The Dallas, TX police chief famously told people protesting police brutality to “Get off that protest line and put an application in [to become a police officer].” That sort of argument has been repeatedly used by those attempting to undermine protests, and it lacks any semblance of a basis in logic for the reasons discussed below.
It is not the role of a citizen to quit their job and start a new job working for the government in order to fix a problem with how the government is rendering a service. The idea that a person should have to give up their existing career and become a government employee before they can object to existing government employees committing murder is beyond ridiculous.
By that same logic, if the post office decides to shred and burn my mail I should have to quit my job and become a mail carrier before I can complain. If the city-owned water company starts pumping sewage instead of fresh water through my water pipes, I should have to quit my job and work for that water company before I can object. If the garbage service run by the city crashes into my car every week, I should apply for a job before I voice my displeasure. Obviously none of that makes any sense, and neither does the Dallas police chief’s retort.
The real problem with this argument is that it is yet another attempt to deflect from the very real issue of police brutality. Failing to address that problem is costing lives, and the sooner we cut through baseless retorts and get to work on fixing the issue, the sooner that lives will not be needlessly lost.
Defunding the police is a simple and viable solution that will go a long way towards reducing police brutality and racism. It involves having other agencies that are better equipped to handle a specific problem get the mission (and budget) to handle that problem, instead of giving the over-worked police departments that mission. Scaremongering from those who oppose defunding of the police lacks a basis in fact or reason, as is explored below.
Why defunding the police is necessary
Police officers are currently tasked with doing so much more than they are equipped and able to properly do. The police are called upon not only to handle criminal law enforcement, but to respond to people having a mental health crisis, dogs on the loose, civil disputes that don’t rise to the level of needing actual law enforcement, etc. Since police training in the United States tends to range from several weeks to perhaps half a year at the most, it is no wonder that the police officer who responds to all those different types of calls is not very well equipped to properly handle each of those situations. By being a jack of all trades, the modern police officer is a master of none.
Police are not mental health experts. They are not domestic violence experts. They are not animal control experts. They are not equipped to effectively handle a great many problems. As a result, police officers facing a difficult situation tend to fall back on their training. Since police training includes significant use of force components, and since police culture glorifies use of force, it is unsurprising that police gravitate towards use of force as a means of resolving problems.
More concretely a 22 year old police officer with a badge and a gun is not going to do nearly as good of a job as a trained mental health care worker when it comes to handling a call regarding a person who is having a mental health crisis. The odds of injury or death for the citizen, the cop, and bystanders is higher when the cop responds to that call than when a mental health professional who is trained in deescalation and is used to spending their days dealing with people in crisis responds. Similarly, that cop is not nearly as likely to catch a loose dog without injury to the dog, themselves, and bystanders as someone who works at an animal shelter and deals with rowdy dogs every day. Sending the cop to do that job increases everyone’s risk. The result in every case where a police officer is sent into a situation they are unqualified to handle is unnecessary risk of to members of the public, unnecessary danger for police officers, and more distrust of the police when something bad does happen.
Indeed, a single instance of seeing the police unnecessarily use violence can stick with a person for the rest of their life and make them reluctant to seek assistance from the police in the future. This produces secondary effects that are not good for society. As a simple example, my first memory of the police involved a police officer falsely accusing my parents of shoplifting a baby carrier. The situation was resolved with the police officer acknowledging that my parents had not shoplifted anything, but being detained and seeing that officer rudely treat my parents like they were less than human has stuck with me for decades. That comparatively mild experience (along with many instances of racial profiling I’ve experienced as an adult) still causes me to be apprehensive around the police, so it is is no wonder that people who have seen and experienced much worse are even more afraid of the police. It is no wonder that some people have panic attacks or try to run from the police even when completely innocent. Indeed, a cycle is created where abuses committed by the police lead to fear and distrust of the police, which in turn manifests in fear or even combativeness with the police, which in turn results in police using more force…
What defunding the police means
Defunding the police means taking some of their responsibilities (and the budget to go with it) away from the police department, and giving those responsibilities to agencies that are better equipped to handle that area. Instead of having the police handle a loose dog, let’s have the animal control agency (or a local animal shelter) get the call. Rather than having police officers respond to a person having a mental health crisis, we can have trained mental health professional show up. When a homeless person is loitering or aggressively panhandling, an advocate from a local homeless shelter can be given the opportunity to address the problem. To be sure, not every such problem can always be completely solved without the police becoming involved. But most of them can be solved without the police getting involved, and doing so results in better outcomes with less danger for everyone.
Real examples of what happened when the police were defunded
The city of Denver, Colorado has implemented a system of having a van with mental health workers and other trained professional dispatched to nonviolent 911 calls. The program has been a resounding success and more information on it can be seen here.
Camden, New Jersey abolished it existing city police department, shifted law enforcement duties to the county, reallocated resources to other agencies that could assist with mental health and related issues, and as a result saw a 47% drop in violent crime. The doom and gloom about defunding the police leading to violence was entirely unfounded. More on that here.
Don’t buy in to the scaremongering about defunding the police
Defunding the police doesn’t mean that police will be unavailable to respond to violent crime. It doesn’t mean that citizens will be left to fend for themselves. That is not what is being sought. Don’t buy into the fearmongering. Instead, see defunding the police for what it is – an opportunity to have better-equipped agencies handle things like mental health and homelessness, resulting in better outcomes and greater safety for everyone (including police officers).
The purpose of this page is to compile a convenient list of articles on police brutality, racism, protesting, and that situation in general. More specifically, I wanted to create a single page I could use when debating those issues online, and to have a good starting point for those who are new to the subject.
Yes, there is a real problem with police brutality and systematic racism.
Counterarguments to common anti-civil-rights statements
Differing sources of information and opinions
Solutions to police brutality and racism
Protest! (This is not a link to click on to learn more as all I have to say on this subject is that everyone should participate in peaceful protests. Showing up matters. Find protests in your area, and attend those protests.)
Security advice for anti-racism activists
The rest of the articles I’ve written on police brutality and racism
I have written a lot more about police brutality and racism than what is discussed on this page. The entirety of the articles I’ve posted on this website can be seen here: All articles in the police brutality and racism category.
When speaking out against instances of police brutality and racism, I often hear a response along the lines of “why are you protesting for this criminal?” Since I hear it enough, I thought I would write a brief response here so that I can just provide the link in the future and not waste type typing a separate response. For all the reasons stated below, the “why are you protesting for this criminal?” retort is baseless and often disingenuous.
Background on the “why are you protesting for this criminal?” retort
When I’ve commented online about police brutality and protests that I have organized in response to that brutality, there are invariably comments made by people who assert that because the person who the police abused had a criminal history, there should be no protests over that instance of brutality. There are similar memes shared online, expressing the idea that if the person who was abused by police has a criminal history then it is wrong to protest that abuse committed by the police. Sometimes these memes will take the form of “[Insert name of police brutality victim] beat up his ex-girlfriend in 2009, why are you all protesting a domestic abuser. Imagine how she must feel about people saying his name like he is a hero.”
Obviously I don’t endorse people committing crimes, but that is not a reason to ignore instance of police brutality and racism, as I’ll discuss below.
Police shouldn’t execute or otherwise abuse anyone
Whether a person is a cancer-curing, Noble-prize-winning, orphan-rescuing hero or a terribly violent jerk, it is not the role of the police to meet out vengeance through unwarranted violence. A person does not need to be venerated as a hero for us to conclude that the police were wrong for mistreating them. The way I see it, standing against government-sponsored violence against a vulnerable individual is always right – whether that vulnerable individual is someone who I would want to have over for dinner or not.
Remember, the foundation of our existence as a country under the rule of law is that no one is above the law’s prohibitions, and no one is beneath the law’s protections.
This is a pretty simple concept so I won’t spend much more time on it. We have courts and a criminal justice system to decide whether a person is guilty and what sentence they should receive. Extrajudicial violence from police officers (who are themselves breaking the law and the oaths they took when becoming police officers) is not justice and should always be condemned.
