Police are a blight on humanity
Police are what we get when politicians decide they’d rather not address our problems
This one is a rant, and it doesn’t have anything to do with public records. Sorry if it’s not your thing, but I had to write this for my own sake.
I’m going to explode if I don’t get this out: Fuck this country, and fuck the police.
I’ve been saying for my entire adult life that we need to stop letting cops run hog wild. Since before George Floyd said “I can’t breathe” as he was tortured to death by a Minneapolis police lynch mob in front of a crowd of forever-traumatized bystanders that included children. Since before Eric Garner said those same words as he was tackled and suffocated to death by an NYPD goon squad.
Reigning in the scourge of police violence is one of my biggest motivations in life. That’s why I started making public records requests more than a decade ago. But Jesus Christ, man, I’ve been feeling burnt out the last few days. Tuesday’s grisly massacre in Uvalde, Texas, has me feeling so angry that it’s been hard to focus.
I’m reluctant to summarize what we know about the massacre because the police have changed their story so many times. But we know enough to conclude that the cops really fucked this one up.
An 18-year-old with an AR-15 rifle shot his grandmother in the face then made his way to an elementary school where he murdered two teachers and 19 children and wounded others. The gunman, thanks to this country’s insane gun laws, was able to legally purchase the murder weapon right after his 18th birthday and just days before the massacre.
Nineteen cops entered the school but they didn’t attempt to break down the door to the classroom even as some of the students trapped inside called 911 and begged for help. The cops waited in the hallway for nearly an hour before Border Patrol agents used a key to open the door and killed the gunman. In a CNN interview, a Texas Department of Public Saftey spokesman defended the unconscionable delay, saying the cops could’ve been shot and killed.
amna @IAmAmnaNawazThe #Uvalde timeline offered by Texas officials right now is gutting. There were 19 police officers in the hallway who made the decision not to break into the room, at the same time children inside were alive and calling 911. One begged “please send police now.”
The cops feared for their lives. That’s what they say when they kill a child playing with a toy gun. And it’s what they say when they won’t stop an 18-year-old using a real gun to kill children. The common denominator is that cops are cowards and kids die.
What are we even fucking paying them for? Why do we spend billions of dollars on their salaries, their overtime, their handguns, their rifles, their tasers, their “tactical” toys, their attack dogs, their body armor, their armored personnel carriers, and whatever else they demand from us? What the fuck is even the point of having cops if — in one of the very few situations we actually need them — they won’t do what needs to be done?
If the perpetrator had a dime bag of weed and was sleeping in his own home in the middle of the night, the cops would’ve gladly busted down his door and put a bullet in the back of his head before he knew what was happening. If he had a small dog to shoot, the cops would’ve been even more excited about the prospect. But faced with someone who was actually causing harm, someone who posed real danger, the police were too scared to act.
“Please send help because we’re in trouble,” one of the children told a 911 operator.
Sorry, we’re a little busy shitting our pants, the cops said.
But it gets even worse.
While the cops inside the building were letting the children get murdered, cops outside were reportedly tackling, tasing, pepper-spraying, and handcuffing parents to prevent them from taking matters into their own hands.
Rob Copeland @realrobcopelandA mother of two students raced to Robb elementary school in Uvalde once she heard reports of a shooter. She was forty miles away. Once she got there, the police still hadn't entered. And they swiftly put her in handcuffs. https://t.co/STniL1O10Y
It seems like a sly satire of American policing, like something from the inevitable second RoboCop reboot — but it’s real life. Cops are trained to minimize risk to themselves at all costs, and the Uvalde Massacre is the result.
“To protect and serve” is a public relations slogan, not a policy or practice. “To protect their own asses and serve their own interests” is the real practice.
I’ve been arrested once in my life. It was 2009, and I was 20 years old. I was living in Keene, New Hampshire, where I attended college and was working at a summer job for a company that delivered phone books (remember those?).
The company rented office space in a building that was across the parking lot from the police station. That turned out to be a mistake — being anywhere near the police is dangerous.
One day, I was outside in a trailer counting up how many phone books we had left. I noticed the beam of a flashlight and turned around to see a cop poking around. I walked up to the entrance of the trailer and asked if there was a problem. He told me he was investigating a burglary — not because anyone reported one but because he had just decided on his own that one was occurring. I guess this dumbass cop thought he could make detective if he could prove I was planning to steal a bunch of worthless phone books.
I explained that I was at work, that there was no burglary, and that he should go inside the office to speak with my manager and clear things up. Instead, he ordered me to get down from the trailer.
