Pro Athletes Boycotting Games
The NBA playoffs have been hit with a work stoppage.
Frustrated by yet another police killing of a young Black man caught on video, athletes from the NBA and other sports leagues are refusing to play.
New York Times (“Led by N.B.A., Boycotts Disrupt Pro Sports in Wake of Blake Shooting“):
Athletes from the N.B.A., W.N.B.A., Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer took their boldest stand yet against systemic racism and police brutality, boycotting games on Wednesday in response to the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wis. The moves dramatically escalated a season of athletes demonstrating for social justice as some expressed doubts about continuing to play amid widespread social unrest.
The wave of boycotts and postponements was sparked by Milwaukee Bucks players’ responding to the shooting of Jacob Blake by refusing to come out of their locker room on Wednesday afternoon for a playoff game against the Orlando Magic. Two more N.B.A. playoff games scheduled for Wednesday night were quickly postponed, inspiring players in other leagues to follow the Bucks’ lead and causing numerous professional basketball, baseball and soccer games to be called off because athletes would not participate.
When I saw the news that Bucks players had staged a walkout ahead of a playoff game, I was stunned. It struck me as a pointless gesture that was much more likely to spark backlash than help the cause. Meanwhile, the NBA’s reaction was brilliant: postpone the game in question and the two others scheduled for the evening rather than allow the postseason to be tainted by forfeits.
The rationale offered by players, however, is reasonable enough:
The shooting prompted numerous N.B.A. players and coaches to express frustration and anger that the various measures they have been taking for weeks to support the Black Lives Matter movement, such as kneeling during the national anthem and wearing jerseys bearing social justice messages, were having little impact. Some also began to question, as the Nets’ star guard Kyrie Irving did in June before the 2019-20 season resumed, whether providing entertainment through basketball was actually diverting public attention away from the broader social justice movement.
So, on the one hand, the boycott is misdirected. Neither NBA officials nor team owners have any responsibility for the shootings. Neither do Milwaukee Bucks fans. And, certainly, the ordinary wage-earners who make their living supporting the games, cleaning the facilities and the like, are innocent.
But, yes, resuming basketball and other entertainment options do signal a partial return to normalcy. While it was initially the pandemic that suspended play, the massive protest movement has in some ways overshadowed it, especially in major urban centers. So there’s something to be said for flipping that on its head by boycotting.
And it’s worth noting that the Bucks are the top seed in the inferior Eastern Conference. They have a very good chance of making it to the NBA Finals. This isn’t a token gesture.
“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable,” [Bucks point guard George] Hill said. “For this to occur, it’s imperative for the Wisconsin state Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.”
While I’ve been to Wisconsin a handful of times, I claim no expertise in their local politics. Apparently, they’re still operating on the antiquated model of part-time legislators who have other jobs. Still, it strikes me as unlikely that they’re going to be spurred into action by basketball players.
Beyond that, while I fully understand why each additional incident adds fuel to the fire, it’s unreasonable to expect a transformation of our law enforcement culture overnight. That’s just not how the world works. Even if “meaningful measures” are taken, it’s going to be years before this problem is solved.
Which leaves everyone with a dilemma:
A meeting Wednesday night was open to players and coaches from the 13 teams still at Walt Disney World to determine next steps — in essence to decide how soon, or even if, the N.B.A. playoffs should resume.
Players from the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors were already deep into discussions about boycotting the teams’ second-round series opener Thursday when the Bucks staged their boycott. A league spokesman, when asked about Thursday’s three scheduled games, said no determination had been made about the N.B.A.’s upcoming schedule.
If the playoffs are canceled over these boycotts, the damage done to the league will be incalculable. It took years for Major League Baseball to recover from the 1994 players’ strike that canceled that sport’s postseason.
Unlike the National Football League, the NBA’s owners and league leadership have maintained a good relationship with the players. They’ve issued statements in support of their efforts here and done a good job of accommodating the need to express solidarity with the larger protest movement. I strongly suspect cooler heads will prevail and the playoffs will resume soon.
A good relationship is nice but ultimately statements mean nothing. Just words by people who can’t do much about the situation aka hopes and prayers. You know why pro-athletes not playing is such a big deal? Because the very people who don’t pay attention to the protests (or despise them) care about sports. They demand to be entertained and taking that away really pisses them off, especially when it’s “ungrateful” AA who have the nerve to care about a cause that actively affects them and their families. How dare they deprive Real America of basketball, baseball, football, etc over something Real America’s been successfully not caring about for months now?! How dare they deprive people of mindless TV excitement because the establishment has no intention of actually dealing with the murders and violence that keep happening in their name?
Protests only work if they are disruptive or cannot be easily ignored. All sports in a sports-crazy nation with limited entertainment options due to a pandemic? You bet your ass it’s going to get attention and more traction. Take the circus away and the rabble gets cranky – tell them the circus won’t continue until something is done and watch the anger grow. I have no doubt the season will try to resume but this is when the players have the owners over a barrel. Owners have leverage with cities because of the sheer amount of money sports bring to towns. Start using it to put the pressure on or that money goes bye-bye.
These aren’t boycotts, these are strikes.
And the same could be said about people sitting at lunch counters, or in the front of the bus, or …
But that cuts both ways. They’re more likely to see it as a betrayal by ungrateful millionaires.
I’m not sure either word is completely right here but the players aren’t demanding anything from their employer. And the players and their Association are uniformly calling them “boycotts.”
@James Joyner: They are withholding their labor to achieve a goal. That is the very definition of a strike. They are not refusing to purchase goods or products, which is a boycott.
Probably for technical reasons, because the labor agreement between the players and the league explicitly forbids strikes.
What does that even mean? Why does this logic only seem to come up with sports players – people who made their money through skills not many have – and not people like CEOs who are a dime a dozen? It’s an interesting form of subtle racism to view players (a huge percentage of which are minorities) in sports are not having earned their money through sweat and effort but rather because they were “allowed” to earn it by fans and owners.
FYI not accusing you of anything – I just find it interesting how this phrasing gets repeated because it’s so ingrained in our culture we don’t even think about it. Athletes are lesser somehow because their work doesn’t count but god forbid they try to act like normal workers and demand rights or strike. They’re “ungrateful” for the “chance” to get hurt entertaining a nation and destroy their bodies in physically demanding ways that aren’t “real work” but get paid well to do so. They do something millions love to watch / experience but the fact that they profit off it and are rich? Pfft, they’d better not step out of line from what the fans want or else! Bread and circus for our times and the gladiators better be grateful for the chance to please the crowds……
Are you f**king kiddng me, Dr. Joyner??? That statement alone shows how f**king out of touch you are. Goddmannit! When will this shit stop? The guy was trying to break up a fight, and ended up with seven shots in the back IN FRONT OF HIS KIDS.
GODDMAN IT, MAN! WTF?
Really? You don’t think having the Bucks stop playing in the middle of a playoff run is getting attention in Wisconsin? While the streets are on fire with racial protests?
Wisconsin politicians are going to be forced to do something.
Whether it sticks is another discussion.
@EddieInCA: It’s a non-sequitur. Should everyone stop going to work until there are no more police shootings? Only Black people?
@Daryl and his brother Darryl:
You’d think the rioting would be more of a spur for action than striking athletes, but maybe not.
The nutcase kid that killed protesters in front of cops and got to walk away is now being lionized for his murders. He had his mom drive him to another state to break curfew and kill people “defending” property not his uninvited but hey, he didn’t do anything wrong according to the GOP. They’re defending him being allowed to walk away free for what would have gotten anyone else shot dead in seconds.
This is going to stop when people realize that far too many care more about the status quo then justice and deal with *them*. They don’t want it to stop, they want to not have to think about it anymore. They won’t care of their own free will so damnit, we’re going to have to make them care. I have no idea how minorities have resisted the urge to burn America down for decades of this nonsense but they have far more patience then I ever would. Depriving people of sports until something is done is a non-violent option that seems to hit people where it hurts so of course it’s not OK. Can’t inconvenience people to not watch the game while folks are being killed protesting violence or just trying to get into their cars.
Dr King was right – the white moderate that cares more for order or non-disruption of their own lives is one of the greatest stumbling blocks towards justice America will ever know.
You may be right that the sports-watching public is sufficiently ignorant and self-centered that they can’t tell the difference between a work stoppage caused by owner greed and a work stoppage caused by player outrage over social injustice. I’d like to think you’re wrong, though.