Anyone who still doesn’t get this should look at numerous examples where vigilante “justice” has resulted in terrible atrocities. The lynching of Emmett Till is a good starting point.
The focus on the criminal record of a person wrongfully killed by the police is grasping at straws to find a reason to oppose much-needed social change
Those who are opposed to civil rights progress search for any reason to justify their opposition. Whenpeacefully and silently took a knee, those opposed to civil rights falsely claimed he was disrespecting American soldiers. When professional athletes when on strike, attacks were made on their characters. Trying to find ways to smear the victims of police brutality and use that as an argument against protesting that instance of brutality is just another such tactic. Literally every approach taken by civil rights activists to fix the problems of police brutality and racism are met with scorn and derision.
Police manage to arrest many violent, terrible white people without murdering them
I have already written a separate article addressing the fact that police choose to use force more often and with more violence when dealing with black people than when dealing with white people. In that article I provide scientific evidence to support that conclusion, discus how the studies mirror what I have seen in my personal life as a black man and as an attorney who has represented people who were mistreated by the police, and provide links to that evidence. Read that article here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/
Violent police pose a danger to us all
A situation where the police are permitted to brutalize someone who they believe has a bad criminal history poses a very real danger to us all. Many of the cases of police brutality that have led to protests involve the police misidentifying an innocent person as a criminal and then using violence against that innocent person. Any of us (or our loved ones) could be the next innocent person who the police brutalize. As such it behooves everyone to take a stand against police brutality.
Indeed, the “mistaken identify” risk is so high that police are actually killing each other because they are so violent and trigger-happy. If those opposed to civil rights actually cared about the well-being of the police officers they claim to back, they would want to see the problem of police brutality fixed so that those police officers would stop killing each other. More on that issue can be seen in the separate article I’ve written here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/16/police-in-america-are-so-violent-and-trigger-happy-that-they-are-accidentally-killing-each-other/
Finally, given the inherent racism in our criminal courts where many black and brown people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, or convicted in factual situation where a white defendant would not have had the conviction go on their record, the fact that someone has a criminal conviction should not be seen as conclusive evidence that they are factually guilty or are a bad person deserving of hatred. I’ve also written a separate article on that point, complete with numerous citations to scientific studies: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/
The idea that protesters should be collectively responsible for the small number of people who engage in violence or property damage lacks merit. On the other hand, the same logic does factually work when it comes to police officers engaging in brutality, racism, and other misconduct.
Starting with some legal history, Respondeat Superior is a longstanding legal doctrine whose Latin words roughly translate as “let the master answer.” It is a doctrine that uses vicarious liability to make an employer responsible for the actions of a subordinate who is acting at the direction of the employer. In essences, the idea is that a person who is harmed by an employee doing the biding of the employer should be able to hold the employer responsible for that harm.
The crux of Respondeat Superior is that the employer is benefiting from the employee doing their bidding, that the employer has the ability to control the employee through their power to hire/fire/discipline, and that the employee’s bad act was something within the general duties of their employment.
Applying this sort of reasoning to protesters and rioters
It is plainly apparent that the Respondeat Superior reasoning doesn’t fit the scenario when a rioter engages in violence or property damage and then some people try to blame protesters as a whole (or the organizers of the protest who have not committed any crimes). Protests are events that take place in public where anyone can walk up and protest (or commit a crime). The protest organizers and attendees do not employ rioters and cannot control the conduct of random people who show up in a public place at the same time as the protest. Nor are rioters doing the biding of the protest organizers who desperately want peaceful demonstrations. Indeed, the private actions of a looter who is stealing shoes for themselves does not advance the interests of the protest organizer one bit. Protest organizers and attendees cannot fire the rioters the way that an employer can fire an employee, and again cannot exclude them from the public space in which the protest is taking place.
Every aspect of the Respondeat Superior test fails, and so imposing vicarious liability (legally or morally) upon peaceful protesters and protest organizers for the actions of rioters makes no sense. Instead, it is just a means of trying to ignore the much-needed police reform and injustice that led to the protests by smearing the protesters.
Applying this sort of reasoning to police
A place where Respondeat Superior does fit is the police. Police officers are employees of the police department. The police chief and others within the government have the authority to hire, fire, and discipline police officers. Police use department-issued badges, uniforms, guns, cars, handcuffs, etc. When a police officer uses force they are doing so in the scope of their employment, using training that they were given at work. When they exceed the scope of what is proper by engaging in brutality or racism, they are still acting within the time and space of the agency relationship between themselves and the department. Respondeat Superior fits like a glove.
That is all the more true when police chiefs and other governmental actors choose not to fire bad cops who have engaged in misconduct, only to have them commit further abuses. Similarly, police officers who have sworn an oath to uphold the law yet choose to ignore misconduct on the part of other police officers, and themselves culpable.
For all the reasons expressed above, it makes no sense to blame protest organizers and attendees for the criminal actions of a few rioters. However, it does make sense to hold police departments, police chiefs, and other police officers accountable for the actions of police officers who commit misconduct.
Finally, please note that a lot of the so-called “protesters” committing acts of violence and property destruction are either made-up stories or acts of violence/destruction that were later found to be committed by white supremacists who are trying to smear the protesters. More information on that issue can be seen here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/22/white-supremacists-falsely-accuse-black-lives-matters-protesters-of-violence/
Innocent people rightfully fear the police. Some of them run from the police as a result.
In response to the question of “if they are innocent why do they run from the police” I would note that there are many sound reasons for innocent people to run from the police. Those include fear of having evidence planted by the police, fear of torture by the police, fear of being wrongly framed for a crime, fear of being brutalized even if compliant, and even just the desire to avoid the indignity of repeated racial profiling. Each of those is explored below, with real-life examples.
Innocent people understandably fear the police will plant evidence on them
Police plant evidence on people to justify arrests, and absent video providing it the police almost always get away with it. As an example, this cop planted meth on dozens of people, causing them to go to jail and even lose custody of their children. It was only after his own body camera caught him in the act that this cop was stopped. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/07/11/florida-cop-meth-drugs-arrests-scandal/
When innocent people are falsely convicted of crimes and later freed, in more than half of the cases, misconduct by police and prosecutors played a contributing role. That’s the primary theme of a new report, “Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent,” released today by the National Registry of Exonerations, which has been tracking all known exonerations in the United States for the past 30 years. Police and prosecutors, in general, engaged in misconduct at about equal rates, 35 percent for cops, 30 percent for prosecutors at the state level. In drug cases, though, cops were four times more likely to have engaged in misconduct than prosecutors. https://reason.com/2020/09/15/half-of-all-false-convictions-in-the-u-s-involved-police-or-prosecutor-misconduct-finds-new-report/
Innocent people fear being tortured by police officers trying to extract a confession
Police have tortured countless confessions out of innocent people. One particularly notorious case is that of former Chicago detective John Burge, who led a ring of cops that tortured confessions out of over 200 people (mainly black men) who were innocent. They used methods such as electric shock to the men’s testicles, burnings, and beatings. More information on John Burge can be seen here: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/jon-burge-ex-chicago-cop-who-ran-torture-ring-released-prison
Innocent people fear being framed for a crime they didn’t commit
In an effort to close cases, police have been known to frame innocent people for crimes that the police know they did not commit. An example is that of the Florida police department where multiple cops (including the chief of police) were engaged in a conspiracy to frame innocent black men for burglaries. Information on that case can be seen here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/florida-police-chief-frame-black-people.html
Innocent people rightfully fear being beaten by the police, even if they are compliant
There are many cases where police beat or otherwise harm people why are fully compliant. The prospect of being attacked even if compliant can motivate innocent people to run. Since video really shows the point here, I’m going to provide a few videos of police attacking compliant people.
