F*** Tha Police? Really?

It's been 21 years since the release of N.W.A.'s "F*** Tha Police" but it seems like the sentiments echoed in that song have not been laid to rest. Everywhere I turn these days it seems people are hating on the police.

I was not a fan of police back in Chicago. In particular, my black male friends got pulled over all the time, for stuff like, "It looked like your city sticker is expired." Nevermind that there'd be no way for the officer to SEE the city sticker on the front windshield since the cop car would be behind us.

In fact, if a police car was behind us, we used to try to guess how many seconds it would take for the sirens to start flashing. We'd count it down and then whoever's guess was closest, they were the winner and had to treat the others to some Hecky's BBQ.

Oh, and there was the time I was driving through the north suburbs, Glencoe to be exact, with a friend's mom and she got pulled over by the police because the cell phone she was talking on matched the description of a cell phone that had just been stolen.

And the time we got pulled over when we had a white female friend in the driver's seat and the officer asked us what we were doing and then said something like, "Do you know these people? Are you okay?"

Clearly, we crazy black folks had clearly kidnapped her and were holding her against her will.

So with that sort of history, the first year I lived in LA, I was constantly nervous around the police. After all, this was the land of Rodney King and N.W.A., but unlike Chicago police, the LAPD actually seemed to have their hands full.

My experience is biased because I'm not male, dark skinned or hanging out in the Los Angeles equivalent of Chicago's very white northern suburbs. But more of it has seemed like cops here don't exactly have time to pull me over and harass me about where I'm going or what I'm doing. Having seen the scope of criminal activity here in Los Angeles, and it really is some next level, big league type of stuff, I really do think that many (not all) officers here in Los Angeles have bigger fish to fry.

Yet in the wake of the murder of Oscar Grant in Oakland, as I click around the blogosphere, I've noticed a marked increase in comments and blog posts that target all officers as being racists that are targeting black men. Last night I was over at Electronic Villager's blog (which I love) and checked out his post "Police, Tasers And Another Black Man".

Apparently, a black man in North Carolina was pepper sprayed, tased and then shot, and now the NAACP is filing a formal complaint. So I clicked on some links, read the news story, and read that the man's family says that he, "First tried to run from officers."

Hmm... that sounds like a bad move. If One Time is rolling up, you don't run. But the guy had a warrant so I guess he decided to flee instead of getting arrested. Oh, and then he allegedly reached for one of the officer's guns.

So somewhere in the course of resisting arrest and maybe reaching for a gun this man was pepper sprayed, tased and then shot.

One of the commenters on Electronic Village's post stated that "Unlike a gun that you can shoot into a leg, and disable someone, one shot with a taser is enough to kill. They need to be retired. They have caused the death of too many people. A cop should not have the power to act as judge, jury and executioner. Since they have no knowledge of how being tased is going to effect someone they need to be pulled."

I've thought about that a lot since I read it last night. Granted, I never want a taser to be used on me... but I also don't have any warrants and I don't run from the police or try to take their duty weapons. And, most officers have to be tased when they go through their Police Academy, precisely so they know how it feels and how it affects the body... and one of the officers in my family has permanent scars from being tased.

Oh, and police are not trained to shoot in the leg. Cops are trained to shoot to kill, which is why an officer using pepper spray and a taser first actually makes sense. What, would it be okay if that guy had gotten the gun and shot the officer? Because that's what evil pig cops deserve?

I guess over the years I've listened to too many of the stories the two black officers in my family have shared. I can see both sides... there are bad cops out there, but there are also a whole lot that aren't bad. Don't officers have the right to come home in one piece or are they actually supposed to let people who are resisting arrest take their gun? Remember, we call them when we need help...

We call them when there are shots fired in our neighborhood and little four year-old kids get killed in drive bys.
We call them when when there's a psycho who's destroying the local convenience store while in the middle of a meth rage.
We call them when the guys on the corner are getting a little too blatant with the drug dealing.
We call them when our neighbor is beating his girlfriend to a pulp.
We call them when drunk drivers crash in front of our homes.

Yes, I think there are definitely problems with police abuse of power, but the whole attitude that all cops are just out to kill black men and that's all they're doing really isn't the whole story these days.

But how about all the people who feel that way NOT call the police next time their home gets broken into, or the next time they get mugged? How does that sound?


