Statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist in the United States. If you’re familiar with police corruption and America’s broken criminal justice system, sometimes it’s difficult to see a difference between the boys in blue and violent subversives.
Frequently, as illustrated in the response to the Ferguson protest, blame is placed upon the victims of police violence, rather than on the perpetrators. Dead bodies are used as evidence that the victim overstepped parameters. All too often, disregarded victims are racial minorities. This white power ideology continues to marginalize minorities and punish them for continued resistance to white supremacy. Violent racism is not part of the job description for a police officer in the U.S. The enforcement of institutionalized racism and sexism and the destruction of oppressed communities is always morally reprehensible, even if it’s done in exchange for a government salary.
The racial disparity in victims of police shootings is often written off as a part of the cop’s “job.” ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom, analyzed more than 12,000 fatal police shootings from 1980 to 2012 and deemed that “young black males in recent years [2010-2012] were at a far greater risk of being shot to death by police than their white counterparts — 21 times greater.” To even out the racial imbalance, police would have to murder 185 young white men over the course of three years — more than one every week.
In a 2005 study conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder, students exhibited a hierarchy of bias in making a spilt-second decision to shoot someone holding a cellphone or a gun. These students perceived blacks to be “more threatening” and chose to shoot black targets with guns more quickly than white targets with guns. These same students took longer to decide whether or not to shoot unarmed blacks compared to unarmed whites. This study isn’t an outlier. People of color face constant socioeconomic obstacles as a prerequisite for their skin color. The police force is simply furthering their dehumanization.
This process of dehumanization is clear in the public response to accused officers. Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma City police office, charged with 16 counts including first-degree rape and sexual battery after allegedly assaulting at least eight women while on patrol, also faced charges of forcible oral sodomy and indecent exposure. In response to these charges, several campaigns emerged pleading for “Justice for Daniel Holtzclaw.” These supporters show a blatant neglect for the abused black females.
Cops are not always just doing their jobs; they play into harsh power dynamics. When someone says that “cops are just doing their jobs,” they’re perpetuating racism. They’re implying that black lives hold less value than that of the man who carries the badge and shot them down. The dynamics of racism in this country are increasingly defined by the badge on a cop’s chest.
To argue that “cops are just doing their jobs” when an overwhelming majority of the police force in America is refusing to do their jobs correctly reinforces the concept that the law can do no wrong. The incidence of police brutality shows this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cops are not always heroes. Sometimes, they commit violent crimes against innocent people. Instead of placing cops on a pedestal, let’s hold them accountable to the same standards as the citizens they’re hired to protect.