On a related note, see this link for more information on how police use of force depends upon the race of the suspect: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/
Innocent people may be tired of racial profiling and not want to experience it again
The Massachusetts Supreme Court noted in a decision from 2016 that a black man who runs from police shouldn’t necessarily be considered suspicious — and merely might be trying to avoid “the recurring indignity of being racially profiled”: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/21/494900984/black-men-may-have-cause-to-run-from-police-massachusetts-high-court-says
Innocent people may fear rape while in police custody
Police officers have forcibly raped or sexually assaulted many people (women and men) who were in custody. Making the problem worse, any states don’t make it a crime for a police officer to have “consensual” sex with a person who is in their custody, which makes proving the rape case even harder for the victim. Here is one of the many examples: A jury has found former Muscatine police officer guilty of sexually assaulting a Davenport woman while he was on duty. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/former-muscatine-police-officer-found-guilty-of-sexual-assault/526-62f29b5b-0e76-4451-9cb0-c068573055c7
Innocent people worry about the legal system being stacked against them
A completely innocent person who is arrested has legitimate cause for concern, and a desire to avoid that arrest is understandable. That causes many innocent people to run from the police. The idea of “comply and fight it in court” makes sense if fighting it in court can be expected to produce a fair outcome, but not when a person can reasonably expect time in jail, financial ruin, and even a lengthy but undeserved prison sentence.
Being arrested is unpleasant, as no one enjoys having their freedom taken away as they are hauled off to jail. Often high bond amounts keep people in jail for days or even years as they await trial, and living conditions in jails are generally terrible. Even worse is being taken away from one’s loved ones. The economic impact of losing a job, a house, a car, and everything else due to a lack of money when incarcerated only adds to the misery. The prospect of a prison term when ever so innocent is emotionally devastating, as is the embarrassment of having one’s family and friends know that one is incarcerated. The fact that such a person can be ever so innocent doesn’t change that analysis, as our jails (and prisons) contain many innocent people. As an example, this completely innocent man was held in jail for 3 years on a murder case because a crime lab and a prosecutor’s actions led to DNA evidence that proved his innocence being withheld: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/louisiana-dna-washing-machine.html?action=click&module=news&pgtype=homepage
Those concerns are especially true for Black people given the racism inherent in our criminal court system that leads to Black people having higher bail set, more serious charges, longer sentences, juries who are biased against them, and a whole host of other disadvantages that can be scientifically shown to be a result of race and not other factors. For a detailed discussion of that, complete with links to studies, see this article: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/
Against the backdrop of the information provided above, is it any wonder that some people who have done nothing wrong run from the police? It is unreasonable to expect a person who know that the police can plant evidence, frame them for a crime they didn’t commit, and physically harm them (will likely getting away with all of that) will try to avoid that mistreatment by rapidly leaving the area when the police appear?
It is hard for me to fault those people who run, even though I personally (as a lawyer) take a different approach involving the legal system when the police mistreat me.
Finally, note that in the interest of brevity I provided just a few examples of real-life abuses by police for the above categories, but a simple online search will show a great many other examples for every one of those categories.
The purpose of this page is to provide a list of links that address problems with policing in the greater Quad Cities area of Illinois and Iowa. I created this page to have an efficient way of responding to people who incorrectly argue that there are no problems with policing in our community.
News articles addressing problems with policing in the greater Quad Cities area
A federal jury awarded $300,000 to the woman who was stalked, harassed, and threatened by former Rock Island County Sheriff Jeff Boyd while he was the Sheriff. Boyd told the woman he could send her to jail, offered to help her with her immigration status, and used her vulnerability on immigration and those threats to try and coerce her into a romantic relationship she didn’t desire. https://qctimes.com/news/local/jury-orders-former-rock-island-county-sheriff-boyd-to-pay-300-000-to-woman-he/article_51906c82-6615-5b1f-874c-8f88f70795b4.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1
Sexual assault and child pornography charges have been filed against an East Moline police officer, who served as a school resource officer at United Township High School: https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/charges-filed-against-student-resource-officer-working-at-united-township-high-school/526-cf6375e4-de9f-4b75-b876-39dd2b455e48. This police officer later entered a guilty plea. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/former-ut-school-resource-officer-pleads-guilty-to-possession-of-child-pornography/526-a1c5cee5-6e2c-460b-b3a5-945b5f06cae8
A former Moline Police Department Sergeant has been arrested after an investigation alleged he stole from a department credit card and a local youth baseball bank: https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/former-moline-police-sergeant-arrested-and-charged-with-theft-over-10k-and-official-misconduct/526-d6612b42-fe14-4759-bae7-5117d184efed
Moline’s chief of police registered a blood alcohol level of more than 2.5 times over the legal limit the evening he was cited with an OWI. Other Moline police officers were present in the car with him as he was driving drunk at 90mph in a 65mph zone. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/moline-police-chief-cited-for-owi-after-bac-was-more-than-2x-legal-limit/526-3823e312-94e8-4d31-885f-ca597f858953
ACLU suing Hampton, East Moline police and Rock Island sheriff’s office for false arrest and excessive use of force against college athlete: https://www.wqad.com/article/news/aclu-suing-hampton-east-moline-and-rock-island-police-officers-for-false-arrest-and-excessive-use-of-force-against-college-athlete/526-48365366-4828-4a44-98bc-ffbb55e49a54
An East Moline, Illinois police officer was jailed and faces six felony charges in connection with a suspicious car sale and an alleged scheme to exploit money from an elderly person: https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/east-moline-police-officer-arrested/526-16b23144-316a-40a6-8447-4d38c47744ad
A Davenport police officer brutally beats department-store shoplifter without apparent provocation, and it’s caught on video. But officer escapes criminal charges – and keeps his job. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/quad-cities-police-office_n_3720974
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Davenport police officer who stomped on a man’s ankle was using excessive force, but that the legal doctrine of qualified immunity means that neither the officer nor the Davenport police department will be held liable. https://qctimes.com/news/local/court-officer-who-stomped-on-suspects-ankle-cannot-be-sued/article_95a9f4b7-9b92-50fe-8e1c-37d8f84b56bf.html
Police brutality and a lack of accountability has been a problem in Davenport, IA for some time now. A Davenport police officer was “disciplined” but not fired for lying on in police report in which he claimed a woman who he attacked was actually the aggressor, is a good example. In that case, the video showed the officer’s violence and lies. The Davenport police chief agreed the officer’s actions were improper but refused to fire him. The local prosecutors refused to bring charges against the officer. https://jonathanturley.org/2013/08/19/iowa-officer-beats-woman-because-she-appeared-willing-to-fight-police-chief-refuses-to-fire-him-and-says-such-things-just-happen-from-time-to-time/. https://who13.com/news/police-brutality-chief-responds-to-allegation/
A jury has found former Muscatine police officer guilty of sexually assaulting a Davenport woman while he was on duty. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/former-muscatine-police-officer-found-guilty-of-sexual-assault/526-62f29b5b-0e76-4451-9cb0-c068573055c7
Former Muscatine Police Officer Benjamin L. Varela was fired July 12 for violating department code and policies. A week later, he was charged with assault for punching a handcuffed woman. https://qctimes.com/muscatine/news/local/in-incident-report-fired-muscatine-police-officer-said-he-punched-a-woman-in-the-face/article_2de58d04-0ae8-5922-bab5-08d59b2109d2.html
GALESBURG, Illinois- An Illinois Department of Corrections parole officer was arrested for sexually assaulting two females while working, police say. Garrick Randolph, 52, was accused of sexual assault by one of his female parolees on Aug. 12, 2019, according to a statement from Illinois State Police. The parolee said in mid-July 2019, Randolph sexually assaulted her while she was in her home, the statement said. A second female victim said Randolph also sexually assaulted her while he was working as a parole officer, according to the statement. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/illinois-parole-officer-accused-of-sexually-assaulting-parolees/526-998be0b3-dc1d-45f6-84df-dd5fedd85ea1
The Cedar County, Iowa Sheriff is not honoring the arrests made by officers of the Durant Police Department. “We had an incident here with a Durant officer wanting our dispatcher to lie on an arrest,” said Sheriff Warren Wethington. The Sheriff says the Durant Police Department hired a retired Iowa State Trooper, Robert Smith, who has a history of abusing his power, according to Sheriff Wethington. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/local/drone/8-in-the-air/cedar-county-sheriff-wont-honor-arrests-made-by-durant-police-officers/526-11b45315-f876-4a3e-b8fb-e10793675d77
The city of Maquoketa and Jackson County agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Drew Edwards for $4.5 million after he died in police custody. https://www.kwqc.com/2020/09/10/city-of-maquoketa-agrees-to-settle-wrongful-death-lawsuit-for-45-million/
Finally, please note that the vast majority of problems in policing never make the news and so there is no article that I can provide for those cases. This means that what you are seeing above is the tip of the iceberg; the problems with policing in the greater Quad Cities area is much more serious than what I can present here, and I say that as an attorney who has first-hand knowledge of many instances of police brutality, racism, etc., that I can’t discuss due to attorney-client confidentiality.
