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How police created their own problems

Published by St. Louis American, February 18, 2023

Nearly 25 years ago when the Coalition Against Police Crimes & Repression formed, one of its three demands was that police officers must be recruited from the communities they served.

The purpose is to hire more African Americans for these public service positions. Over the years, the demand was dropped from the organization’s demands.

The fatal beating of Tyre Nichols by five former Black Memphis police officers is one of many reasons why. It’s not about individual cops, their race, or gender. It’s about the institution that creates them.

Several insiders of the police rank-and-file have confirmed to me that part of the increase of crime is based upon the actions and lack of actions by police officers … All in hope that their spiteful actions will prove that Black elected officials, who have police accountability in their sights, are incapable of governing.

The law enforcement profession has been tainted by its own unethical and brutal practices. It is almost impossible to attract people of color. Communities have witnessed—and sometimes personally experienced—police brutality.

They’ve witnessed how police departments treat Black officers. Remember Milton Green and Heather Taylor? The departments only have themselves to blame when their failed recruitment campaigns don’t increase the numbers of Black officers.

Groups fighting against police violence and the communities they came from, face the harsh reality that “cop culture” is resistant to any meaningful change. Police departments made it clear that they were incapable—if even willing–to hold their own accountable.

The so-called Blue Wall of Silence seems impenetrable. National and local police unions and organizations have stealthily put into place laws and policies that make it near impossible for a community to put police in check.

The Ferguson police killing of Mike Brown, and ensuing investigations, revealed the everyday terrorism communities of color endure from an armed occupation of those sworn to “serve and protect.”

And while it didn’t lead to a sea change of legislation to bring relief to those communities, it resulted in a dramatic change in attitudes about policing. Residents were additionally traumatized by the fact that there would be no justice for the most flagrant abuses of police violence.

The institution of policing only has itself to blame for the increasing mistrust and disrespect for law enforcement. It only has itself to blame for the wave of reform prosecutors elected across the country who are bold enough to include holding police accountability in their campaign platforms.

Kim Gardner, who has caught hell since she took office in 2017, is one of those prosecutors.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney has faced a litany of challenges from attempting to redefine her legal authority to taking her law license. The latest organized police-motivated legislation is Missouri Board Bill 301 that allows the Governor to appoint a prosecutor if he thinks public safety is an issue in St. Louis. Translation: “if white folks don’t feel safe in the city.”

Another piece of legislation introduced by a white Republican lawmaker in St. Charles aims to return local control of the police department back to the governor. How is it that a white man is arrogant enough to think he can ignore the wishes of St. Louis voters and strip the democratically elected Black mayor of her authority over the Public Safety Department?

It’s proof that we certainly are in the midst of the Third Reconstruction.

Several insiders of the police rank-and-file have confirmed to me that part of the increase of crime is based upon the actions and lack of actions by police officers. A recurring declaration is many white cops are choosing not to respond to calls. All in hope that their spiteful actions will prove that Black elected officials, who have police accountability in their sights, are incapable of governing.

St. Louis police must be hoping that the new police chief, Robert Tracy, will be their white savior, especially since a big chunk of his salary is being paid for by the Police Foundation. It’s another log thrown on the fire of community trust.

Justice-seeking citizens of all races seek a city where everyone feels safe. We are pushing back on who gets to define public safety; not just because it’s embarrassing to be ranked high on many national polls that list St. Louis as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities.

We are pushing forward in the name of democracy. Voters have elected those who we believe have the best interests of the entire city at heart. The fight for local control and for Black empowerment will intensify in 2023.

 

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