None of us are innocent as long as “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Why not? Seriously, as a thought experiment, why not?
Citizens are being murdered in the streets by their own government or criminals the government is allowing to do so. It’s unreasonable for them to not react or to just have to accept the situation. If this were any other country, we’d be telling the locals to rise up against their oppressive government and to fight back how they can, work stoppage being a non-violent way to do so. As it’s not an unreasonable request to, you know, NOT KILL your own people, this feels like a bloodless way to encourage governmental change without riots or coups. Even if only 20% of the population doesn’t work for a week, it will have an effect – add in the pandemic’s effect on the economy and it would be devastating. Better then riots and people burning things down, right? The killings stop or they will MAKE it stop.
We cannot just keep sweeping this kind of thing under the rug. America has a violence problem, a police brutality problem and a violence against our own people problem. Months of peaceful and not-so-peaceful protests haven’t done much. The next steps are not pretty, James and we’re starting down a road that historically doesn’t end well for anyone. This is the kind of thing that leads to revolutions and the end of nations. Better to advocate strikes and work stoppages then look forward to our very own Arab Spring. I’d rather have nobody working at Burger King for a week and still get to keep my country intact, wouldn’t you?
You would think…but we see every single day how the rioting gets twisted around, and the root cause of the rioting is forgotten. In exactly the same way that Kaepernick’s peaceful protest of racial injustice became twisted into being about the flag and the military.
The Bucks not playing is clearly about one thing…and it complicates the narrative of those who support white supremacy under the guise of LAW AND ORDER.
This, x 1000.
Things would change a lot quicker if they did.
I do need to agree with Eddie that this statement leaves you appearing a bit obtuse. It was no surprise on Tuesday to read of the Bucks’ discussions on protesting by boycotting the game and that the Celtics players all but declared they would do the same after a scheduled team meeting.
That the boycott will irritate some fans is the point. The, move along, there is nothing to see here attitude that it is just the normal, it is the job of police to shoot/kill citizens needs to change. Oh and by the way, it is the protesters fault that they were shot/killed by a RW gun nut.
The NBA nor its players, aren’t saintly as the season started with both groveling to the Chinese and suppressing protests within the league regarding Hong Kong.
1961 – Bill Russell
1967 – Cassius Clay
1968 – Tommie Smith, John Carlos
1969 – Kurt Flood
1970 – The Syracuse Eight
1973 – African American Brown University Cheerleaders (they refused to stand for the Anthem because they believed “it no longer represented them”. They were Kaepernick long before Kaepernick.)
1973 – Arthur Ashe plays in apartheid South Africa
1989 – John Thompson walks off the court at Georgtown
1992 – Craig Hodges at the White House
1996 – Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
2003 – Toni Smith (turned her back to the U.S. flag during the anthem to protest the U.S. involvement in the war in Iraq. She is white.)
2004 – Carlos Delgado (During the Iraq War, baseball began a new tradition by playing “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. But Delgado, the Blue Jays’ first baseman, deliberately took a seat during each rendition, saying, “I don’t stand because I don’t believe in the war.”)
2010 – Los Sons (In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and in protest of Arizona’s recent passage of a much stricter immigration policy, the Phoenix Suns donned Los Suns jerseys during the 2010 NBA playoffs.)
2012 – Miami Heat (Traynon hoodies)
2014 – Los Angeles Rams (Hands up, Don’t shoot.)
2014 – NBA (I can’t breathe T Shirts)
2014 – Cleveland Browns (Tamir Rice T-Shirts)
2016 – WNBA – Black Lives Matter T Shirts (FOUR YEARS AGO)
2016 – Colin Kaepernick kneels for the first time.
2020 – NBA Strike
2020 is just the latest in a long line of athletes protesting social issues. The problem is most people have ignored them.
It’s almost as if some people feel entitled to the labor of black people, and get upset when they don’t get it.
Americans may need to become familiar with a general strike.
@Jon: DING DING DING, close up the internets for the day boys and girls. They done been won.
@EddieInCA: With a couple of exceptions, I was aware of those protests. I actually like the way the NBA has handled the protests over the years; they’ve done a much better job than the “you must obey” NFL.
But forfeiting a playoff game is a big Eff You to the team’s fans. The NBA is trying to salvage it, postponing the games in hopes of playing them. But, if the season is canceled, I expect there to be real outrage.
Let’s get something straight.
NBA players are LABOR. They work for a living. It may be a high paying job, but it’s labor. They work for employers. They’re using their power as LABOR to affect social change.
I salute and applaud them.
@Dr. Joyner. You’ve never been stopped by police for no reason. You’ve never been beaten by police for no reason. You’ve never been thrown in jail for a weekend for absolutely no f**king reason. You’ve never had your taillight broken by a policeman’s nightstick then had a ticket written for having a broken taillight. You’ve never seen your friend cracked in the head by a policeman’s nightstick while being called “a Beaner”. You’ve never endured a nightstick to the ribs, ending up in a hospital, for having the temerity to ask “Why was I pulled over?”
All have happened to me. I’m so angry right now, I can barely type. I’ll calm down at some point and maybe apologize, but right now…
F**k you. Just f**k you.
Why would you think that? Rioting directly harms a few people downtown. NBA stoppage inconveniences tens of millions. That seems like a no-brainer which one would be more important to people looking for votes.
Headline 1944: German soccer players are boycotting this week’s game claiming the stench of burning bodies from Dachau is disturbing their play. Many fans are outraged that politics is intruding on sports. Said one fan: waaaah.
If you don’t think that’s a sufficiently worthwhile cause for a strike, I’m guessing that you don’t think there is ever a sufficiently worthwhile cause for a strike. Which pretty much makes your opinions on strikes ignorable.
Seriously — suppose it were feasible, to arrange a national strike until the police departments were restructured and the laws changed to hold them accountable for murder. Would you argue that the cost was too high?
James has a terminal case of a few bad apples. He has still not internalized, despite all of the evidence pouring in, that this is the reality on the ground, everywhere and every day, outside his cozy suburb. He thinks that the system is failing in a few places; he has not figured out that the system was designed to function this way, and is working as intended.
No but I think it’s magical thinking. There’s absolutely no consensus on what such a restructuring would even look like. And, even if we changed the laws, juries are still going to side with cops in all but the most outrageous of circumstances.
@James Joyner :
I get that – I truly do. Nobody likes being deprived of things they like for reasons not of their making or fault. I’m hating I’m not going to Disney after Labor Day because covidiots have ruined it for me.
However, you need to read what you wrote and understand that it’s some serious entitlement behavior to get pissy because someone’s not playing for your amusement. Sports are so ingrained in our culture we don’t really look at them rationally anymore. Outrage over sports protests when that’s been a thing for years now? Why is this a surprise that when a fatal shooting happens, AGAIN, players will react and stop the game? The Eff You may be deserved at this point – society keeps not doing anything meaningful to stop this but expects them to play on. Fans are part of society- no snowflake feels it’s responsible for the avalanche.
I’m sorry fans had their night ruined. That sucks. However, that wouldn’t have happened if they had pushed for meaningful reform so hey, lesson learned. Want your sportsball? Go tell your local government to rein in the damn police, it’s ruining the playoffs. A ton of angry calls flooding the local switchboards might make an impression….
Funny then, how some of the most outrageous police shootings never go to trial, either with a “No Bill” out of a grand jury or much reduced charges thru plea bargaining.
Sigh. No. It is a big, honking neon light screaming “please, please pay attention to what is happening.” They are begging people to start paying attention and not lose focus.
Black men are being gunned down in front of their kids, by cops whose default is to assume that any black person on the scene at an altercation must be the problem before even TRYING to understand the situation.
And 17 year-old white teen gang members are allowed to parade around and shoot people–they are given the benefit of the doubt, even after committing two murders.
So, don’t do anything unless we can fix everything? That is an interesting take.
I’m approaching the topic as an analyst, assessing the likely impact of the players’ action on the problem at hand. While I don’t feel the cause at the visceral level you and they do, I understand why they’re angry. They have a powerful platform. I think speaking out is likely to change more minds than a work stoppage. More than any other sports league, NBA players are personalities. I think telling their stories and explaining why they’re angry and hurting will resonate. But, certainly, this action—whatever we call it—will get attention. I just think it’s more likely to be negative than positive.
Well-meaning white people are horrified by the police killings, but believe them to be isolated incidents.
