In the United States, more than 800,000 people serve as local and state law enforcement officials. These police officers are charged with upholding and enforcing the law, maintaining order, and providing general services. To carry out these duties, police officers possess certain powers, granted by the state. If the situation calls for it, police officers can frisk, detain, and arrest civilians, as well as seize property. In addition, depending upon the situation, police officers are empowered to use force to defend themselves or civilians (the amount of force extends along a spectrum from police presence through deadly force). Given the powers that police officers have, it is incumbent upon them to maintain a level of professionalism in the course of their duties and to wield their powers responsibly and ethically. Unfortunately, there are countless examples of cops engaging in a range of irresponsible, unethical, immoral, and/or illegal activities from bribery and unjustified arrests to illegal search and seizure and the use of excessive force. And then there’s one common form of police misconduct that is second only to accusations of excessive force: sex misconduct.
From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Examples of such offenses occur almost every day. Many are likely not even heard of by the media. Moreover, law enforcement officials so often aren’t charged with crimes, and if they are, they’re found ‘not guilty’. While we can’t be sure cops will face punishment for their actions, we can be sure they’ll receive support from the community and politicians-no matter how heinous their actions are. It has become increasingly clear that we are living in something of a police state. Here are five recent examples that help paint an image of the United States as a police state:
I began the ‘Police Behaving Badly’ series in 2014 to document the stories of police officers who engaged in questionable, unethical, immoral, or illegal behavior. At the time, I knew that there were cases of on-duty cops sexually assaulting women, that cops had been caught stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug suspects, that it was not uncommon for officers to use excessive force, and that police brutality and racism often go hand-in-hand. What I didn’t know was how often this shit occurred. I didn’t know how pervasive these problems were. Like many, I trusted law enforcement officials. As I read more and more stories of police officers behaving badly, I came to realize that these individual cases pointed to a more significant problem-rampant corruption within law enforcement across the country as well as departments filled with sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, racist officers. Not just individual officers either, but entire police departments (the New York and Ferguson PDs immediately spring to mind). I learned that this shit happens all the time and as a result, this series will continue for a very, very long time (as long as I’m blogging most likely). Here are several recent examples of Police Behaving Badly:
From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the United states:
At a recent presidential candidate forum, former Republican presidential hopeful Scott Walker was asked about police brutality and racial inequities. Rather than address any of the numerous examples of excessive force used by police against unarmed civilians, or how racial prejudice may play into many such incidents, Walker decided instead to express his unequivocal support for police officers:
“Do we have an issue in this country that we have to deal with when it comes to race? Absolutely,”he said. “But we shouldn’t confuse that into somehow thinking that that means we shouldn’t treat our law enforcement professionals as the great men and women that they are.”
He continued, refusing to admit that any of the officers involved in the recent, high-profile deadly shootings may have made a mistake. Instead, he told the story of Deputy Darren H. Goforth, a police officer who was killed in Texas earlier this year.
“Every leader we have — at the local level, the state level, all the way up to the president of the United States, for that matter anyone in the clergy and business and anywhere else — needs to step up and say that is wrong,” he said. “The men and women who wear the badge are doing the right thing, every day. All the time. they protect us. We need to have their back. As president, I will have their back every single day.”
In the United States Scott Walker apparently lives in, all law enforcement officials are good, morally upstanding individuals with integrity and compassion and an unwavering devotion to upholding the law. To him, police officers are entitled to respect and obeisance on the basis of nothing more than their position, regardless of their actions. Such thinking marks Walker as a multiply-privileged, empathy-deficient, authoritarian out of touch with the lives of many of the U.S. citizens he once sought to preside over. Authoritarian, because blind obedience to law enforcement officials is a textbook example of authoritarianism. Empathy-deficient, because Walker does not live in a vacuum. As a political official, it strains belief to think he hasn’t heard of the multiple high profile cases of police officers shooting unarmed or fleeing suspects. No, he’s heard of them. He simply doesn’t care about the people that have been injured and killed by cops. And multiply-privileged because as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male politician, he is highly unlikely to ever be the victim of police brutality.
For those of us who do not live in Scott Walker’s USAmerica, the experience is quite a bit different. We are aware of the existence of law-abiding, ethical, law enforcement officials who live up to the responsibilities of their job and do not abuse their power. Unlike Scott Walker, however, we also know that law enforcement agencies across the country are infested with morally bankrupt, unethical, corrupt, tyrannical thugs. How do we know these things? Because we have gifts Walker does not. We have the superhuman ability [and desire] to pay attention to stories of police brutality and abuse of power. Stories like the following five:
Hey ya’ll. I have some news. You may want to sit down for this bc I suspect it will be shocking. In a case of mistaken ‘black guys all look the same, so we don’t have to double-check his identity before we introduce his face to the pavement‘ identity, some cops in New York roughed up 35-year-old former tennis player James Blake.
From the use of excessive force to stealing drugs from suspects…from racial profiling to abusing the power of their badges…from sexually assaulting suspects to planting evidence…there is a never-ending stream of stories of law enforcement officials behaving irresponsibly, unethically, immorally, and/or criminally. Here are five recent examples from across the nation: