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Why It's Not About Good Cops vs. Bad Cops | Decoded (Season 8)


– They say one bad apple spoils the bunch So why doesn't that apply to cops? Oh, wait, it does

Recently, we've seen a lot of viral videos and memes that are meant to show us that some cops are cool and hip, and they're totally just like you, and they wouldn't murder you in your home while you're trying to sleep Police officers kneeling with Black Lives Matter protesters in Pittsburgh, hugging people in Cleveland, and National Guard members dancing in Georgia But all of those images are in direct contrast to the stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Riah Milton, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Kiwi Herring, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, and countless others who've died at the hands of law enforcement To be extraordinarily blunt, all of those people were murdered by police And cops playing basketball with teens or handing out ice cream won't bring them back, nor will it stop the list of names from growing

The goal shouldn't be to comfort people with the existence of good cops, but instead to stop people from being killed and brutalized by the police, anywhere Ever So this is the focus of the upcoming season of Decoded Each week, we'll tackle a different problem with policing in America, in hopes of addressing how we can end police violence and rethink what it means to live in safe communities We're going to begin by looking at the idea of the mythical good cop, and why it fails to meaningfully address the systemic problems with policing

Whenever an instance of police violence gains national attention, the first argument that gets trotted out is that we can end police violence by making sure there are more "good cops" who can help stop the "bad apples" And that's not just an idea that your weird uncle posts about on Facebook in between Greta Thunberg memes and conspiracy theories about pizza places We've seen the good-cops- can-fix it idea championed in op-eds by Forbes and The New York Times There are a few reasons why this line of thinking is so appealing There are over 800,000 police officers in this country, and the good-cop rhetoric is an emotional appeal that asks and answers three main questions

Is it hard to be a police officer? Yes Do police officers often find themselves in dangerous situations? Yes In that group of over 800,000, are there bound to be well-intentioned police officers who don't like what they see across the country? Yes But does any of that matter when it comes to stopping police violence? Not really In fact, this system is built to suppress and punish those who try to challenge the way it's built, even if there are these so-called good cops

Take Cariol Horne After 19 years in the Buffalo PD, she intervened as her partner used a potentially lethal chokehold on a subject The result was that Horne was accused of putting another officer's life in danger and fired one year before her pension would have started In 2016, she told Spectrum News, "If there are good officers, why don't they stand up? "They don't stand up because of me "They don't want to end up in the same situation

" And it's not just Cariol Horne There was Joe Crystal, who was fired for reporting police brutality in Baltimore; Laura Schook, who was fired in Indiana for reporting corruption; and Shanna Lopez, fired for reporting police officers that preyed on vulnerable women in Dallas So in short, when there are good cops, the bad cops fire them But the good-cop rhetoric isn't just an emotional appeal It's also a political one that helps increase police budgets

Because there's a cycle in America where police officials and politicians respond to high-profile incidents by pledging more recruitment and training and better community policing practices For example, after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, the Department of Justice ultimately sued the city and fought to get more money for police technology, training, and additional officers for the Ferguson police Hmm, if only there were a movement that reimagined how we could spend that money to keep communities safer in new ways So whenever someone asks, "What about the good cops?" they're fundamentally asking the wrong question They should be asking, what does the state ask police forces to do? Because beyond the police, there's the court system and the prison-industrial complex

Beyond those are the numerous local, state, and federal politicians, as well as prosecutors, who determine what is criminalized and who will respond All of which is calculated to cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually That's what we mean when we say policing is a systemic issue The problem lies at the root From the war on crime in the 1960s to the subsequent war on drugs, and notably, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the police have been given a clear mandate by both prosecutors and politicians: Make arrests and fill prisons

This is what both good cops and bad cops are tasked with doing Since 1970, the prison population has increased 700 percent to 23 million people And in 2017, the FBI reported over 105 million arrests, less than 5 percent of which were for violent crimes

These eye-popping numbers exist despite the fact that FBI statistics show that the violent crime rate fell 51 percent between 1993 in 2018, while property crime fell by 54 percent So crime is down, but the prison population has somehow gone way, way up The mandate to make more arrests and fill prisons is coming from our highest levels of government And the police do so using legally sanctioned violence Per the Mapping Police Violence Report in 2017, of the 1,147 police killings that year, most began with police responding to suspected nonviolent offenses or cases where no crime is reported

And 149 of the people killed that year were unarmed This is what happens when police are given billions of dollars to focus on anticipating violent encounters, even though, per a New York Times survey, serious violent crimes make up 1 percent or less of 911 calls in cities like New Orleans, Baltimore, Seattle, San Diego, and so many more In fact, violent crime rates don't make it any more or less likely for police departments to kill people Cities like Spokane and Orlando had relatively low crime rates in 2017, but high rates of police violence These statistics are perhaps the greatest proof that the few-bad-apples defense isn't worth arguing

A 2018 Supreme Court decision upheld a police officer's right to use lethal force if they think a person might be a threat, even if no direct threat is made This is part of what many call superpowers granted to police, including their ability to lie to suspects about things like physical evidence, eyewitnesses, and an accomplice's confession They can even ignore your request for a lawyer All of this has been affirmed by the court system, while qualified immunity, which we'll talk about in detail in our next episode, prevents police officers from being held liable for almost anything So what do we do if the issue is much larger than good cops versus bad cops? Well, we can't answer every question in one episode, but for starters, police probably shouldn't be the first people we call when it comes to mental health crises, homelessness, or domestic violence

We also shouldn't expect the local jail to be the largest mental health services institution in almost every major American city And we can't keep criminalizing every issue because we don't have anyone else to take care of it besides police You know, the people who show up with a gun and are legally allowed to shoot you, if they think you might be a threat Political scientist Naomi Murakawa said it extremely well "We should talk about what we are empowering police to do

Not how they are doing it Not whether they are being nice when they carry out arrests" In future episodes, we'll be taking a deeper dive into how modern policing emerged and what alternatives can exist For now, stay safe and remember not to lose hope in the possibility of a better future for all of us Thanks for watching, and we'll see you next time right here on Decoded

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