Anonymous said…
I had a white male patient who was pepper sprayed for the same sort for resisting arrest behavior. And on the other hand, a white male freind in college who was roughed up by the plice for no reason he could discern. So good cops and bad, they're out their. Some racist, some not. I want them around when i need help, though.
Shiona said…
I definitely agree that they get a bad rap. Like in everything there are always a few that are bad.I will definitely call them when I need help. And I hope I live in a decent enough neighborhood that it won't take them so long to show up...
I agree Liz there are good and bad cops out there.

It's a tough job. I'm surprised more cops don't have serious stress issues.
Anonymous said…
Being a white guy who's never been harassed by the police, I find it hard to judge how racist or corrupt the police actually are. You so often get wildly different accounts from the officer and the person stopped. Certainly there are brutal and racist police but there are also principled officers who just do their job and make ordinary folk feel safer.

What disgusts me is when excuses are made for obviously racist officers instead of their being sacked on the spot.
Miriam said…
The guy who ran --I thought the cops were in plain clothes.

What's the purpose of taser guns? They seem just as lethal as guns, if not more so.
Anonymous said…
The police and the police force are two different entities.
Individuals and the system.
The police force in my mind are a controlling agent. They carry out the Governments dirty work of keeping the masses in check. Yet they themselves come from the masses! How would the system keep the status quo if they didnt have a well trained brainwashed force? They are the cruelest of all public servants-and sometimes they dont do what we the public want, they more do what the politians want them to do.
The police force are an organisation that is racist in its thinking and in its make up, thats fact that cannot always be proved but can anecdotally it sure can! Actually, there is loads of evidence that has shown this to be the case over the years. Deaths in custody, on arresting suspects, etc. Also, if you was to a do a survey of racism and the police, you would find overwhelming evidence to support the claim the the force is racist and that individual police officers can be racist.
However, I get your point that we the public need them and this is what saddens me the most.
They are something that we could not do without, but unfortuneatly, like a lot of power issues, it can be abused.
I have friends and family in the force and they are wonderful people, not all police officers are racist and most do a great job but there is always a few that spoil it for the rest.
Here in England, it is really sad how the numbers of police officers are so low and that the police continue to exclude the Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
Time is not changing this situation and like in the USA it looks like it is unchangeable.
One way to change the situation maybe to start to embrace the police force and talk positively about it and to see it from the angle that you suggested.
Power and authority are strange concepts that are linked to politics, as such, we are all just pawns in a very ugly system. Conversely, having said this, I do appreciate the police and the good officers that serve the public. The consequence of greed, unfairness and bad politics are crime and disorder.
Is it the publics fault or the politians?
Sorry to get so deep but this thing is complex and because I am from the masses and poor, I hold this viewpoint, perhaps I wouldn't if I were rich or from the upper classes!
I could never be a policeman but respect to those that can.
Long live the day we live in a fairer society!
Dirty Red said…
I agree with you. The Police never see the good in people they are only see the bad.. They see things that show how depraved and inhuman that some of us came be. So to me it is common sense that they are always on guard.


Some cops abuse their power. They let the badge go to their heads. To put so much power in the hands of a weak indivudual is not a good thing. But in my opinion being a cop or a teacher is the hardest job in America, and they don't get the respect that is very much deserved.
Anonymous said…

I do love you!

This is so beautiful.
Sometimes we need the cops and other times we may wish for professional arbitrators. I do know if they suddenly disappeared we'd be in a whole lot of trouble! There is that element of brutality and an effort at messing with Black & Brown men - but it is men from a certain class that are being targeted. The overall dealings with police would vastly improve if they didn't have so much criminal activity to contend with though. I do happen to think it's worse now in certain communities than ever.
Jennifer said…
You raise a good point (yet again, you have a habit of doing so). There are racist cops and cops who abuse their power, to be sure. But as a society, we need the structure and (for lack of a better word) discipline they provide. Without order, there would be chaos.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for weighing in on this and so sorry for not replying sooner. I found that being very sick has a way of keeping me offline. Anyway...

Both good and bad are definitely out there, that's for sure and folks of all colors can experience the bad. But in "minority" communities, there is definitely more police harassment. I heard a joke today that you'll never hear a black parent tell their child, "The police are your friend!" That's pretty true due to historical context. Even if there are officers that are decent, you don't always know what you're gonna get when you're pulled over or stopped on the street.

Oh yes. If I call the police to report something, I sometimes have to call back to be like, hey, it's an hour later and that the guy is still doing whatever under the tree! One of my officer relatives told me that it's because unless there's shooting or someone getting mugged, they de-prioritize nonviolent stuff because they are so understaffed.

