. The cops are often pressured to produce more arrests. And many of them like to beat up people, as was undovered in the story from St. Louis where they beat up an under cover cop (black of course).

The black officer interviewed in this story I cannot locate anymore explained how they did not enter white neighbourhoods to make arrests, even when drug use was similar or higher there than in black areas. The reason was the these areas where more privileged. They had better contacts with police, lawyers, judges, politicians and media. Arrests in these white areas would far more easily backfire on the police.

They also have to be more careful about arresting whites, than blacks. The public at large has tended to turn a blind eye to blacks beaten up by the police. It is only becoming an issue today because cameras are catching it and providing proof which is hard to ignore. Beat up a white kid with well connected parents and you are in big trouble.

How could that possibly be when the department itself is actually 40% black, 12% Hispanic, 45% white, i.e. majority minority ?

I don’t know the state of the Baltimore police force, but in principle there is nothing preventing a Baltimore police force from acting racist. Look at the story of black officer Officer Cariol Horne e.g. She stopped a fellow cop from choking a suspect to death. The guy was cuffed and no threat. What did she get in return? She was fired and lost her pension. They made up a story about how she endangered a fellow officer.

Black officers may very well know that if they try to top police brutality, they risk getting kicked off the force. Not to mention blacks themselves have often internalized the racism they are subject to. This is not usual at all. Blacks having prejudice against blacks is not unusual.

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store