A couple of articles addressing the problems in policing in general
Police use of force depends upon the race of the suspect: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/
Our criminal courts are inherently racist: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/
Below are screenshots that provide information on Dave Coghlan Jr., the guy behind the armed “back the blue” rally in Davenport. His swastika tattoo is clearly visible, as is the AtomWaffen Division neonazi mask that he is wearing.
His facebook shows a “Fuck Black Lives Matter” meme. But he does post how “White Lives Matter” and memes about intentionally running over protesters. Dave Coghlan Jr. engages in race-baiting and the fomenting of hatred. He talks about how how won’t die from natural causes but, in a “blaze of glory.” He also posted a picture of a motorcycle with guns mounted to it, and called it the “protester eliminator bike.” Dave Coghlan Jr.’s facebook posts are a showcase of hate, and he is a member of a various hate-filled facebook groups/pages that express white supremacy and bigotry.
What is especially scary is his apparent interest in law enforcement. He boasted on facebook about seeking a job where they give him a badge and a gun. Given the above-discussed matters, I fear how he would treat me (or some other black/brown person) in the performance of such a job. Given his posting of the “all lives splatter” meme about running over protesters, I can’t help but worry what he would do with a work-issued vehicle too.
Apparently other people have thought he was racist too, long before I ever heard his name. One of his own facebook posts talks about how a customer expressed concern about him being racist. Multiple other people have also been finding his posts to be racist and sharing information about that racism on facebook too.
These images were taken from facebook, to include Dave Coghlan Jr.’s own public facebook profile at https://www.facebook.com/scrappycoghlan (although he has since made the facebook page a lot more private). His wife’s facebook also shows pictures of him with an iron cross tattoo and a confederate flag for a pillow. Review the images:
Some friends and I organized a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism in Davenport, Iowa. The protest took place at the Davenport, Iowa police station on August 22, 2020 at 4:00pm. Video and news coverage follows:
Video interview from our 10:00am counter-protest of the rally organized by the deplorable person discussed here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/08/19/the-neonazi-counter-protest-to-our-peaceful-protest-against-police-brutality-and-racism-in-davenport-iowa-on-august-22-2020/
More information can be seen on the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/623795348260566/
Police in the Quad Cities area – to include Davenport, IA, Bettedorf, IA Rock Island, IL, Moline, IL, East Moline, IL – engage in brutality and racism towards the communities that they are supposed to be protecting and serving. This needs to stop, and by speaking up we can make it stop.
View and sign the Petition here: https://www.change.org/p/mayors-end-police-brutality-and-racism-in-the-quad-cities
We have a problem with the police in the United States being much too willing to use violence. A pair of recent cases where police officers shot and killed other police officers, incorrectly thinking that their own colleagues were dangerous civilians, highlight that issue.
In Texas, a deputy constable was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy as the two of them investigated a report that some “suspicious” person had run down the street, leading those police officers to look around the inside of a nearby house. No one else was present in the house besides the two police officers. https://www.kxan.com/news/texas/sheriffs-deputy-accidentally-shoots-kills-constable-in-fort-bend-county/
In Arkansas, police officer threatened to shoot through his door at any hypothetical “protesters” who might show up, despite no such people having ever appeared at his door. When another police officer from his department came to pickup a squad car, the police officer shot through the door, killing that fellow police officer. https://thefreethoughtproject.com/cop-arrested-killed-fellow-cop-through-door/
The death of any human being is a loss, and here we have two entirely unnecessary deaths. That is tragic. What is equally tragic is the fact that both of the police officers who fired were intending to kill (non-existent) citizens who clearly did not deserve to die, which tells us we have a deeply-seated problem with policing.
Looking beyond those two cases, the statistical data shows that our police have become overly-militarized and are much too quick to pull the trigger. Indeed, much of that problem can be traced to the “warrior” mindset problem within American police departments which encourages police officers to treat everyone as deadly threats and to be much too quick to use deadly force against the people that the police officer has sworn to protect. This statistically unjustified hyper-vigilance that pervades police culture is why the above two police above are dead at the hands of their colleagues, just as it is (part of) why so many innocent Americans have been killed by the police. The Harvard Law Review published a most excellent article on this “warrior” state of mind problem: https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/
Beyond that, even adjusting for different rates of violent crime and different population levels, the inescapable fact is that police in the United States shoot and kill more frequently than in any other developed nation. A good overview of that can be seen here: https://www.afromerica.com/afrone/american-police-shoot-kill-and-imprison-more-people-than-other-developed-countries.
Finally, for a discussion on the issues with police brutality and racism between the police and citizens, please see these links:
Below is video of a speech I gave at the peaceful protest against police brutality and racism in Davenport, Iowa on July 11, 2020.
WQAD Channel 8 news covered the protest. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/protestors-push-for-end-to-police-brutality-outside-davenport-police-department/526-224441f3-a1f9-4d90-9540-5b63526441d5
So did the Quad City Times: https://qctimes.com/news/local/q-c-protest-looks-at-against-police-brutality/article_33d41c58-c273-568b-b66f-74d51f82bc5f.html?utm_campaign=snd-autopilot&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook_Quad-City_Times
My office is in Davenport, Iowa and I have had multiple clients mistreated by the Davenport police. Due to attorney-client privilege and confidentiality, I am prohibited from discussing those client’s cases here. So, I will instead only discuss cases from the news that do not relate to my clients. Even with the limitation of not being able to talk about the majority of what I know about police brutality in Davenport, there is still information I can share using only news articles.
Problems with policing in Davenport, Iowa in particular
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Davenport police officer who stomped on a man’s ankle was using excessive force, but that the legal doctrine of qualified immunity means that neither the officer nor the Davenport police department will be held liable. https://qctimes.com/news/local/court-officer-who-stomped-on-suspects-ankle-cannot-be-sued/article_95a9f4b7-9b92-50fe-8e1c-37d8f84b56bf.html
Police brutality and a lack of accountability has been a problem in Davenport, IA for some time now. A Davenport police officer was “disciplined” but not fired for lying on in police report in which he claimed a woman who he attacked was actually the aggressor, is a good example. In that case, the video showed the officer’s violence and lies. The Davenport police chief agreed the officer’s actions were improper but refused to fire him. The local prosecutors refused to bring charges against the officer. https://jonathanturley.org/2013/08/19/iowa-officer-beats-woman-because-she-appeared-willing-to-fight-police-chief-refuses-to-fire-him-and-says-such-things-just-happen-from-time-to-time/
Scott County, Iowa (Davenport is the largest city in Scott County, Iowa)
Despite similar rates of marijuana usage, black people in Scott County Iowa are nearly 13 times more likely to be arrested than white people. https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2020/04/20/aclu-iowa-among-worst-nation-racial-disparities-marijuana-arrests/5155632002/
The state of Iowa as a whole
A Black person in Iowa is 7.3 times more likely to be arrested than a white person for marijuana possession, even though both groups use marijuana at about the same rate, a national ACLU study of law enforcement data has found. Iowa ranked the fifth-worst in the nation in racial disparities for marijuana arrests, even as other states are decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. https://www.aclu-ia.org/en/press-releases/iowa-ranks-among-worst-states-racial-disparities-marijuana-arrests
Racism and brutality in policing in general
The following articles provide much more information on the problems of racism and police brutality in the American policing system and criminal justice system:
Our legal system has a serious problem with racism, and I say that as an attorney and a Black man. As discussed below, this is not just some idea of mine; the history, statistics, and peer-reviewed studies make this conclusion sadly inescapable.
