It first popped on my screen when Harvard lawprof Ronald Sullivan called it “an important first step.” I reflexively shook my head. Dinosaurs have an expression, “talk is cheap.” For slacktivists, however, talk is all there is.
Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement was issued on behalf of the IACP, and comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
So Cunningham confessed that cops targeted black kids because they assume they’re all criminals, dangerous and not particularly worth the potential of a cop getting a paper cut? Get a grip.
Over the years, thousands of police officers have laid down their lives for their fellow citizens while hundreds of thousands more have been injured while protecting their communities. The nation owes all of those officers, as well as those who are still on patrol today, an enormous debt of gratitude.
At the same time, it is also clear that the history of policing has also had darker periods.
History. Foreshadowing. Cool use of a rhetorical device, Chief. And sweet hat.
There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans.
Well, yeah. You did that. Cops had the hoses. Cops had the dogs. Cops had the clubs. And cops used them. Thanks for admitting that, Chief.
While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.
And boom, “this is no longer the case.” Well, glad we got that out of the way. Now we can all let go of that “almost inherited” mistrust, that has nothing to do with anything happening today.
At the same time, those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past. If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them.
A great first step, eh? Well, that’s what we’re told.
Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, applauded Cunningham’s statement. “It seems to me that this is a very significant admission,” Robinson said, “and a very significant acknowledgement of what much of America has known for some time about the historical relationship between police and communities of color. The fact someone high in the law enforcement community has said this is significant and I applaud it because it is long overdue. And I think it’s a necessary first step to them trying to change these relationships.”
How Robinson was able to get all those words out with his tongue planted in Cunningham’s rectum is impressive.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said, “I think Chief Cunningham correctly identifies the need to acknowledge and apologize as a first step, and I don’t want to diminish how important the first step is,” because many police organizations have been reluctant to grapple with racial issues.
The problem with lauding this acknowledgement of historic racism as a “first step” is that he simultaneously said that it’s only historic and has nothing whatsoever to do with the good, brave cops now shooting black kids who “are not to blame for the injustices of the past.” No mention of the injustices of the present. And anyone who “fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths” gets a bullet.
Official organizations want so desperately to “work together,” have “a conversation” about their official mission, that they will suck up to anything remotely resembling an olive branch. It’s not as if a bunch of self-proclaimed Law Enforcement Leaders promised reform, right before they took out a few more unarmed black people, right? But when they said the words, everybody fell to their knees, thanking them profusely for being such great humanitarians.
And you learned nothing.
Now Chief Cunningham gives a bullshit speech and you’re fawning over it again.
Chief Cunningham wrote in an email after his speech: “Too many lives have been lost already, and this must end. It is my hope that many other law enforcement executives will deliver this same message to their local communities, particularly those segments of their communities that lack trust and feel disenfranchised.”
I’m tearing up. That was so…so…full of shit. Want to end it? So end it. But the cops don’t want to end it, and, even more significantly, are “offended” that Chief Cunningham gave it all away.
For some police groups, the remarks by Chief Cunningham — who is stepping down this week as the organization’s leader — were an unfair criticism of officers, who are working in one of the most difficult periods in police-community relations in recent history.
“Such appeasement of the violent anti-police movement is just one more nail in the coffin of American law enforcement,” said William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations. “The people who support American police officers aren’t looking for an apology. And for the people who hate the police, it won’t make any difference.”
Words. They hurt so bad that they make the very sensitive cry. They feel so good that they make the very passionate thrilled. Great first step, kids. Tell it to the cop as he’s pulling the trigger.