I tried to explain that nothing unusual was happening, but he continued to demand that I get down. His partner showed up and began screaming and swearing, saying he would pull me from the nearly shoulder-height floor of the trailer and slam me on the pavement. I didn’t want a broken neck or brain damage, so I climbed down.
The cops then began demanding that I show them an ID. There’s no law in New Hampshire, or any state for that matter, requiring you to show the police an ID unless you are driving a car or something like that. You don’t even need to carry an ID. This is a free country, not a “papers, please” police state — supposedly, anyway. I told the cops that there was no reason for them to see my ID and that one of them should go inside the building to speak with my manager.
The cops told me I was under arrest and handcuffed me. As they walked me back to one of their cruisers, my manager stepped out of the office. He spoke with the cops and told them that I was indeed at work and that no burglary had taken place.
But of course the cops still arrested me, took me back to the police station, and filed fraudulent criminal charges against me.
I was charged with obstructing government administration and loitering — loitering. Loitering for being at my fucking workplace doing my job.
A few days later, the charges were dropped. The police knew I hadn’t broken the law.
But I had broken an unwritten rule. I didn’t bow down to their authority. I didn’t commit any actual crimes, but I did commit contempt of cop.
Even before my arrest, I was no fan of cops or authority in general — that’s why I stood up for myself and didn’t show my ID — so I don’t know if the experience changed me. But it definitely sticks with me. I’ll never forget how pissed off I was that this dipshit duo decided to harass and threaten me because they enjoyed it and had nothing better to do.
When I read stories about Black people who experience that same sort of harassment from police day in and day out, I think of how I felt that day — of what it felt like to be powerless when I was just trying to go about my day and two of these badged bullies decided to make my life difficult just because they could.
I was living in a small college town where on most days the worst crimes were underage drinking and small-time weed dealing. But even I somehow managed to be randomly targeted by a couple of cops who get their kicks harassing and threatening people for no reason.
Because that’s what cops do.
Cops have no legal obligation to protect us, and they only spend a tiny fraction of their time dealing with serious crimes. They rarely intervene when violence occurs. When something bad happens, they show up after the fact to take a report and maybe investigate if they feel like it.
Usually they don’t solve even the most serious crimes that are reported to them. In 2020, police “cleared” less than half of all murders in the country. That year, Boston had a murder clearance rate of 29 percent. Springfield’s rate was about the same: 28 percent. Worcester managed to hit 60 percent, but that would still get an F in school.
A study commissioned by the Boston Police Department found that between 2010 and 2014, police cleared 43 percent of gun murders and 19 percent of nonfatal shootings. If you assume that police care about solving violent crimes, then this makes little sense. A nonfatal shooting should, on average, be easier to solve than a murder because you might be able interview the victim. But the assumption that the police care is incorrect — the department simply hasn’t invested the resources necessary to solve these crimes. In 2017, the police department’s clearance rate for nonfatal shootings dropped to 10 percent.
But even the abysmal clearance rates reported by police give them too much credit. Police clearance rates are not just based on arrests. If a suspected perpetrator dies before the police make an arrest, the police also count that as clearing a crime. And when police do arrest a suspected perpetrator, we shouldn’t necessarily give them credit for that either. Always remember: Cops lie.
Decades ago, police had higher clearance rates even though technologies like DNA testing, ubiquitous video cameras, and cellphone records have since made it easier to identify perpetrators. That’s because those same technologies make it much more difficult for the police to railroad innocent people.
During the past few years, we’ve seen the exonerations of numerous men who spent years, sometimes decades, in prison after they were framed by Boston police officers who lied, hid evidence, and coached witnesses.
This year, a man filed a lawsuit against Worcester detectives who tried to pin a 2020 murder on him even after he was excluded by DNA evidence, forcing him to spend five months in prison. If it weren’t for DNA testing, he’d probably still be in prison.
In 2016, Worcester spent $2.1 million to settle a lawsuit by a teen mother who spent three years in prison because detectives coerced her into confessing to murdering her own baby even though the baby wasn’t murdered at all. Inventing a crime and “solving” it by psychologically torturing a grieving girl is certainly one way to get your clearance rate up.
Cops are worse than useless. We have an endless list of examples even if we limit ourselves to just events in Massachusetts during the last few years.
Cops use civil asset-forfeiture laws to steal from people to pad their already bloated budgets. Cops use their guns to terrorize innocent people. Cops arrest people for trivial crimes and feed them into a mass incarceration machine that abuses and neglects them. Cops perpetrate violent home invasions just to search for evidence of nonviolent crimes — often not even getting the right address — leaving behind traumatized victims and sometimes leaving behind dead victims too.