Starting with my own personal experiences as an attorney who handles criminal defense work in Illinois and Iowa, I see a difference in how my Black or Brown clients are treated by the court system, compared to how my White clients are treated. Prosecutors often charge Black/Brown defendants with more serious crimes than White defendants, even when the conduct is identical. Judges will set higher bond amounts for Black/Brown defendants, even on identical charges. Racist crime lab employees are entrusted to analyze DNA and give conclusions that are relied upon by the prosecutor and court. Prosecutors offer less favorable plea deals to Black/Brown defendants than White defendants for similar conduct. Prosecutors strike Black/Brown jurors, leaving only White jurors to decide guilt or innocence. Juries show a bias in favor of White witnesses and defendants, and a bias against Black/Brown witnesses and defendants. Black/Brown juvenile defendants are transferred to adult court while similarly situated White juvenile defendants remain in juvenile court. Judges impose harsher sentences on Black/Brown defendants, even when race is the only difference between defendants. Probation and parole officers are more likely to try and revoke the probation or parole of Black/Brown people than of White people for similar conduct. I personally see all of that, and know that racism is alive and well in our criminal justice system.
Study after study supports what I have seen:
A study found that Blacks 18 to 29 years-old pay more to get out of jail than Whites. Blacks are held in jail at rate that’s almost five times greater than Whites, and it is harder for jailed defendants to plan an effective defense. Fifty percent of defendants who committed no crimes at all took guilty pleas to avoid convictions and maximum penalties. http://sacobserver.com/2012/09/blacks-pay-more-to-get-out-of-jail-on-bail/
A 2013 study found that after adjusting for numerous other variables, federal prosecutors were almost twice as likely to bring charges carrying mandatory minimums against black defendants as against white defendants accused of similar crimes. https://www.yalelawjournal.org/article/mandatory-sentencing-and-racial-disparity-assessing-the-role-of-prosecutors-and-the-effects-of-booker
A 2017 report by Carlos Berdejo at the University of Loyola Law School found that White defendants were 25 percent more likely than their Black counterparts to have criminal charges dropped or reduced to less serious crimes. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3036726
When Harris County, Tex., saw a flaw in how drug testing was conducted at its crime lab, officials went back and exonerated dozens of people who had been wrongly convicted for possession — most pleaded guilty, despite their innocence. This is because prosecutors often promise harsher sentences or more charges for defendants who take a case to trial. Black people comprise 20 percent of the Harris County population but made up 62 percent of the wrongful drug convictions. https://www.texastribune.org/2017/03/07/report/
Between 2003 and 2012, prosecutors in Caddo Parish, La. — one of the most aggressive death penalty counties in the country — struck 46 percent of prospective black jurors with preemptory challenges, vs. 15 percent of nonblacks. https://blackstrikes.com/resources/Blackstrikes_Caddo_Parish_August_2015.pdf
In a 2010 study, “mock jurors” were given the same evidence from a fictional robbery case but then shown alternate security camera footage depicting either a light-skinned or dark-skinned suspect. Jurors were more likely to evaluate ambiguous, race-neutral evidence against the dark-skinned suspect as incriminating and more likely to find the dark-skinned suspect guilty. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1601615
While black youths make up 14 percent of the youth population, a 2018 study found that they make up 53 percent of minors transferred to adult court for offenses against persons, despite the fact that white and black youths make up nearly an equal percentage of youth charged with such offenses. http://cfyj.org/images/pdf/Social_Justice_Brief_Youth_Transfers.Revised_copy_09-18-2018.pdf
A 2011 summary of the research on race and plea bargaining published by the Bureau of Justice Assistance concluded that “the majority of research on race and sentencing outcomes shows that blacks are less likely than whites to receive reduced pleas,” that “studies that assess the effects of race find that blacks are less likely to receive a reduced charge compared with whites,” and that “studies have generally found a relationship between race and whether or not a defendant receives a reduced charge.” https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf
A 2007 Harvard study found sentencing discrepancies among black people, depending on the darkness of their skin. The study looked at 67,000 first-time felons in Georgia from 1995 to 2002. The average sentence for white men was 2,689 days. The average for black men was 378 days longer. But light-skinned blacks received sentences of about three and a half months longer than whites. Medium-skinned blacks received a sentence of about a year longer. Dark-skinned blacks received sentences of a year and a half longer. https://scholar.harvard.edu/jlhochschild/publications/skin-color-paradox-and-american-racial-order
A 2015 study of first-time felons found that while black men overall received sentences of 270 days longer than white men for similar crimes, the discrepancy between whites and dark-skinned blacks was 400 days. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jels.12077
It wasn’t Black-on-Black crime. Violent video games and rap songs had nothing to do with it; nor did poverty, education, two-parent homes or the international “bootstraps” shortage. When a judge tasked researchers with explaining why Massachusetts’ Black and Latinx incarceration was so high, a four-year study came up with one conclusion. Racism: https://www.theroot.com/a-judge-asked-harvard-to-find-out-why-so-many-black-peo-1845017462
The United States Sentencing Commission is an official part of the federal judicial branch. It produces regular reports about the criminal justice system at the federal level. The most recent report found that Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied. Violence in an offender’s criminal history does not appear to account for any of the demographic differences in sentencing. https://www.ussc.gov/research/research-reports/demographic-differences-sentencing
For further reading, the following links give detailed information from investigative journalists, provide citations to peer-reviewed studies, and thoroughly demonstrate that racism is alive and well in our courts:
Finally, please note that this article is intended to address the problems of racism in the court system. For a discussion of the racism in policing, please see this article: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Elijah McClain, and so many others at the hands of the police have sparked a civil rights movement in the US and around the world. In particular, watching a police officer crush the life out of George Floyd was just too much for the consciences of many decent people. Hearing George Floyd call out for his mother as his life was being extinguished was something that touched the hearts of so many. In response, tens of millions of people in big cities and rural towns have come together to denounce the brutality and racism that pervades policing in the United States.
The road that brought us to this moment in history is a long one that I won’t try to fully recount in this brief article, as that would take years to write and months to read. However, I will try to provide a brief overview of the racism and brutality that is currently plaguing policing, before moving on to what I believe can be done to fix the situation.
We have a real problem with policing in our country
There is a serious problem with policing in our country. American police officers use force – including deadly force – in many situations where it is entirely unwarranted. Racism is sadly alive and well in policing too. A comparison of the militarization and violence of American police forces to those in other similar countries is breathtaking and reveals a problem that many other developed nations just don’t have.
As a Black man, I have been racially profiled and wrongfully detained by numerous police departments throughout my life. My first memory of the police involves my parents being falsely accused of shoplifting and being mistreated by a police officer. I will never forget the way that that officer spoke down to them, forced them to return to the store, and treated them as though they were less than human. As an attorney, I have represented people who were the victims of police brutality and other police misconduct, with many of those situations clearly driven by racism on the part of the police officers. I have represented clients where the video evidence showed the police officer fabricated charges. Indeed, I have seen judges sternly rebuke police officers for their wrongful actions, only to later see that police officer remain employed and ready to victimize others. Perhaps most frustrating, I can think of multiple clients who were abused by the police yet chose not to sue because they were genuinely afraid of retaliation.