What well-meaning white people don’t understand, that black people do, is that every incident that happens to be recorded is a fraction of what goes on today, and a much tinier fraction of what’s been going on for decades before the invention of iPhone cameras.
The thing to be absorbed here is not this or that specific incident, but a realization that whatever is taped is the visible portion of a much, much bigger iceberg. An iceberg that white America has steadfastly denied but which Black America knew was there. White America wasn’t just clueless, it denied the validity of black experience. We’ve been gaslighting black people in addition to murdering them.
I know Dr. Joyner is a good man. I know that. But the blind spot he has when it comes to race and police is typical of his age and generation, and it’s what’s keeping us from affecting real change. It’s frustrating. Given my personal experience, it’s especially frustrating.
Hell, in March of this year, right before the pandemic, I was pulled over in my Porsche 911 driving through Westlake Village (a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles) at 2am, asked to exit my vehicle, put into the back seat of a police car, along with my passenger, a 38 year old black co-worker, while they ran my license and plates, and questions. First question the cop asked me,
“Why are you out at 2am”?.
Answer: Just got off work.
Question: What do you do for work?
Asnwer: I produce a network television series.
Question: Don’t bullshit me. What do you really do for a living? Are there any drugs in your car?
Answer: No drugs in my car. Its what I do. You have my license. Run a google search on my name.
Five minutes later, I was on my way. No apology. No explanation. I was not speeding. I did nothing illegal.
Guaranteed that has never happened to Dr. Joyner.
Malfunction alert: Just had a comment that posted successfully… disappear! When I backspace it’s there in pre-posted state. When I try to post it again I get the duplicate warning. Very strange.
ETA: Aaaand, now it popped back into existence. I blame quantum physics.
“They have a powerful platform. I think speaking out is likely to change more minds than a work stoppage.”
Umm, why? Speaking out hasn’t yet.
Its a browser thing. I’ve noticed upon page refresh things disappear because the cache is actually pulling a previous page state where they didn’t exist yet. Refresh again and the current version will appear. Clear your cache and you should be ok
I’m just an average white guy who is not particularly interested in professional sports but in instances like this I do try, to the best of my ability and limited experience, to put myself in the the place of these athletes. A lot of these athletes came from poor upbringing and circumstances. They may have made it but they have brothers and sisters, parents and children who have not made it. They are in communities where their families are at risk. I think this is the place they are coming from, not as successful athletes and personalities but as members of a wider community where they are afraid for their family and friends. And they are saying “enough”.
That’s absolutely true. White privilege is a thing and the nature of the privilege is that most of the time, we’re blissfully unaware of it because it’s simply “normal.”
I’ve written a lot over the years about the appalling state of our law enforcement and corrections systems. While I’ve long acknowledged that the impact is disproportionately felt by those who are black, brown, and poor, I generally treat it as a systemic problem rather than a primarily racial one.
And, no, I don’t think it’s just a “few bad apples” issue. While I think the vast majority of cops are decent people, there are far too many thugs in the ranks. Worse, the culture is one that punishes those who report the bad conduct of the thugs.
But it’s also a complex problem for which there is no ready, much less quick, solution. Systemic racism is a part of the larger society. Ditto deference to authority. Ditto a media ecosystem that sensationalizes violent crime, such that suburban America thinks it’s much more prevalent than it is. And there are all manner of funding/taxation issues that mitigate against proper selection/training/paying for more professional cops and corrections officers.
A simple formula:
(Life of Jacob Blake + lives of future Jacob Blakes) > (Inconvenience of sports fans + financial impact on pro sports)
It’s a very difficult problem to fix. My eldest daughter is vaguely Antifa – not sure how much she’s in the streets, but I know that she is. We have long text conversations on politics, and it falls to me to be the old guy pointing out that this is a city-by-city, state-by-state problem that will have to be fought out in the political trenches, one battle at a time. This war will not be over by Christmas.
Not quite. The culture, as set by the various police unions, is one of protecting the life, liberty, and employment of these thugs, rather than holding them accountable. Punishing those who report misconduct, like Frank Serpico, is a feature of the system.
Just as flag burning is speech, so is a work stoppage, but the work stoppage is speech with with a bullhorn. A lot more people are going to hear and take note of the work stoppage than they ever would a few words on a jersey or t-shirt in pregame warmups.
@James Joyner :
All of this is true. However, correction has to start somewhere.
More to the point, correction has to start despite being unpleasant, inconvenient and incomplete. You are right this is a complex problem that will take years to solve (if it can) but that doesn’t explain why your initial reaction was “don’t piss off fans, it won’t help”. Stonewall started because a group of people said, “screw it, we’re not taking it anymore” and fought back, convincing and disrupting as they went. Ditto the folks at lunch counters and riding buses, suffragettes cutting phone wires and throwing rocks.
Change happens when members of society go Eff You, We’re Done and kickstart the long process you described. Nobody’s happy when it happens. At this point, it’s either we do this the peaceful way by denying millions their playoff game or some windows get smashed. Suburban America won’t like either choice but I’m betting I know which one they will choose.
@Teve: I think everyone went with “boycott” because the players themselves used that term. Plus, we associate “strike” with labor disputes. The players aren’t mad at the NBA or asking them to do anything for them. Rather, they’re withholding services to send a message to the public. “Boycott” isn’t quite the right word, either, but it’s unobjectionable.
Sure! But that assumes the two sides of the equation are related. Jacob Blake’s life is worth much more than the life of my dog; but shooting my dog isn’t going to bring him back or prevent future police shootings of Black men.
A few bad apples make the whole barrel rotten, and the culture “that punishes those who report the bad conduct of the thugs” is the rot that is practiced by 95-99% of the cops. So no, I don’t think “the vast majority of cops are decent people” and wonder how it is you can write those 2 sentences, one right after the other without getting whiplash.
“But it’s also a complex problem for which there is no ready, much less quick, solution. Systemic racism is a part of the larger society. Ditto deference to authority. Ditto a media ecosystem that sensationalizes violent crime, such that suburban America thinks it’s much more prevalent than it is. And there are all manner of funding/taxation issues that mitigate against proper selection/training/paying for more professional cops and corrections officers.”
And that’s a reason not to act at all (or at most to make a statement like dozens of prior ones which will be forgotten in a week) because…?
Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop
Yes and that was 40 years ago and nothing has changed.
Yes, they are connected. In both spheres, police shootings and pro sports, African Americans are objects. In one case, they are televised for the benefit of cheering fans and wealthy team owners. In the other case, they are killed to satisfy a defective model of policing and fears of minorities.
But they don’t need to be connected at all. It would be strange to require only the most directly relevant forms of protest. Marches, sit-ins, work slow-downs, strikes, and other common forms of protest don’t directly engage their targets. I can continue to argue with my HR representative about the crappy new medical plan, but I can’t go on strike with my fellow employees to bring pressure to bear on the executives who decided to provide worse medical benefits?
@Kingdaddy: Also, the target of protest isn’t always the person who did something that you oppose. The target is often the bystander who allows the outrage to happen.
I’m genuinely not sure how we go about reforming police when there are Facebook groups of cops who post stuff like this.
It’s sickening. Absolutely disgusting.
I think it’s worth pointing out that this sentiment was common among “sensible conservatives” when John Lewis marched with thousands across the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Sensible conservatives were concerned about shifting form words only to direct action. They talked about the messaging, the backlash, how such confrontational behavior would antagonize those who could be won over, etc. etc. etc.
I think history has pretty clearly shown those concerns to be wrong. That doesn’t automatically make your concerns wrong in turn, but it’s worth thinking about.
MLK, Letter From a Birmingham Jail
@James Joyner: “But, if the season is canceled, I expect there to be real outrage.”
Isn’t that kind of the point? That there is real outrage when white fans are deprived of some entertainment, and just shrugs from the same people when innocent black people are murdered by the police day after day?
@KM: imagine if we called CEOs “ungrateful millionaires” whenever they demand new tax cuts. And those CEOs are looking to increase their wealth, not protect themselves and their loved ones. And we should note that many NBA players have been victimized by profiling and police brutality.
Not to sound like a broken record, but I’ve always said that athletes, since at least the mid-80’s, have had more power than they realized.
You want change in Alabama or Louisiana, have an issue that affects Alabama, Auburn, or LSU football. If the athletes at these schools stand up, there will be change. And there should be change.
The problem is how to change it.