Sadly, a whole lot of them do. They have such high rates of suicide, depression, heart attacks, cancer and on and on.

I don't like those excuses for racist officers either. I think they should be fired too, but so often the dominant culture of a police department can condone or cover up racist behavior, and those who don't go alone with it are punished, not promoted or otherwise treated like crap. That shouldn't be the case.

Not sure if they were or not, but if they show a badge and start reading Miranda's then no running should be taking place. From my understanding, tasers are not as lethal on people without medical conditions. They can be used to incapacitate particularly violent folks who are resisting arrest... but they also get used on pit bulls and attack dogs quite a bit.

It's an interesting thing going on with the role of the police. We all wish they didn't need to exist but I also wonder what my neighborhood would be like without them. When will our society evolve to a point that para-military organizations are not needed to keep the peace in neighborhoods, or is that even a real possibility?

I worried when I wrote this post that people would think I was saying that racism doesn't exist in police departments or within the system as a whole, when I know it undoubtedly does exist. It is manifested both in cop-to-cop relations as well as on the street. I just dislike the whole attitude that ALL cops are these horrible folks who are out to get black men, especially when there are black men killing black men in such great numbers. Both problems can and should be addressed, for sure, but it always seems like folks get more enraged over the one and just feel defeated over the other.

Dirty Red,
Both are such hard, thankless jobs. I suppose you have to be on guard almost all the time, as stressful as that is. The folks who let the badge go to their heads and abuse their power should be kicked off police forces and sent to therapy.

Love you too! :)

The idea of professional arbitrators is a great one. So often, the police are put into situations where they become de factor arbitrators in order to diffuse a situation or else figure out exactly what has happened in a situation.

You're so right about the class thing being a factor because it definitely is. And as far as the amount of criminal activity, it is definitely worse now. 10% official unemployment in LA has me worried about a spike in crime.

I was musing (probably rambling) in one of the above comments about whether we can ever get to a point as a society where we can exist without the threat of being arrested. I'm not sure. I suppose there always needs to be the threat of consequence in order to keep some people from engaging in criminal activity.
DJ Black Adam said…
Well, I think most police officers (I hope) are decent people, I by rule don't trust the police, simple as that. I have 4 Black sons and I tell them to be very respectful and CAREFUL of police Officers.
Jameil said…
and i'm somewhere b/t the 2. i don't like a lot of cops. i don't think they're all bad but i have a general mistrust of them b/c of collective experiences of mine and people i know and love. and even tho i don't generally trust cops, i do expect them to do their jobs when i call.
There are unquestionably racist cops, but there are also dedicated, fair-minded officers who serve civilians equally, regardless of ethnicity. I believe the latter outnumber the former, but the bad guys always get more publicity.

The two officers who murdered Oscar Grant have made all white cops suspect, even the good ones.

When I lived in North Carolina, I was on a date with a black man who was a medical doctor, and we were followed, pulled over and questioned. The cop didn't even pretend there was any reason other than the fact that I was white. I was more outraged than my friend because clearly, he was used to it. And that made it even worse.
Jen said…
I am so with you on this. I think there's the same kind of thing that happens with teachers, and you know what I'm talking about here, I think.

There are racist, bad cops, but they are NOT the majority.

There are racist, bad teachers, but they are NOT the majority.

You are so right that given what the police both do for us in general and how they're treated on the job we're blessed to have them.

That being said, I think the racist factor hits more in some areas than others. Also true of teachers. I think in places where there is a kind of "tribal" mentality on the force (or in the district) and where there are "us" and "them" divisions, where folks are burned out, jaded, etc., that's where the danger lies. And then it has to be the job of the city council/school board to get ON it.
Liz Dwyer said…
The thing is you never know which sort of officer your kid (or you) will come across. It shouldn't be that way.

I think it's hard for officers that are decent and genuinely want to help people to know that folks don't trust them and have good reasons not to. But yes, I hear you.

That experience is awful and yes, it is horrible to see someone who is used to such treatment. The Oscar Grant situation definitely does make all white officers look terrible and then non-white officers just look like sell-outs that have internalized oppression. :(

I 100% know what you're talking about with the comparison to teachers. That was always so frustrating because just like it's so easy to paint every teacher as being too lazy to do something about the achievement gap, it's too easy to paint every officer in a bad light.

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