Leaving aside my personal and professional anecdotal experience, the statistics confirm the existence of racial bias in our justice system. The United States Sentencing Commission, which is an independent agency within the judicial branch of our federal government, routinely publishes reports on demographic differences in sentencing. The most recent report found that “Black male offenders continued to receive longer sentences than similarly situated White male offenders. Black male offenders received sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders during the Post-Report period (fiscal years 2012-2016), as they had for the prior four periods studied. The differences in sentence length remained relatively unchanged.” So, even adjusting for other factors, being Black means more police scrutiny, more violence being applied by the police during arrests, harsher charges from the prosecutors, and longer sentences from the judges for the same conduct as a White person. These federal court findings mirror what we see in state court, with many states having an even greater racial disparity – even when we account for things like criminal history such that race is all that is left to explain that disparity.
Indeed, former US Marshall and DEA Special Agent Dr. Matthew Fogg spoke in 2015 about how drug investigations and arrests specifically target poorer minority communities, and how the DEA agents were expressly told not to do drug enforcement in more affluent and primarily-White communities. A majority of the no-knock warrants that have led to deaths of innocent people such as Breonna Taylor occur in less affluent areas with more Black residents. As another data point, the ACLU did an analysis this year and found that despite the fact that Black people and White people use marijuana at roughly the same rates, Black people are nearly 4 times as likely to be arrested for using marijuana. Studies also show that Black people are about 3 times as likely to be killed by the police as White people. I could go on and on, but presence of a racial bias in policing should be clear by now.
How to fix our policing problem
Fixing the problems in policing may seem daunting, but significant improvement can be made with a few relatively minor actions. Doing so will help protect both the community and the police officers, as reducing violence and unnecessary police-citizen interactions is in everyone’s best interests.
Ending Qualified Immunity is perhaps the biggest single improvement that can be made to fix policing in America. Qualified Immunity is the legal doctrine that makes it impossible for many people who have been abused by the police to obtain justice in court. In a nutshell, Qualified Immunity is a legal rule that prevents a police officer from being liable unless the person who is suing can show that a clearly established right was being violated by the police officer. While that may sound reasonable at first, it it is anything but reasonable and makes justice unattainable for many victims. For example, Qualified Immunity has prevented law enforcement officers from being liable for rape when there is not a “clearly established” right not to be raped while in custody expressed in the caselaw of that court when the lawsuit is filed. Qualified Immunity also allowed two police officers to steal $225,000 because it was not “clearly established” in caselaw that stealing from someone when executing a search warrant was a violation of that victim’s rights. The list goes on and on, but the point is clear: Qualified Immunity acts as free pass for law enforcement to act with impunity in many cases. Abolishing this misguided legal doctrine will allow our legal system to hold the police officers who engage in misconduct accountable.
A close second in the list of ways to fix policing is something that we can all do, using our cell phones: record the police. It was 17 year old who recorded the video of George Floyd being murdered, and in doing so that brave young person exposed a killing that would likely have otherwise been swept under the rug. If we all take the time to record the police – whether they are stopping us in traffic or arresting a total stranger, we will help fix the problems in policing. Just having cameras present may prevent many instances of police brutality. Even when police brutality is not prevented by the presence of a camera (as in the case of George Floyd), having a recording of what happened will at least allow justice to be served. Speaking again as an attorney, I have had cases where my client’s innocence was proven through bystander videos. I have also had cases where the police department dishonestly tried to hide squad car video and other evidence, and that sort of police misconduct makes the video recorded by random members of the public all the more important.
Requiring squad car video and body cameras for all police officers will help for the same reason that the video of bystanders will help, and requiring the police to carry the video cameras will go a long way to ensure justice even in cases where there are no bystanders. It will also serve as a deterrent against police brutality. I can think of multiple cases that I have handled where the squad car or body camera video recorded by the police showed that the police officer had falsely accused my client. There have also been cases of police planting drugs on people that were captured on the police officer’s own body camera, saving innocent people from prison sentences. Requiring that the body cameras be turned on during interactions with the public, and having penalties for police officers who turn off or cover cameras, should be part of the solution.
Expressly imposing a legal duty on police officers to intervene and report when they see a fellow police officer engaged in misconduct is something that is sorely needed. Using the case of George Floyd as an example, one police officer choked the life out of Mr. Floyd while two others held him down, with the final police officer standing nearby. None of those other officers intervened, and that fact pattern has played out time and time again. Indeed, given that police officers take an oath to uphold the law, it is sad that there is even a need to address this point.
Protecting police officers who report misconduct is also key. There have been many cases in which police officers blow the whistle on their corrupt fellow officers, only to be fired in retaliation. Whether it is the story of former New York police officer Frank Serpico from the 1960’s or the dozens of modern examples, it is clear that police officers who speak up often find themselves without a job or pension, and sometimes even find their lives in danger. One particularly relevant example is that of former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne, who was fired and lost her pension after she physically intervened to stop another police officer from punching and choking a handcuffed suspect in 2006. Protecting these officers, who have the courage to stand up for what is right, should be a priority.
Finally, we should reduce reliance upon the police for mental health, motorist assistance, and other such matters. It is common practice for the police to handle many odds-and-ends jobs in the community that would be better given to mental health professionals, the highway department, etc. Unfortunately, the police are poorly equipped to do these many other tasks, and their involvement produces unnecessary police-citizen interactions. In many states, a person needs more hours of training to braid or cut hair than they need to become a police officer, yet those police officers are sent into many situations they are unqualified to handle. This contrasts sharply with many other developed countries that require much greater education and on-the-job training for police officers. Tragedy often ensues when that police officer falls back on their existing training in the use of their firearm or baton. To be sure, the police can be available to provide law enforcement when it is needed, but keeping them on the sidelines whenever possible will reduce situations where force is needlessly applied.
As previously mentioned, recording the police is something that requires no action on the part of the government. We are all able to use our cell phones to record the interactions with the police that we observe as we go about our lives, and I encourage everyone to start doing so right away. Bringing about the other changes discussed above will require political action. Our state and federal legislatures will need to pass laws. State Governors and the President will need to sign those laws. In order to make those things happen, citizens will need to write to their elected officials, participate in peaceful protests, and vote. Spending just a few minutes to do so can be the difference between making a better world for our children and ourselves, or maintaining the status quo of police brutality and racism. The choice is ours.
Protesting is working, so let’s keep at it
Although there is still so much to be done, real progress has been made in the last few weeks. The police officers responsible for George Floyd’s murder have been charged. Other murders committed by the police are receiving new scrutiny from prosecutors at the local, state, and federal levels. Several states (including Iowa) have passed laws that begin to address brutality and other misconduct on the part of police officers. The state of Colorado went the furthest, abolishing Qualified Immunity. Those changes are testaments to the power of protesting, and a reminder that speaking up works.
In closing, I would like to invite everyone to join me for a peaceful protest at the Davenport Police Department on July 11, 2020, at 4:00PM. At this peaceful event, we will oppose racism and police brutality. More information, and a link to the Facebook event page, can be seen at https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/26/protest-against-police-brutality-and-racism-in-davenport-iowa-on-july-11-2020-at-400pm/
A gentleman who opposes police brutality and racism publicly stated that he would not attend a protest against police brutality and racism because that protest didn’t also address the problems of inner-city violence and the related social woes. I respectfully disagree and am sharing my response to him here:
In both Illinois and Iowa it is your legal right to record the police during a traffic stop (or when the police stop you on foot). You do not need the permission from the police to record. You do not need to inform the police that you are recording.
Recording the police, whether they are stopping you, someone you know, or a stranger, helps deter the police from engaging in brutality and helps ensure that justice can be had if they do engage in brutality.