I don’t recommend disbanding and eliminating police unions. We don’t need yet another profession to be left defenseless. But perhaps abolish the police unions and unionize the workforce in a broader labor union, say one representing civil servants. This takes away the single-minded focus in holding no police officer accountable ever, or at any rate it might.
First, as always, there need be a willingness to change. I’ve a feeling most police departments are simply waiting for the whole thing to blow over, for people to get tired of protests and to move on. Then things can get back to normal with a few symbolic gestures thrown in. It’s worked before.
I don’t think it will blow over any time soon. Things are at a breaking point. And it doesn’t help that police keep on doing extrajudicial killings and otherwise brutalizing certain citizens. It doesn’t help that some citizens are definitely seen as second class both by the police and by many first class citizens.
@Kathy: IMHO, we absolutely need independent citizen review boards.
A lot of the problems stem from insular thinking within an organization. I’m guessing that a lot of police departments don’t realize how deep these problems run within their own organizations because there’s always somewhere else that looks a lot worse. These are hardly appropriate standards, and they need input from outside to start, well, yesterday.
Please watch and listen to this:
I had tears in my eyes along with Nick.
That question comes out kinda snarky, but it’s not intended to be snark. I’m genuinely curious about why the acknowledgement that maybe we have too many bad cops has to be prefaced by a disclaimer that, of course, the majority aren’t. What’s the basis for that?
Maybe by “decent people” you only mean that most cops generally don’t do bad things to people on purpose just for the fun of it. If that’s what you mean, I suspect you’re right. But if “decent people” means telling the truth even when doing so makes your job more difficult, or stepping in to stop your co-workers when they are doing things that harm the people they are supposed to be protecting, or not blindly supporting a co-worker who violates a citizen’s rights just because he’s your co-worker, I’d want to see some data before concluding that most officers meet that standard.
I’ve been reading your posts here for several years now. Based on what I’ve read, I feel pretty certain that you teach your kids that part of being a decent person is telling the truth, stepping in to stop friends from hurting other people, and letting their friends know when they’ve stepped out of line. Maybe I’m wrong about that. But if I’m right, why is that a standard we tell our kids they need to live up to if they’re going to think of themselves as decent people but not a standard we’re willing to apply to people we give guns and the authority to use them?
They’ve been telling their stories for years, and people don’t listen.
If they have good organizers, media consultants and PR reps, they will use the strike to get attention, and then tell their stories. But, it’s not like they planned this far in advance, so I expect they will not get an easily reportable package out there as quickly or efficiently as you would like.
They’re frustrated, angry and sad. It will be a bit messy and spontaneous and disorganized.
If it’s any consolation, had they played, their heads weren’t going to be in the game. You missed some bad basketball.
If Trump wins a contested election in November, expect general strikes. Or, the workers going Galt.
A lot of people try to make this about the existence of unions. It’s not. I’m in a union. If I so much is pushed a customer I’d be fired on the spot and the union would tell me to get lost. It’s what the police unions have been allowed to get away with that’s the problem.
A disturbing amount of people are claiming Blake’s shooting is justified because “he had knife in his car ” (not physically on him) but Rittenhouse didn’t do anything wrong shooting people in the head “defending” property that’s not his in a different state with illegal guns and breaking curfew. I’m willing to bet a lot of these murderer-defenders are also sports fans and are probably pissed about the strikes / boycotts. I’m willing to bet further they’re a substantial part of the fanbase else the fans would be agreeing en mass with the players about what a tragedy this all is. They do not deserve a playoff – they made their choice. I feel bad for the fans who care and are righteously angry about these crimes but then again, they’re not the ones screaming about a missing game.
I don’t think that’s really true. Pro sports leagues excluded non-whites for generations. Athletes have long been venerated by society, even in homogeneous cultures. The fact that the athletes are predominately Black in American sports these days doesn’t make it something different.
“Decent people” is right up there with “nice guy” – the bland generic benevolence damn near everyone thinks they possess. Ask anyone to describe themselves negatively and you’ll get a listing of flaws with the caveat that they’re really “good people” in spite of their issues.
Quite frankly, humans don’t like to acknowledge that a vast majority of the people surrounding them are terrible. Maybe it’s because they fear what that means for the world, their safety and future. Maybe they don’t want to acknowledge monsters wear pleasant smiles, love their families, contribute to the community and then go shoot strangers in the head because they’re hateful inside. Maybe they believe in a righteous world where bad things only happen to bad people so these victims must be bad somehow.
I believe in the fundamental goodness of mankind – meaning that a human has the capacity and tendency towards goodness. However, I’m no fool and understand that “good people” is a meaningless term and that doing good in one part of your life doesn’t mean you aren’t a monster in others. Furthermore, you have no claim to righteousness when you allow evil to exist; if you are part of a culture that allows the killing of innocents like the police do and not doing your damnedest to make it stop, you cannot claim to be “decent people” regardless of how saintly you are elsewhere in your life. At best, you are an apathetic citizen in hostile territory, keeping your head down to save your own skin. Looking out for #1 doesn’t make you decent. Perhaps you think you are making the best of a bad situation, trying to do the most good to balance out unstoppable or necessary evil. The word for that is collaborator, not decent people. Being the Assistant Manager to Evil means you’re still Evil. Alas, most of these folks need to be able to look themselves in the eye so they tell themselves lies. Thus we get the concept of “decent people” – those who aren’t actively being monsters, just willingly monster-adjacent.
We’ve also, as a society, done everything possible to marginalize political speech that upsets the status quo.
If a walkout of sports workers is what actually gets people to stop thinking of this is a messy problem over there that only affects other people — then it is literally the least disruptive possible way of getting people’s attention.
I’m surprised that there haven’t been vigilante murders of police who commit these murders and assaults.
We have folks on the right shooting into crowds and driving into crowds and attempting to fire a bow into crowds… We have people justifying a 17 year old having his mother drive him across state lines with his assault rifle to hang out with the bugaboo boys and shoot people to defend property that isn’t his against vandalism.
Let’s take a moment and reflect upon how restrained the angry crowds of protesters are that we don’t have a few unstable individuals deciding that the only way the police will face justice is if they are shot dead.
Sports workers walking out… sounds good to me. Excellent step. Well done, sirs. Apply some pressure for change without killing anyone.
Indeed. Football is what got the Battle Flag removed from the Mississippi state flag.
Few people met your definition of “decent.” In an ideal world, they would be it’s not the world we live in. Certainly, we’d prefer cops to meet that standard given that they’re empowered to kill under color of authority. But they’re just ordinary folks with a little bit of training.
@Steven L. Taylor:
And a new president at Mizzou.
Don’t tell me most cops are good guys when they ALWAYS cover up for the crimes of fellow cops. It’s clearly nonsense. We have police forces so corrupt that police officers have no qualms about committing murder in plain view of their fellow officers. That’s not a few bad apples. That’s a whole diseased barrel.
In general, you’re more right than wrong, but the organizational culture that they belong to is sick and corrupt, which compromises the individual police officer. Around the time of the murder of Eric Gardner, I read the comments of a former cop, who was then a professor of criminology at a NY region college. The point he made was that in all departments there are exemplary officers and morally corrupt officers along with most who will simply go with the flow. Unfortunately those officers who were morally corrupt had a much easier time becoming unofficial leaders among equals and had undo influence among their peers. For the decent, follower cop, fitting in becomes hitting someone with the nightstick or using the Taser, using choke holds or shoving a broom stick up someones ass.
edit: It’s not any different than the otherwise good soldier who commits a war crime.
I am no so sure. I think that it matters that the predominant labor force in pro sports (especially basketball and football) is Black and management/ownership is white.
Basketball is also associated with “urban” which has racial overtones.
Further, in football we at a moment in time in which more affluent families, who are more likely to be white, are increasingly concerned about the dangers of football but poorer familiar, more likely Black, see it as a way out of poverty.
It doesn’t help that college ball leads to a lot of money being made off of relatively free labor (scholarship aren’t nothing, but still, college atheletes are not paid).
I think that there is a strong case to be made for this connection–also when keeping in mind, back to the minstrel shows of the 19th century, the degree to which Blacks, or the representations thereof, have been used for entertainment, or the fact that the Blacks who have traditionally been broadly acceptable have been entertainers. Think about how many times you have heard it said that America isn’t racist because X is rich and popular and then think about how many times X is an entertainer of some kind. Indeed, I have heard that said about Cosby and Oprah over and over.