The State Police Department is a scandal factory: State cops have committed overtime fraud then made a mockery of the concept of restitution by repaying the stolen money with their ill-gotten pensions, department officials hid exculpatory evidence from drunk-driving defendants, and a union leader was arrested on federal corruption charges, to name a few.
Last year, we learned that the Boston Police Department had spent nearly three decades sitting on the knowledge that one of its officers, Patrick Rose, was a child molestor. The department kept this repulsive pig on the payroll and even let him be alone with children as he continued to sexually abuse more victims. The rank-and-file eventually made Rose the president of the patrolman’s union, a position he used to fight against body cameras and for a contract that funneled more money to cops. It wasn’t until Rose retired that he was charged and pleaded guilty.
This year, the Springfield Police Department agreed to a consent decree with the US Department of Justice after a federal investigation found that narcotics officers were routinely beating people and filing false reports.
The federal investigation was launched after Detective Gregg Bigda was recorded by holding-cell cameras threatening to beat, murder, and plant drugs on Daniel and Georgie, two of three teenagers who were arrested for joyriding in a police cruiser. Earlier in the night, when police arrested the teens, Bigda (ahem) allegedly punched and kicked the third teen, Abdyele, in the face. Abdyele, who was handcuffed and on the ground at the time, suffered a broken nose and was taken to the hospital.
Bigda faced federal charges, and the jury acquitted him in December despite video of him threatening Georgie by pointing to blood on his boot and saying it belonged to “the kid at the hospital.”
Since the verdict, the city has spent more than half-a-million dollars to settle lawsuits with two of the teens. The city resumed paying Bigda despite not requiring him to show up for work and despite him getting another job at a bank. His union says that he deserves back pay for the time he spent on unpaid leave while facing the criminal charges. And it’s unclear if the city will fire him.
Last year, Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood anounced that she was converting the corrupt narcotics unit to a presumably equally corrupt firearms unit, as though letting these lying pigs plant guns on people instead of drugs were an improvement.
There are so many problems in this state that need solving.
We need mental-health services for people in crisis instead of cops who show up to shoot them to death.
We need public transportation that doesn’t break down constantly, that doesn’t kill people, that isn’t so dangerous it necessitates a federal investigation.
We need to invest in mitigating the effects of climate change so that our state capital doesn’t end up under the fucking ocean.
Meanwhile, cops gobble up our resources. They become millionaires thanks to contracts that force taxpayers to pay them overtime when they’re not even at their so-called jobs. But it isn’t enough for these greedy bastards, so they steal from us with their overtime-fraud scams again and again.
And when we protest against them, they show up to collect even more overtime while they assault us with weapons paid for with our own tax dollars and laugh about it.
Over the years, people who have called for police reform have often been accused of being “anti-police.”
“I’m not anti-police,” they’ll usually respond. “I just want better policing.”
You can call me anti-police if you want.
If the events of the past decade — if even the news of cops standing by while kids were being killed in the next room — isn’t enough to convince you that we need to fundamentally rethink our society’s understanding of safety, then nothing will.
You can’t reform the police. You can’t fix the police by hiring different people, by providing better training, or by putting new accountability measures in place, and you definitely can’t fix the police by throwing more money at them.
Police are not here to keep us safe. Police are what we get when politicians decide they’d rather not address our problems. Police are a blight on humanity.
We deserve to live in a society that invests its vast wealth in life, not death. A society that uses its resources to uplift people, not to inflict pain and punishment. A society that doesn’t manufacture tools of murder and put them in the hands of teenagers or cops, because we can’t trust either group with that responsibility.
I don’t know if we’ll ever abolish the police, but we need to stand up to them and tell them that we’re done letting them run our society. We need to slash police budgets, lay off lots of cops, and put in place new programs that promote our wellbeing and safety.
As the cops killed Eric Garner, he said “I can’t breathe.” He said something else before that: “It stops today.”
It won’t stop today, just like it didn’t stop that day. I don’t know if we’ll see any significant progress on guns or police in the near future. I don’t even think taking the bloody, bullet-riddled bodies of those 19 dead kids and dumping them on Joe Manchin’s desk would make a difference.
But we have to try, or it won’t stop tomorrow either.
One other thing. It’s Memorial Day, so check out this documentary by NECN’s Shira Stoll about Denis Reynoso, a veteran who survived the Iraq war only to be killed by cops back in this country. In 2013, Reynoso was experiencing a mental-health crisis when three Lynn cops forced their way into his home and shot him to death in front of his son, who was then five years old.
I contributed video to the documentary, and when it first aired in November, it was gratifying knowing that work I did years ago was still helping to raise awareness about what happened.
Thats’s all for now. Until next time.