A guide on the law surrounding recording the police, published by First Amendment Watch out of New York University, can be seen here: https://firstamendmentwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Citizens-Guide-to-Recording-the-Police-2.pdf
Some friends and I have organized a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism in Davenport, Iowa. The protest will take place at the Davenport, Iowa police station on July 11, 2020 at 4:00pm. The address is 416 Harrison Street, Davenport, IA 52801.
More information can be seen on the Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/565306157705631/
The “All Lives Matter” response to “Black Lives Matter” is a disingenuous attempt to downplay the fact that the lives of black (and brown) people are undervalued and often ended by the police in the United States. The point of “Black Lives Matter” is not to say that *only* black lives matter, or that black lives matter more, but rather to bring attention to the fact that many police officers and other people routinely act as though the lives of black people don’t matter.
By way of analogy, when a brain cancer walk is organized, no one is saying that all cancers don’t matter. When a funeral is held for someone’s grandmother, no one is saying that all relatives don’t matter. When someone says “save the rain forest,” they are not claiming that pine forests don’t matter. It is entirely possible to raise awareness about an issue without discounting other issues.
The following links really help drive this point home:
Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/11/12136140/black-all-lives-matter
The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dear-fellow-white-people-_b_11109842
Why You Need to Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”: https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a27075028/black-lives-matter-explained/
Why you shouldn’t respond to ‘Black lives matter’ with ‘All lives matter’: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/why-you-shouldnt-respond-to-black-lives-matter-with-all-lives-matter-my-2-cents/ar-BB14ZRog
These links explore the very real problems of police brutality and racism:
It is a sad truth that the police choose to use force more often and with more violence when dealing with black people than when dealing with white people.
In recent weeks I’ve seen a significant uptick in debates where people seem to take the view that their uninformed opinion on racism, civil rights, and police brutality are of equal weight to an informed opinion. That just isn’t the case. This is a somewhat long post, but I’ll try to be as brief as I can without skipping anything important.
A couple of years ago I hurt my shoulder in a martial arts accident. I could tell something was quite wrong right away. I was unable to pickup my children, or even lift my hand above my head without pain. So, I went to my doctor. He said that he thought there was something torn, but that I would need to see an orthopedic specialist. I was given a referral to an orthopedic doctor who was an expert when it came to shoulders. After a few minutes of talking to me, that orthopedic doctor said he was pretty sure I had torn the labrum in my shoulder. An MRI proved the doctor correct, and I had surgery. My shoulder is essentially good as new and I’m back to martial arts with no restrictions.
The reason I mention that story is because it really illustrates a point that some people are missing these days. One person’s ignorance is not as good as another person’s knowledge. When it comes to shoulders, I don’t know much. I’m not a doctor. I didn’t even know what a labrum was until the doctor told me that I had torn mine. It would be nonsensical to think that my thoughts or opinions on my shoulder injury were worth anything in comparison to the orthopedic doctor’s thoughts and opinions. Even my regular doctor’s opinions on my shoulder were greatly surpassed by the specialist doctor’s opinion. That makes sense, as a doctor who spends all day working on shoulders should be the most knowledgeable about that part of the body.
Getting back to the issue at hand, during these last few week issues of racism, police brutality, and civil rights have been discussed more widely than at anytime in the last 50 years. There have been massive protests, some riots, curfews, and real changes to the law enacted in response. That has also caused a lot of people to develop and share opinions on the subject.
I’ve had several people I know express opinions on racism, policing, civil rights, protests, etc. In many of those cases, the opinion expressed is the sort of superficial opinion that could be expected from someone who lacks education and experience on subject. Just as I had friends with no medical experience who expressed disagreement with the orthopedic doctor’s diagnosis and treatment of my shoulder, I now have friends who lack any knowledge or education on this issue loudly proclaiming ridiculous things when it comes to the civil rights issues gripping the country.
There are a great many things in the world that I don’t know much about. But I do know a good deal about racism, policing, and the law. I’m black, and my earliest memory of the police involves a cop falsely accusing my parents of shoplifting a baby carrier from a toy store. That toy store didn’t even have the baby carrier that my parents were using to hold my sister. I’ve dealt with racist cops throughout my personal life, and have had those cops make up false traffic charges. I’ve dealt with racism in school, and at work. The last time someone called me a racial slur to my face was this year. Professionally, I’m a lawyer and have seen the racial bias in our criminal justice system. I have represented clients in civil rights cases against the police. I have studied this area of law extensively, both in law school and in the decade since then. This is an area where I am an expert. While my opinions on medical matters, plumbing, roofing, boating, and a whole host of other areas are worth nothing, when it comes to criminal law, police misconduct, and racism, I know what I’m talking about.
We would all do well to recognize the limits of our knowledge and ability. Just because a person is entitled to hold and express their opinion, it doesn’t follow that their opinion has much (or any) intrinsic value.
I wanted to throw out a suggestion as to communication security.
I believe (and hope!) that we are in a pivotal moment in civil rights history that may prove to be just as important as the work done in the 1960’s. While that is great, it also causes to me worry about governmental interference. Whether that is local police with those Stingray cell tower simulators that allow them to capture and spoof messages, or some more concerted effort at the national level with all of the resources that the Federal government has available, I think it would be a good idea to make use of encrypted communications wherever possible.
The good news is that the free Signal app that is available for both iPhone and Android does all of that quite well for both voice and SMS. If you install it, it will automatically encrypt text messages you exchange with other people who have signal installed. Your ability to message with people who don’t have signal installed is just like normal. There are also an encrypted voice call function.
So, my advice (I’m a lawyer whose B.S. degree was in Computer Science) is to make use of encryption whenever possible. That advice applies to everyone, whether you are a protester or not. There is no reason not to use encryption for your texts and voice calls when it is easy and free.
In response to the question of why I don’t focus on “black on black” crime and do focus on police brutality, I would offer the following.
“Black on Black crime isn’t a thing
As The Root correctly points out, according to the FBI’s uniform crime-reporting data for 2016, 90.1 percent of black victims of homicide were killed by other blacks, while 83.5 percent of whites were killed by other whites. While no life is inconsequential, the statistical evidence shows that—just as for blacks when it comes to black-on-black crime—whites are mostly victimized by other whites, with the vast majority of white murders committed by whites. This is because most victims of crime personally know their assailants. And while this is a truth across racial boundaries, no one ever talks about “white-on-white crime.” So, black people kill each other just like white people kill each other just like Asian people kill each other.
The focus on police brutality makes sense
Since most non-police murders are committed by a person who the victim knows well, I am able to reduce my risk of be murdered by not associating with people who are likely to murder me. I’m not friends with violence-prone people. I choose my friends carefully. My risk of being killed by someone I know is quite low.
I’m also able to reduce my risk of being killed by a random person. I put in the time at school and in work to afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood with very little crime. I lock my doors, have an alarm system, and have guns for home defense. I also have rather large dogs. My hobbies include both striking and grappling martial arts, so even without a gun I’m in a pretty position to defend myself.
What I can’t really mitigate is the risk that some racist police officer will kill me (and likely get away with it due to qualified immunity). I can’t reduce the risk that such a fate will befall my children. Every time I drive down the road, I run the risk that a police officer will fabricate a reason to pull me over, and escalate things from there. That is not just a hypothetical as I have personally experienced situations where a police officer pulls me over without any cause, lies about his reasoning, and harasses me. I’m “fortunate” that the worst that has come out of those stops are relatively minor undeserved traffic citations.
Leaving aside how all of that applies to me personally, addressing police brutality makes sense as a matter of justice as police brutality goes unaddressed currently and that needs to change. Logically we should be working to put a stop to wrongs that go without a remedy, and that is exactly what happens when a police officer maims or murders and is then shielded from any liability by qualified immunity. Contrast that with a crime of violence committed by an ordinary citizen in which the suspect is brought to justice, and my focus on police brutality makes sense.