Really? Name another profession or occupation where one person could choke a man to death while his fellows laughed and then lied to cover it up.
We’ve seen these articles before but they never really have traction.
White supremacists and militias have infiltrated police across US, report says
I might add that there have been numerous articles about infiltration into the military also.
Wow. Just wow.
James, how many racists are in your circle (probably in your family, as you don’t seem like someone who would put up with someone who is a really nice guy, except for his views on Black people)? And how many Black folks?
You seem rather sheltered.
For a lot of Americans, race does affect everything. And the dominance of Blacks in sports simultaneously shows how precarious the position of Whites is, and that Blacks were bred for hard work on the plantations.
For more Americans, the dominance of Blacks in some sports ends up being their opportunity to welcome these dark skinned strangers into their lives, and learn about them, and discover that they’re people. And then maybe cut back on the racism in their own life. They’re more likely to hire that Black guy for the office job, and just be a bit disappointed when he isn’t really good at basketball at the company picnic. It’s a step towards equality.
But for that first group, it’s even more frightening. And that first group still watches sports, and still helps shape the narrative of America.
It’s worth keeping tabs on your racist uncle (or whatever). Your racist uncle is part of about a quarter of this country, and is likely conservative because the status quo makes them feel safe. And sometimes, your racist uncle will say something you don’t immediately disagree with, and that’s a good warning sign that you need to reassess.
The “little bit of training” is a big part of the problem. Wikipedia list the training processes for police around the world, and virtually all require far more training than the US. Several nations require a bachelor’s degree, and most require a year or more.
So the average training a police officer in the US receives is about 4 months, and maximum is 7 months. That’s a problem not only because it limits what they are learning, but it makes the bar for becoming a police officer very low. People who probably shouldn’t be police officers are less likely to be weeded out.
Recall the 2015 incident where four Swedish cops vacationing in NYC defused a fight on the subway, subduing the fighters without weapons, and then deescalating the incident by their care and concern for the perpetrators.
@EddieInCA: Powerful piece. Wright has been really good on these issues. I mostly hear him when he’s filling in for Cowherd.
Just a note:
Approximately half of US police departments have 10 or fewer officers, and 70% of them serve communities of 10k or smaller. (US DoJ)
I apologize for my earlier rant, Dr. Joyner. It’s just frustrating for me, given what I know about you.
As for Nick Wright, he’s the stereotypical arrogant blowhard sports pundit. But he’s married to a black woman, and has biracial kids, who happen to look black. As many of said before, there is no such thing as bi-racial if you look black. Obama had a white mother, but he was black as far as the world was concerned. Nick Wright is living what many black father live because of his kids, despite being a white guy.
You have people who still don’t get it. And the sad thing is that they never will. Their racism is so deeply-rooted that they’ll never get it.
@Monala: Yes. The major metro police departments tend to have much higher standards. But the vast majority of American cops are poorly educated and trained.
@EddieInCA: Thanks. Approaching extremely emotional topics analytically without acknowledging why they’re so emotional tends to piss people off. I was just treating this development like I would any other—analyzing the move itself—but the context matters more here.
There’s a lot US cops could learn from their counterparts on the other side of the pond. Most police in the UK do not carry guns. While police here would lose their damn minds over that, it would dramatically alter how they approach things like domestic altercations. Given the number of guns in this country, we probably couldn’t go the exact same route, but I do think vastly more training in de-escalation should be project #1 for cops everywhere. Seriously, American cops seem to be awfully quick to turn the dial to 11, and some of this is in the fear-mongering training they receive.
I can’t remember if it was someone here who linked to a story, or if it was a public radio (This American Life, Reveal, or similar), but there was a profile of some kind of unofficial police training seminar that cops are sent to (by unofficial I mean it was run by some kind of private security training company, not a government training) and it was crazy.
Yes, we certainly saw that with Colin Kaepernick.
/shakes head in disbelief
A point I’ve made before and earned the usual hysterical rants from the gun nuts. American cops are armed because the American people are armed. They wear vests because the American people are armed. They’re scared every time they make a traffic stop or go on a domestic call because the American people are armed.
American cops are not taught to de-escalate, they are taught to dominate, to never relax that dominance for even a second. This is part fear of Americans with guns, and part toxic masculinity.
So my standard is too high. I disagree, since I run across people who meet that standard on a regular basis, but since you’re the one who said that most cops are decent people I’ll accept your statement that you don’t mean what I mean when you use the phrase. That still leaves the question: what do you mean when you say that most cops are decent people?
Years ago when I was learning how to be a trial lawyer I spent a few years prosecuting sex crimes. In my time as a prosecutor, I came across cops of all kinds. They included:
1. The hero: I am way beyond tired of hearing “hero” thrown around indiscriminately as a description for anyone who wears a badge, but the fact that the term gets overused doesn’t mean that there aren’t people it really fits. The hero cop is a guy or gal who believes the job really is to protect and serve the community. Heroes display integrity personally and demand integrity from those around them. They understand that they chose a profession where the time may come that they will be called on to put their life at risk, and when that time comes they choose to risk their own death before harming someone they have not been able to confirm is a genuine threat. The hero is not a mythical beast. These people really exist, but in my experience, at least, there are not a lot of them. Heroes are, by definition, decent people.
2. The time server. The time server got into law enforcement because it was a respectable profession (often the family business) that didn’t require a lot of formal education and came with a nice pension you could qualify for in just 20 years. Time servers don’t rock the boat, because it’s not easy to serve time if the people around you are mad at you. Pointing out things your co-workers are doing wrong rocks the boat, so time servers don’t like to do that. They can justify almost anything someone on the team does, taking comfort in phrases like “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” Time servers think of themselves as decent people. Some actually are. Many aren’t.
3. The adrenalin junky. Adrenalin junkies like the rush that comes from kicking doors. If they weren’t in law enforcement, they might well be fighting law enforcement. They sometimes do heroic things, but that doesn’t necessarily make them heroes. Adrenalin junkies are often decent people when they’re with their friends and family away from the job. Since they see themselves as sheep dogs, they often think that even talking about being a decent person on the job is nonsensical. Perps are wolves, and you can’t be decent to wolves.
4. The bully. Bullies love authority. The badge is a license to make people who otherwise would not give them the deference they crave defer to them. Bullies sometimes can pretend to be decent people for a while, but it is a near universal truth that bullies are not decent people.
The dividing lines among these classes are not always clear; taxonomic classifications are blurry at the margins, so many folks straddle more than one category. There are plenty of mules and ligers. People also move from one category to another over time: I’ve known adrenalin junkies who aged into time servers. I’m sure that each of that last three categories include many people who would not be considered decent under a standard more lenient than mine, but maybe they are all decent people under your standard.
So I ask again, what do you mean by decent people?
Very nicely laid out.
To say the least. No electricity (meaning no refrigeration, no traffic lights, not electronic communication etc), no running water, no fire departments or hospital). There’s a reason a general strike is the gold standard for changing society. I’d give things about half a day before it changed (and even that mainly because without electrical communication it’d take that long for the message to get out).
People have no idea just how interdependent we all are. A general strike would drive that point home. Might be a good message to all those self-made people out there.
I think this is a major part of the problem. A huge part, in fact.
I have been wondering this morning how police in, say, the UK handle these situations since most of them do not carry guns.
On the other hand, if most cops were bad guys then the number of people they kill per year in America (I think its about a thousand) would be much higher — probably an order of magnitude or two. Wikipedia says there are about 700,000 law enforcement people in America. That would add up to a lot of deaths if they were all bad.
The problem is that most cops (like most people) are somewhere in between good and bad. They tend not to go out of their way to do bad things themselves, but are passive in the face of bad things that are happening to others. That even includes some NBA players, like those who openly said they had no problem with what the Chinese gov’t was doing to Uighurs and in Hong Kong — ie they were making a lot of money from China and what happened to the Uighurs and in Hong Kong didn’t affect them. I certainly includes me, I speak up about some things and not about other things, and its hard not to notice that I’m much more likely to speak up about things that affect me.
The trick isn’t in filling 700,000 positions with good people — there probably aren’t that many consistently good people in the country. The trick is making police shootings something that affects the police force (ie something neutral cops can’t ignore). Nothing else has worked, so why not try protests and boycotts? Putting a price on bad behavior from your profession tends to get people motivated.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I’ve always heard that they don’t run into many people who are carrying guns themselves — that lowers the stakes and gives a lot more time for talk to come into play. Another reason for a more effective gun control, but I gather that isn’t likely.
