“Master Fard Muhammad said to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad: ‘Cast the rotten apple out quick!’–He didn’t say try to coddle somebody that’s rotten! If you leave a rotten person in your society, after a while the whole bunch will become rotten! The whole church will become rotten, the mosque will become rotten, the organization will become rotten because you saw a rotten apple, but you didn’t have the courage to cast it out!”–The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, “God Will Send Saviours,” Saviours’ Day 2011 in Rosemont, Ill.
Polls, protests, and pictures are being used to declare a new day for America as demands for ending racial oppression and holding cops accountable grow. Missing from the projections is the response of police officers and police unions striking back at efforts to hold officers up for scrutiny.
Angry statements and pro-cop media reporting are part of the problem, but those sworn to serve and protect are ready to hold cities hostage until the will of reformers is broken. It’s an old tactic, one that White voters and scared Black politicians have succumbed to for far too long. The ability of bullies-in-blue to force politicians to kowtow to their demands has helped bring the country to the brink of an explosion.
The most egregious police bullying is in Atlanta where many officers have refused to work. Their “blue flu” came after two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks were charged, and other cops disciplined or fired since protests began.
Sadly, the strong language Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms used against looters for behavior shaming the city has been missing. Instead, she and the acting police chief told Atlantans that despite officers not showing up, public safety won’t be compromised. Where is the accountability in that?
Are these officers saying if they don’t have the ability to fatally shoot people at will, break a young Black woman’s collar bone or terrorize and tase Black college students trying to get home from a protest, they can’t work? That attitude says police serve as an occupying force and don’t serve and protect Black people. Can that mindset and attitude be reformed? No. Those who hold such ideas must be removed and the police department itself must be outfitted with a new, deep commitment to being just peace officers. Can that happen when modern policing is an outgrowth of slave patrols designed to control Black movement, Black bodies, Black minds and break Black spirits?
Atlanta isn’t the only problem: the White police union leader in Minneapolis, which exploded after the death of George Floyd, called Black Lives Matter activists terrorists. Mr. Floyd, in what many call murder, died in the custody of ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. Fifty-seven officers, an entire tactical unit, resigned from the unit–but kept their jobs–after a 75-year-old man was pushed to the ground by two officers in Buffalo, N.Y., arrayed in military gear. The officers were charged with assault.
The elderly man has yet to recover and these 57 officers have yet to be fired. In Florida, ten members of the Hallandale Beach police department’s SWAT team resigned after Police Chief Sonia Quinones kneeled with protestors during a demonstration about the death of Mr. Floyd. The chief said the officers, who also complained about training, never spoke with her, and lied about the amount of time and money spent on training.
And, while cops are quick to accuse lawmakers of playing politics, police unions are among the most powerful and political groups in the country.
Police officers in New York and Chicago, cities with long histories of torturing Black people and records of killing Black children, women and men, are threatening to abandon their posts over the July 4 weekend. The police unions don’t want reforms that could expose the records of abusive cops or redirect department funds to other places, like mental health services.
According to City&State New York, an online publication, “since 2015 the PBA has spent upwards of $1.4 million on lobbying and campaign contributions.” Cops “also have the power to undermine a mayor by refusing to do their job. In December 2014, when (Police Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch) blamed the two officers’ murders on (Mayor Bill de Blasio), NYPD officers made two-thirds fewer arrests and wrote 94 percent fewer tickets than they had during the same period the year before. The PBA has also moved to block new policies intended to increase transparency and accountability, for example by suing to prevent the release of body camera footage,” it said.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association once tweeted: “Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you! … You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you,” City&State noted. When the city health commissioner balked at taking masks from doctors and nurses and giving them to cops, the SBA wrote, “this bitch has blood on her hands,” it said.
New York Police Benevolent Association leader Mike O’Meara said at a June press conference: “Stop treating us like animals and thugs and start treating us with some respect. Our legislators abandoned us.” Mr. O’Meara added, “The press is vilifying us.” He represents 24,000 officers.
Heavy violence in Chicago made national headlines, but not calls for “blue flu” over the July 4 weekend. A reporter for the CBS News affiliate reported June 22 about “a new push by members of the police union to get officers on the street to stand down–and even stay home.” According to CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov, the move started with a text message about the need to send Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the City Council a message. “ ‘The FOP Lodge 7 cannot advocate for it because of the contract,’ the text message reads. But, it adds, ‘individual officers can,’ ” Ms. Kozlov reported. The Fraternal Order of Police president didn’t authorize the move but didn’t necessarily oppose it, she added.
“When something stupid like that happens to basically tell officers to abandon their post, that is the height of dereliction of duty,” said Mayor Lightfoot. The city is also in a contract battle with the police union.
“We are now hearing there is a message going thru the CPD to sign on to the ‘Blue Flu.’ That is both Unacceptable and irresponsible. Yes the job is stressful, so is growing up Black in America. Unfortunately the Blue Flu is being affirmed by the Toxic President of the FOP,” tweeted Father Michael Pfleger of Saint Sabina Church on Chicago’s South Side.
None of this sounds like a police-community partnership, change or peace anytime soon.