If the police want to turn their backs on NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio, that's their prerogative. They are citizens and have the right to make a political stand, even on their jobs. To assail that right is to assail the 1st amendment rights of all workers. Unlike the military, they have a union that can sound the alarm when something is wrong in the system. In this way, the political expression of police is deeply tied to the health of our democracy. And that's why the stand that many in the political leadership of police unions have chosen to make has been both disappointing and unsurprising.
Talkingpointsmemo.com has an interesting article about the reactions of police unions to widespread police brutality protests. The article notes that police are feeling under threat and their political leadership is more aggressively answering their critics. The back-turning on DeBlasio is the most high profile, but before that Gabe Crocker, president of the St. Louis County police association, was publicly demanding "discipline" for what he deemed the "misconduct" of Saint Louis Rams players who protested with a Hands Up salute before a game.
|Note to Rams Players: Hands up only denotes innocence |
when you're catching a football. For a touchdown.
"People just don't think the system is working fairly for them. In some respects, I have to tell them, 'No, it's not,'" he said. "The basics of community policing are still the same. You have to understand the people in the community. You have to be able to gain their trust and respect.Now that's a start. We need police union bosses to make more speeches about the ways that the integrity of police work has been undermined by the prison industrial complex: how officers are encouraged, and sometimes required, to put as many black men in jail as possible, no matter their innocence or guilt; how decades of corrosive drug policy has snatched whole generations of black lives, either on street corners or behind bars; how some municipalities use the court system as a fundraising enterprise, ensnaring poor communities in a web of exorbitant fees for tickets and court services; how police lives are endangered to enrich the lives of white collar criminals on both sides of the law. Give that speech and I'll burn all my hoodies, remove Chief Keef from my spotify, and give out free belts to all the children with the lowly pants. Ha-lle-lu-jah.
Instead, they want to talk about respecting the law. They want to talk about accountability. They want to talk about "impoverished culture." They want to restrain us with bootstraps and Cosby sweaters.
|Cos Conspiracy Note: Cos is no conspiracy victim. If ever the people who conspiritate |
needed his pudding pops and victim blaming, they need it now. Don Lemon ain't cutting it.
|Slavery Note: Amendment 13 doesn't ban slavery, it bars |
involuntary servitude "except as punishment for crime".
It would also be hypocritical as a teacher to deny the connection my profession has to the justice system. Teachers can pretend like we don't see the prison pipeline awaiting our students at the door, but it's there. Ask a prisoner where they learned their first lessons about systemic brutality and they'll probably direct you to an elementary school classroom.
|Illustration: Seth Tobacman|
And that goes the same for police. Teachers have to defend ourselves from critics who say that we care more about our salaries than reforming the educational system that inequitably serves the children in our care. In order to have any credibility within the communities they work, police have to show they are advocates in reforming a racist justice system designed to destroy the lives of poor people of color. It's a tall order, that flies in the face of entrenched economic and political interest, but anything less is criminal.