@Mu Yixiao: Relevance?
That’s huge and changes the equation, to be sure.
But like the case in Atlanta where the drunk guys tried to run away, what would they have donein London?
@Steven L. Taylor: Funny you should ask. This small and experimental study seems to indicate that the British public has negative responses to police who are armed.
On the other hand, this just happened:
That’s just an ignorant assertion and a clear indication of poor critical thought about policing. Police officers are not “empowered to kills” under the color of authority or otherwise. Police are empowered to use force to effectuate arrest and/or compliance with lawful orders. They are empowered, under reasonable suspicion, to inquire into the business of individuals in their jurisdiction.
Police have no power to kill for any other reason than anyone else. And that is only in justifiable self defense. Their power to detain, arrest, and transport an individual to appear before a court does mean they can use force not justifiable for non-law enforcement. In the course of using that force, there is a risk of accidental injury/death. If in the course of that force the individual being detained and/or arrested creates the reasonable belief in the police officer of imminent death or serious bodily injury, the police officer can use deadly force in self defense. They can use deadly force in the defense of others. Just as any person in the US can when under imminent threat of death or bodily injury. In the use of the deadly force, individuals can and do die which is why “deadly force” is limited to situations where there is a reasonable belief of imminent death or serious bodily injury caused by the person if they are not stopped by force that could result in death of the individual.
The fallacy that police are “empowered to kill under color of law” is not the basis of good analysis of police-interaction deaths.
Are you acquainted with reality?
Apologies for feeding the troll.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I’ve lived in London twice, for a total of about 28 months. In London, they have armed response units for really serious crime. But, as stated other places, they’re not afraid of the random citizen being armed with anything other than a knife or bat. That’s not to say there isn’t gun crimes. There is, but they’re very rare. In 2019/2020 there were 145 gun deaths in all of the London metro area, population 9,000,000.
For comparison, New York City had 550 deaths, population 8.4 million.
Additionally, they have cameras EVERYWHERE. There is almost nowhere you can go in London where there isn’t a camera trained on you. They tend to solve their violent crimes very quickly because of the surveillance. Most murders in the USA do not get solved. Sadly.
Lastly, the Armed Response units are top notch.
You’re completely full of shit.
And too many more to list.
@Steven L. Taylor:
I can only extrapolate a bit from UK cop shows. One of the most surprising things for an American is seeing that fictional UK cops don’t pursue the dominate-at-all-costs mentality. Sometimes they back down. Always they try de-escalation. When they think they have a possible gun-toting perp they call in a specially-trained unit.
Obviously that’s all fictionalized, but US cop fiction paints a very different picture, so comparison between fictional UK and fictional US has some validity. We are mostly fine with cop brutality, Brits are mostly not. We usually still see a brutal fictional cop as a hero, they don’t.
Such as, say, shooting someone in the back seven times?
Or cutting off their breathing by leveraging a knee on a neck for nearly 9 minutes?
Neither of these situations arose from “accidental injury or death” from “the course of using that force.”
These were decisions, not accidents.
If you are advocating for greater police training in anatomy and physiology so they don’t keep “accidentally” murdering people, okay.
The empirical evidence screams otherwise.
The way Brits perceive their police is completely different than the way many Americans do, and this is I think an important factor. From the study I linked to above:
Emphasis added by me. This is a critical framing.
When people are discussing the issues of bad cops–and how other cops “just let it happen”–they’re almost always talking about big cities where cops are “faceless blue uniforms”.
In small towns that have half a dozen police officers (or fewer) you don’t get as many bad cops–and it’s a hell of a lot more difficult to cover it up. Small town cops also tend to be more responsible to their communities.
We have 6 officers in my city (including the administrative officer who isn’t licensed). I know 5 of them by first name. The exception is the new guy they hired last month when Michael took a job closer to his home town.
Go to pretty much any small town in the country and you’ll see the same thing. Those officers are part of the community–and they actually do serve it. They’re not in it for action or power (because there isn’t any). They make up 70% of the police departments in this country.
My uncle was a cop in Chicago. That force is rotten to the marrow and needs to be shredded and rebuilt from the ground up. But it isn’t representative of all–or even the majority–of police departments.
1. In ordinary English, “bad guy” and “bad person” are not the same thing. Similarly, the complement of “good person” is “not a good person”, not “bad person” (and certainly not “bad guy”).
2. You don’t have to be a murderer to be a bad person
The claim was “most cops are good people”, which is a stronger claim than “most cops aren’t bad guys” and much stronger than “most cops aren’t murderers”.
In my semi-retirement job, I had the opportunity to occasionally interact with Chiefs or Asst. Chiefs of Police, at an event where I was present when one of them picked up a conversation with another in regard to a police shooting of a civilian. Curious I asked how the prevalence of guns effected police interaction with civilians and they all responded that this was a major issue. One chief who was in his early 60’s and set to retire, mentioned that when he was a young patrolman, does this person have a gun wasn’t even in the top 3 concerns that he had when approaching a car in a traffic stop. But today, it is concern 1,2,&3.
Gun rights advocates, particularly those who claim an unencumbered right for an individual to carry are in denial of problem this causes for police. Philando Castile repeated the exact words the NRA says you should use when stopped and the cop still killed him.
Under what authority do “RW militia” and other private citizens like 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse execute American Citizens without indictment, trial and proof of guilt?
@Sleeping Dog: George H.W.Bush resigned his life membership in the NRA because of the NRA support of “Cop killer bullets”. Most police organizations wanted them banned. But the NRA chose to have cops killed rather than lose revenue from the arms manufacturers.
That might be cultural — I’m used to hearing bad guy and bad person as meaning the same thing. As well, in day to day speech it’s common where I live to categorize people into either a good guy or a bad guy (as in “Jim down the road is a good guy”, or “Jim down the road is a bad guy”, or some words with those flavours. That’s why I suggested adding the neutral person label.
Even in terms of American culture, I wonder if a lot of the resistance from conservatives about criticizing police is that there doesn’t seem to be allowance for a middle ground, a sense that “those who aren’t with us are against us”. In my experience, most police are pretty much the same as everyone else, good in some ways, bad in others. And so like everyone else, they need to be restricted by rules and laws — giving them the benefit of every legal doubt doesn’t accomplish that.
Agreed, if by “big city” you mean what the census calls “Urbanized Areas”. The threshold for that is 50,000 people or more. More than 80% of us live in those urbanized areas; I’m guessing that more than 90% of us live in places large enough that the kind of personal awareness and community responsibility that you are talking about is not possible. So no, we’re not overgeneralizing about policing in the vast majority of the country.
Even if that were true (and I’m not sure it is), it is representative of how the vast majority of Americans are policed.
@Steven L. Taylor: The case of Rayshard Brooks is a great one to bring up here. When he tried to flee, the cops had his license and his car. Brooks was sleepy and some level of intoxicated, but there was no reason to believe he posed a threat to himself or others. The police could have sat at his house until he finally walked home, then arrested him then.
I don’t know how London police are trained specifically, but de-escalation training would have taught the Atlanta police to keep their end objective in mind rather than taking affront from his not submitting.
I suspect that is a USA thing, unlike Europe and Latin America, where political strikes (namely the “general strike”) are common; btw, I have the idea that political strikes are even forbidden in the USA, no (Taft–Hartley Act)?
@Kingdaddy: Unfortunately, you’ve got the wrong inequality symbol in your equation in the minds of most Americans (including, possibly, Dr. Joyner–at least that’s what his analysis seems to be arguing by my reading).
In isolation, I can see that. However, “the bad guys” are clearly not just people who are not particularly good. And, on reflection, I pronounce “bad guys” differently in the sentences “Bob’s not a bad guy” and “Bob’s one of the bad guys.” There’s more space between the words in the former, and equal stress, compared to the latter which is run together and has the accent on the first word. And they mean different things.
English; whatcha gonna do?
Conversely, if the 5 local cops are all a problem (say, racist as has history has shown not just in the south, but across the country) they tend to circle the wagons.
One can certainly find examples of problems with small town police.
OK, I missed your DOJ stats from up above. So yes, most police departments (by raw count) are small. That’s still the wrong measure, since this is a question of effect on the populace. The overwhelming majority of Americans are policed by the 30% of police departments that are responsible for more than 10,000 residents. And the vast majority of police officers are employed by that 30%.