Finally, there is something especially wrong about government-sponsored violence. When the police beat or murder someone, that person is literally being harmed by their own tax dollars at work. They are being brutalized by the people who have sworn to “protect and serve.” That is tragic for the individual, and a serious danger to society as a whole. History teaches us that great countries are rarely conquered, but rather tend to die from internal decay as the government turns against the population. It is in all of our best interest to prevent that sort of outcome for our country.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time debating President Trump and his actions as to race and police brutality. I’ve put together this page to have my links and information I would provide in those debates conveniently available.
Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, preventing Arpaio from facing the criminal consequences of his repeated violations of civil rights: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/a-flagrant-assault-on-latino-civil-rights/538119/
For no reason other than wanting to test out their new police dog, a police officer ordered her dog to attack a latino suspect who was fully complaint, causing the man great harm. Investigation showed that this same cop had used her dog to wrongfully attack a black teenager who was sleeping in his own yard, and had used racially-charged profanity. Trump pardoned this cop after she was criminally convicted for violating civil rights. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/12/29/trump-pardons-stephanie-mohr-prince-georges/
Trump undid Department of Justice reforms that were putting a stop to police brutality and holding the police accountable: https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/trumps-george-floyd-obama-protest-police-violence-kneeling.html
Trump tells police to rough up people when making an arrest: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-police-nice-suspects/story?id=48914504
Trump defended the white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville on Tuesday, saying they included “some very fine people,” while expressing sympathy for their demonstration against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/
Trump opposes NFL players peacefully and silently kneeling to protest police brutality, saying ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field’ : https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/sep/22/donald-trump-nfl-national-anthem-protests
Trump took out a newspaper ad, calling for the execution of the Central Park 5, who were in fact innocent and later exonerated. Trump never apologized, and in fact even after the exoneration of those innocent black men he said he believed they were actually guilty: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/17/central-park-five-donald-trump-jogger-rape-case-new-york
John O’Donnell, who had been president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump saying,“ Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys wearing yarmulkes… Those are the only kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else…Besides that, I tell you something else. I think that’s guy’s lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks.” O’Donnell’s report was shocking, but Trump did not contest it at the time. In 1997 he was interviewed for Playboy by author Mark Bowden and he confirmed that the O’Donnell book was “probably true.” https://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/
Trump engaged in racial discrimination as to housing. The Justice Department’s 1973 lawsuit against Trump Management Company focused on 39 properties in New York City, where Trump’s employees were directed to tell African American lease applicants that there were no open apartments. Company policy, according to an employee quoted in court documents, was to rent only to “Jews and executives.” During a coffee break in a deposition about that discrimination case, Trump stated “You know, you don’t want to live with them either” as he referred to black people. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/trump-racism-comments/588067/
US President Donald Trump has retweeted a video showing one of his supporters loudly shouting “white power”: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53212685
Fact check: Trump shares White nationalist’s video in retweet falsely blaming Black Lives Matter for 2019 subway assault. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/31/politics/fact-check-trump-subway-assault-black-lives-matter-antifa/index.html
President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups. He did tell the Proud Boys, a violent racist group to “stand back and stand by.” Proud Boys leaders and supporters later celebrated the president’s words on social media. A channel on Telegram, an instant messaging service, with more than 5,000 of the group’s members posted “Stand Back” and “Stand By” above and below the group’s logo. https://chicago.suntimes.com/elections/2020/9/30/21495159/trump-debate-stand-back-stand-by-proud-boys
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, a Democratic aide briefed on Thursday’s meeting told NBC News. Trump’s comments were first reported by The Washington Post, which said the nations referred to by Trump also included El Salvador. The U.N. human rights office said the comments, if confirmed, were “shocking and shameful” and “racist.” https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-referred-haiti-african-countries-shithole-nations-n836946
A lengthy article on Trump’s racism, stretching back as far as the 1970s: https://www.vox.com/2016/7/25/12270880/donald-trump-racist-racism-history
Another laundry list of Trump’s racist words and actions: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/15/opinion/leonhardt-trump-racist.html
I’ve seen the following picture floating around today, and would like to take a moment to explain the problems with it.
Starting in the top left circle, almost all of the people I’ve seen sharing that picture have never said a single word against police brutality or racially-motivated violence. Instead, they ignored the issue for years, and only now post the above picture. That strikes me as disingenuous in the extreme. It is also worth noting that this is not only about George Floyd being murdered. The police abuse and murder so many other people, and have done so for so long with near impunity. But, when we’re talking about George Floyd, why call it a mere “death” as though he slipped and fell. It is a Murder, so don’t minimize it.
Moving to the top right circle, we have the creation of equivalency between murder and rioting and looting. I strongly suspect that many of the people sharing that image do see the value of George Floyd’s life as being on par with some insured merchandise at Target.
In the bottom circle we have “supports good police officers” and that point seems to miss that just about all the misconduct of the “bad” police officers is routinely covered up and ignored by the “good police officers.” Sticking with just the George Floyd example, one cop committed the murder, 3 other cops were nearby and did nothing. Also remember that the cop who murdered George Floyd was a “good cop” you would have been supporting 20 weeks ago.
So, if you have been silent about police brutality for years and are now sharing the above image, it is clear you really care about property damage and riots that might affect you, rather than actually caring about the police brutality and racism that is the root of this problem. The fact that you stuck in the “good cops” part tells me that you care more about offending the feelings of cops than putting a stop to them murdering.
The above image is total garbage.
When the police involuntarily take my money through taxes and have a monopoly on law enforcement, of course there are some things for which I have to call them. I also use the electricity from the electric company no matter how displeased I may be with that company, since they are my only option for electricity.
I also make a point of being well armed, as I will not trust my safety to the police.
There is something that I don’t understand, and which I’m hoping someone can help me understand.
I know people (on facebook and in real life) who don’t seem to care about the police violence that has led to civil unrest. I have people that I call friends and even family who have not said a single word when it comes to the ongoing, well documented, and pervasive problem of police brutality. Even more confusing to me are the ones who not only remain silent about violence perpetrated by the police, but go as far as to post “back the blue” type messages this week.
So, in all seriousness I ask how you can consider me a friend if you don’t care about the fact that a police officer could almost certainly murder me and get away with it?
How can you claim to love my children if you choose not to take even 1 minute out of your day to oppose police violence that could one day claim their lives?
If you’re not only silent on police violence but are actively promoting the police now, what value do you place on my life and the lives of my children?
I think it is worth exploring the difference between having distrust or even hatred of “all cops” versus having distrust or hatred of “all black people.” The two just aren’t equivalent.
Forming an opinion about someone based upon an immutable characteristic (such as race or sex) is wrong. The color of my skin is not something that I can control, and so it tell you nothing about my thoughts, beliefs, dreams, hopes, etc. Just knowing that I’m black doesn’t tell you anything about my character, my job, my education, or my morals. It only really tells you how resistant to sunburn I might be.
On the other hand, forming an opinion about me based upon the career I’ve chosen is quite reasonable. If you learn that I’m a trial lawyer you can probably conclude that I’m fine with public speaking. You can infer that I don’t mind arguments and will vocally voice my opinions. You can probably conclude that I have enough willingness to see things though to spend 4 years in college and then 3 more years in law school. You may also determine that I probably have a pretty high opinion of myself since the personality type needed to a be a lawyer would fit with that. You may also assume that I’m more arrogant and convinced of my own correctness than average (and honestly, you wouldn’t be wrong).
Applying that to occupations, it is completely fine to form an opinion of a person based upon their decision to become a cop, just as it is fine to form an opinion based upon my decision to become a lawyer.
The same is true for every profession really, and I think we already all do that. When it comes to firefighters, I love them so much that it might not even be rational. Same is true for doctors and nurses. On the flip side of that, if you learned that your new acquaintance spent the last 2 years working as a torturer for a cartel, I think you would reasonably draw some adverse opinions about them.
So, holding opinions about someone based upon an immutable characteristic such as their race or sex makes you a bigoted piece of human garbage. Forming opinions about someone based upon choices they make (such as what they do for a living) is entirely different.