@Steven L. Taylor:
If one is black in a white town it’s almost guaranteed.
@DrDaveT: I have friends who live in a small city of 15,000 people. The police are as bad there as anywhere else. About 40 officers, and a K-9 unit they just love to set loose on brown people.
Planting evidence, false charges, calling in fake burglaries to justify spending a few hours screwing their girlfriends… a DOJ investigation.
Unless it gets down to the size of Mayberry, police departments protect their own more than the community they serve.
I assume our friend @Mu Yixiao either lives in Mayberry, or that his local police department has just been better at keeping it all under wraps.
Hollywood and publishing are both contributors to the problem. They pushed the narrative of the ‘cop who breaks the rules.’ On a show like ther new Hawaii Five-O the police regularly resort to torture or brutality. Police thuggery has been normalized, very seldom condemned.
Interestingly, this narrative has not been favorably applied to the military. We don’t glorify soldiers who resort to torture, or who brutalize civilians. And we don’t seem to have anything like the brutality problem there.
You’re conflating two separate data points–population and country. Your 80% of the population lives in 3% of the US (by area). So the vast majority of the US is rural.
How many civilians are under the jurisdiction of any particular department is rather irrelevant–the causes don’t come from the civilians, they come from the departments.
The issue of insufficient training and oversight occurs on a departmental level, not an individual officer level. When looking at how to fix thing, we need to look at departments, not cops.
Allen West is now Chairman of the Republican Party in Texas.
The nation is the people; that’s who gets policed. The dirt can police itself.
If 90% of the drinking water is pure, but 90% of the people live in the places where it isn’t, do we have a drinking water problem?
That’s another really sore point.
One can justify using deadly force in self-defense, or in defense of a third party. It’s very hard to rationalize using deadly force to keep a suspect from escaping arrest, except perhaps for escaped convicts. Certainly not an unarmed suspect, or during a traffic stop.
The revolutionary seed sprouts when the situation is bad enough that a group of people say, “screw this, dying in the attempt is better than continuing to live like this.”
I watched Watts burn. Ditto Chicago, New York, etc., etc., etc. I watched Black Panthers with shotguns on corners (btw, in Seattle their primary reason for being armed was to keep SPD officers from burning down the soup kitchens/afterschool care centers BP sponsored).
Sometimes I regret my decision when I told my friends that Angela, Huey, et al, were wrong, “Nah, there’s no need to burn this sucka to the ground.” Unlike many of you, when we’re living in cold caves, I know how to knap flints into arrowheads and make black powder. Just saying, I’ll have a valued skill. Although I’m of an age where I doubt I’ll survive the upheaval.
Thank you. Thank you again. As someone who carried for years, I recognize this. When your toolkit is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Most won’t or can’t hear this, but thank you for putting it down on paper. Do I think you’ve got the answer? Not necessarily. If I’m honest, I’ve been on both sides of the law enforcement issue for decades. But this IS a necessary conversation. Before you write the check, decide if you REALLY want what you’re buying. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vente latte or a societal contract, in my (egotistical) opinion.
@DrDaveT: Yup, NYPD has ~36,000 uniformed officers (source), which is the equivalent of ~3,600 small town police departments (assuming 10 officers per dept.). Addressing its training is, then, roughly equivalent to addressing the training of ~3,600 small town departments.
@Monala: Interesting story. I would estimate you’d need 6 months alone of close-fight training to be proficient in an actual fight. Not to mention all the other things you’d need to know to be a cop. Training cost money however, and the dirty little secret about policing is they are most effective simply be being seen–an nothing else. I suspect the City Gov just gives em the bare minimum, suits them up, and throws them on the street. And we wonder why people (well black people) get killed.
@Jen: They are trained to aggressively control an engagement though voice volume/tone, body language, and imperative commands. Not much different for how Drill Instructors are trained. The goal to immediately establish oneself as the dominant person in the situation.
Those are good tools to have when needed but shouldn’t be the only tools. I don’t believe they are trained in anything else.
I quite agree. Grossman’s training has become very popular in LE training, something I chalk up the the influx of ex-mil Iraq war(s) vets into law enforcement. It’s great stuff…for a soldier. Great stuff for police in a police state too, I suppose, but NOT going to fly in a free state wherein The People won’t tolerate fear-biting cops. That’s what it risks creating. Primary can’t be force protection, primary MUST be public service.
Grossman’s stuff is certainly included in the big city academies but the Depts that have experienced the blow-back in the past (like Oakland in the 60s and 70s) make sure their officers are taught that being “on the edge” is not going to work out for ya. If you’re going to draw and shoot every time somebody makes a sudden move your career will be short, prison sentence long.
Far more than endemic racism, I blame the military force-protection doctrine currently in vogue.
@Michael Reynolds: ” We don’t glorify soldiers who resort to torture, or who brutalize civilians. ”
“We” do under Trump.
I think Dr Joyner hasn’t sense that the winds have shifted. I was in that boat at one point, wanted to see linear progress of how X results in Y to fix this problem. We aren’t going to get that. There will be no linear solution James so typical analysis is out the window. There is no cause and effect reason why George Floyd’s killing produced a national moment–over some other equally depressing murder.
We are in a butterfly wings in Africa producing Hurricane in the US type paradigm. The 20-30 somethings are driving this train James so just buckle in and close your eyes when they hit hairpin turns. We had our time and chose to find how to make the status quo work. They have the numbers to not accept those conditions.
Out of all of this, I hope the takeaway for Black parents and younger children is the expenditure we’ve made in human resources to entertain white people and the lack of progress. I love Lebron James but as much clout as he has–he can’t change one police department. We need our boys flooding law schools, medical schools, starting hedge funds, etc. The status that comes with chasing a ball to delight white people is not the right kind of status to care for us the other 20 hours of the day when we aren’t watching the games. Racism is overt, but many times it will happen when no one at the decision-making table is there to stand up for your interest.
One other note–a commenter upstream mentioned the socio-economic position of the players. While most of the players historically came from poor environments–that has increasingly over the past 20 years not been the case. Pro sports has become gentrified as well. Many of these players actually come from good homes which is why simply making the money isn’t satiating them like it did previous generations of players. It takes lots of resources not to build the talent needed to compete at the professional level with all the training, nutrition, skills work etc. Phenoms get sponsored by people if they don’t have the resources but that next level has fierce competition. I have a relative that had some NFL-coaching experience and he made good side money flying out to train the kids of parents who could afford it. So little Jimmy does NFL quality drills under the supervision of an NFL coach–while little Tyrone has to figure it out on his own (or train like his dad/uncle trained 20 years ago.) Advantage Jimmy to make the team or win the starting job
“Shut up and dribble.”
James? You have Texas sized blind spots.
Vox has a good article on how police view a gun-toting citizen differently based on their race:
“In her research, Carlson distinguishes between two kinds of attitudes police have toward civilian ownership of firearms.
The first, “gun militarism,” sees armed individuals as a threat to blue lives. “It favors a state monopoly on legitimate violence, whereby police both protected and expanded their own access to firearms while policed and delimited gun access among the racialized, urban populations targeted by the War on Crime,” she writes.
At other times, the police chiefs she interviewed embraced “gun populism”: the idea that “rather than a threat to stability (as under gun militarism), armed civilians may be imagined as generative of social order.” Gun populism is an “embrace of ‘the people’ and a deep suspicion of elites, especially elite lawmakers who aim to regulate gun access in the United States.” In essence, it’s the National Rifle Association view of gun rights.
These two frames might seem contradictory. How can you believe both that widespread gun ownership poses a threat to your officers and oppose regulations that aim to limit it?
Typically, officers got around this dilemma by reference to legal and illegal uses of firearms. The chiefs supported throwing the book at armed criminals, believing that anyone who uses a gun in commission of a crime should face serious jail time. But gun ownership itself should be permitted and maybe even encouraged.
But here’s the thing: When they talked about gun-wielding criminals, the racialized nature of the language was unmistakable. The criminals they were worried about were described as “urban terrorists,” “gangbangers,” and “illegal immigrants”; their descriptions of respectable gun owners had a very different racial valence.
“I am not worried about the people who just want an assault weapon for the hell of it, or a military guy who had an M16 and wants one because it reminds him of his old gun,” one California police chief said. “I’m worried about the gangster who brings in guns and then it gets into the hands of people who have hatred for America”
This bifurcation, between minority-coded bad guys and presumptively white good guys, led chiefs to take a generally positive view of civilian gun owners who didn’t fit their criminal stereotypes. In Michigan, which borders Wisconsin and has similar gun laws, police chiefs embraced a vision of gun populism that saw civilian gun owners as their allies.”
There was no MLB Strike in 1994. The owners locked out the players. It may seem like a minor point but it isn’t.
By the same measure (ie going by land), most of the country is unpopulated. That is, 38 people per sq.km. according to Wikipedia — and since people occupy say 1 sq. meter at a time, that means on average 38 sq.meters out of ever 1 million sq. meters is occupied. Lots of land for immigrants by that measure. And I’ll add, notice how easy the calculation is using the metric system, as opposed to going between square feet and square miles.
@Moosebreath: Mother Jones had a similar article today:
What Conservatives Really Mean When They Call for Law and Order
@Jim Brown 32:
I know it seems like that, but I if you were to look deeper, you find the BML activists doing the legwork of building relationships with reporters, learning how to craft press-releases that are ready-made stories, and when and how to get in front of the press, and when and how to distribute terrifyingly horrible footage. Along with when and how to push back against the “he was no angel” arguments.
You’ll note that the refrain this time around wasn’t to try to defend George Floyd against claims that he was a lifelong criminal who was passing counterfeit money*, but a quick hard pushback to “whatever, right wing dude, none of that is an excuse for the police to murder someone on the streets.”
Claims of violence by protestors were met with video of police committing atrocities. Quickly identified, and promoted on social media and pushed to the news organizations to become part of the narrative.
A lot of hard work went into creating a national movement, reaching people with influence, getting (some) white folks to care.
The specifics of the video helped it — 9 minutes of watching someone get killed stays with you in a way that a gunshot doesn’t. This wasn’t over quick.
The racism in the White House helped it — supporting black folks becomes a form of opposing Trump and a lot of people want to get out there and oppose Trump.
But, largely, it was hard work by activists, and trial and error up until now.
*: I have no idea whether those claims are true, whether there is any evidence that he knew he had a counterfeit $20, or where the mysterious counterfeit $20 came from or even if it is real. And that’s some damn successful setting of the narrative by the BLM activists.
Where would Kenosha be right now if Kenosha officers believed risking his life wasn’t worth it?
It would be a sleepy small city somewhere in Wisconsin that most people had never heard of, where life remains mostly orderly.
Perhaps what needs to happen is for more conservatives to decide that they don’t want police brutality in their backyard because they don’t want the blowback. That they want to go to sleep at night without hearing unruly protests in the background.
Sure, BLM has upped their game enough to do some astro-turfing–but what happened after Floyd simply cannot be attributed to standard media outreach. Likely, it was the proverbial last straw–if you switched Philadro Castille and George Floyds in time–then PC is the name that we’d be taking about causing a national shift.
I overheard a group of Trump-lites in the office talking about how eff’d up the cops treated him–and how no one deserved that. These people turn red-faced at any mention of anything BLM–but for some reason, this specific thing struck a cord in them where no others did before or since. So, kudos for BLM for getting better at the persuasion craft–they have a long way to go. But their efforts were not responsible for the national shift in consciousness. We don’t get that moment if a chord wasn’t struck on the right as well. BLM astro-turfing and media outreach don’t have tentacles that long to affect those people.
@Moosebreath: The Vox article you linked cited another one on its site, “What the police really believe: Inside the distinctive, largely unknown ideology of American policing — and how it justifies racist violence.”
Some great research in this article. Read the whole thing, as they say.
@Scott: sadly, the Black Talon bullets Bush was offended by, and even worse variants, like RIP rounds, are still legal.
@flat earth luddite:
I don’t think a local group going technologically primitive would’ve been a good idea.
And, if somehow it had gone national, and the entire region of North America had gone pre-Bronze Age, well from the point of view of Asian societies, or European societies, time would have suddenly become a flat circle.
Your breakdown of archetypes strikes me as reasonable. It’s similar to what I’ve seen of soldiers and Marines. And I’d say that all of them save the Bullies would qualify as “decent.”
The police forces and the military have a disproportionate number of Heroes. Phenomenally good people who aim to serve others, willing even to sacrifice their lives if necessary. Still, while more abundant than in the society writ large, they’re a minority—ten percent, tops.
I think most of the rest are people who crave action, respect, a decent paycheck, etc. Most who stay long enough to draw a pension turn into Time Servers. But these folks, too, are generally decent folks. Like most people, they want to do their jobs, get a little bit of respect, and live comfortable lives. Like the society writ large, a small percentage have the moral courage to point out wrongdoing in their peer group at the risk of ostracism.
Alas, police forces surely draw more than their fair share of Bullies, too. I don’t know that all of them are bad people so much as low-status types with a chip on their shoulder. But given the power of a badge, a club, a taser, and a gun they are likely to turn into bad people over time. And they’re surrounded by a culture and system that will shelter and enable them.
Not a great response, James.
So… out of these “disproportionate number of Heroes” only “a small percentage have the moral courage to point out wrongdoing in their peer group at the risk of ostracism.”? Really?
“I don’t know that all of them are bad people so much as low-status types with a chip on their shoulder.” Actually, that sounds like a pretty good description of a bad person to me, especially when they’re supposed to serve and protect the entire community. How did these low-status types get a badge in the first place?
And even some of the Bullies aren’t “bad people”?
James, you have really, really low standards.
It’s hard to reconcile such low standards for human behavior with your righteous indignation against any and all property crimes. It’s almost like you care more about how much people respect property than you do about how much people respect other people.
@James Joyner: “But that cuts both ways. They’re more likely to see it as a betrayal by ungrateful millionaires.”
When you subtract the people who will *always* support Trump from that group, it’s probably a small number.
Alienating those who will always oppose isn’t that big of a deal. And the status quo is bad.
@James Joyner: ” It’s a non-sequitur. Should everyone stop going to work until there are no more police shootings? Only Black people?”
These people are not merely ‘Black people’, they are celebrities and stars. Their refusal to work means far, far, *far* more than ordinary Joes walking off of the job.
@James Joyner: “Sure! But that assumes the two sides of the equation are related. Jacob Blake’s life is worth much more than the life of my dog; but shooting my dog isn’t going to bring him back or prevent future police shootings of Black men.”
James, you’re really reaching here, with a serious non sequitur. We are not seeing people shoot their dogs, either figuratively or literally.
@Michael Reynolds: “Really? Name another profession or occupation where one person could choke a man to death while his fellows laughed and then lied to cover it up.”
And get filmed doing it and have the coroner lie for him and have a serious chance of not being punished.
@James Joyner: “Yes. The major metro police departments tend to have much higher standards. But the vast majority of American cops are poorly educated and trained.”
We’ve had a vast number of crimes committed by the NYPD, despite or because they are a large city force.
@JKB: “That’s just an ignorant assertion and a clear indication of poor critical thought about policing. Police officers are not “empowered to kills” under the color of authority or otherwise. Police are empowered to use force to effectuate arrest and/or compliance with lawful orders. They are empowered, under reasonable suspicion, to inquire into the business of individuals in their jurisdiction. ”
This is lie. Police using force in appropriately and getting away with it, even with public evidence, is not a scandal; it’s on the order of ‘family killed in highway accident’.
By this formulation, most Nazis guards at concentration camps would also qualify as “decent”. They didn’t make the policies, they just guarded the camps that they were assigned to.
Do you really think that is true?
The Daytona race is scheduled for this Saturday, 7 p.m. NBC will broadcast. Kevin Harvick is on the pole.
This is the Daytona race that was moved from its traditional July 4 date. For years, that race would start at 11:00 am. It was originally the “Firecracker 250”. Usually, by 12:30 the fans would be heading out to the beach for the day. On July 4, 1984 President Reagan attended the race, won by Richard Petty. Petty got his 200th, and final victory. President George H. Bush attended the 1992 Firecracker race, Petty’s farewell tour. The first winner was Fireball Roberts in a Pontiac, 1959. Last year Justin Haley won in a Chevrolet. Chevy leads in victories with 23.
I don’t think that the drivers are going to do a parade lap and then bug out. The fans will get to see a race.
There is the Infinity race there tonight.
@dazedandconfused: The FBI agents have effective techniques for apprehending and controlling suspects. Their profiling unit also has excellent skills. These could be learned and used by the police.
See: “Criminal Minds” “FBI”