MEDIA EXPOSURE OF CELLPHONE VIDEOS CAN LEAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT POLICE BRUTALITY IS QUITE COMMON AND FUELS DISRESPECT FOR THE POLICE
Never before has there been so much disrespect for the police and resistance to lawful arrests
by Howie Katz
Cops used to be respected. In the majority of cases cops experienced no resistance when making arrests. That’s not the way it is today. Never before has there been so much disrespect for the police and resistance to lawful arrests.
Let me go back to when I started out as a cop in Galveston, I think it was back in 1948. Galveston was then known as a city with wide open gambling and a slew of whore houses along Post Office Street. Even though the police department had a bad reputation, the citizens of Galveston still respected their cops. I can recall only three or four cases wherein I was met with resistance while making an arrest, and I believe in each case I was dealing with a drunk. And people would wave at me and my fellow officers, not curse us.
At the time Galveston cops had a fairly good relationship with the city’s black community. I cannot remember a single incident where white cops were disrespected by black citizens. Blacks probably feared us, but they did not disrespect us. It is worth noting that Galveston’s police department was the first in the nation to hire a black officer.
Fast forward a few years to when I was a cop in California. It was in the late ‘50s that I experienced black hatred of the police. As I was arresting a black man, he pushed me back and shouted at me, “The only reason you’re fucking with me is because I’m black.” But fortunately, there were not many of such incidents.
Then along came the Vietnam War resistance, the birth of our drug culture, and the Civil Rights Movement. When we were arresting mainly blacks, Latinos and a few movie stars for drug violations, that was fine, but when we started arresting middle and upper-class young people, cops suddenly became the bad guys. The civil rights movement seemed to encourage blacks to resist arrests more often. Black Panther Party members chose to shoot it out with the police rather than to submit to arrest for armed robberies and other felonies.
It’s even much worse today. Almost every day, a cop gets shot somewhere in this country. Some of these shootings of cops have been ambush assassinations, the most notable of which were the assassination of two NYPD cops in December 2014 and that of five Dallas cops in July 2016, both by cop-hating black men.
Nearly every time a white cop shoots a black man, Black Lives Matter rears its ugly head. Whenever an unarmed black man dies at the hands of the police, he is painted as a Boy Scout by his family and by the media. Michael Brown was no Boy Scout, he was a strong-arm robber. Eric Garner was no Boy Scout, he was a serial seller of untaxed cigarettes, out on bail for a prior sale of loosies.
Of course, there have been clearly unjustified shootings of black men. Who can forget the shooting of unarmed Walter Scott as he was fleeing from South Carolina cop Michael Slager in April 2015. Slager was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison, a sentence which was in my opinion too lenient.
The deadly shooting of Stephen Clark in Sacramento does not look good for the officers, one of whom was himself black. The cops said they thought he was pointing a gun at them, which turned out to be a cellphone. As the shooting took place in the dark, it is easy to understand that the officers mistook the phone for a gun. And fearing for their lives, the cops fired 20 rounds at Clark. The number of rounds fired in such a case is not unusual as an officer would not stop shooting until the person with a gun went down. But what looks bad for the officers is that Clark was hit 8 times, 7 times in the back.
Even though the shooting of Clark looks bad, the two cops may very well have been justified in shooting this unarmed young black man.
Then there was the shooting of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago cop in October 2014. Dashcam video from a police car shows a white cop firing 16 rounds at the 17-year-old black youth who appeared to be running away and posed no threat to anyone. A year later, when the video clip was released to the public, the officer was charged with murder and will stand trial this summer. Several other cops were charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice for trying to cover up the shooting.
Another police shooting of a black man that looked bad, really bad, is the shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge officers in July 2016. A video clip shows two cops on top of a struggling 300-pound Sterling when someone shouts, “He’s got a gun.” At that point one of the cops, believing Sterling was reaching for a gun, pulls his gun, places it against the struggling man’s body and fires 3 rounds. The officer then fired 3 rounds into Sterling’s back as the wounded man begins to sit up. A gun was found on Sterling. Both the Justice Department and the State’s Attorney refused to file any charges against the officers.
No arrest, no matter how uneventful, looks good to a bystander. Today, every Tom, Dick, Harry and Mary has a cellphone with a built-in camera. Many arrests are video recorded by bystanders. The video clips are then spread throughout the social media. If the arrest looks bad, thousands of viewers instantly become second guessers, condemning the actions of the officers. If the videos make the officers look really bad, newspapers and TV stations respond with a media frenzy that only adds to the number of cop haters.
When I was a cop in California, I was very active in a number of law enforcement associations. When I was a criminal justice instructor at Sam Houston State University, I founded the Texas Narcotic Officers Association. When I was a criminal justice professor at College of the Mainland in Texas City, I was a board member of the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. I mention this not to blow my bugle, but to say that I have personally known hundreds of officers from throughout the country and from Canada. Not a single one of these officers ever had the desire to shoot anyone. All they ever wanted was to go home to their families at the end of their shifts.
Now that cops are getting shot every day, it should be easy to understand why they would have a nervous trigger finger. Unfortunately some people get shot by the police, not out of malice, but because the cops mistook those people to be a deadly threat. There is an old saying among the police: “It is far better to be tried by 12 than to be carried by 6.”
A media frenzy erupts every time what appears to be police brutality is captured on video. While such instances are rare, given that there are some 800,000 law enforcement officers in this country, the public is left with the impression that police brutality is quite common.
Of course, not everyone disrespects the police, but a large part of the black community believes cops mistreat them and a growing number of whites think cops are as bad as the criminals in society. The loss of respect hurts cops deeply. The loss of respect makes their job a lot harder. The loss of respect subjects officers to physical assaults and even assassinations.
There will be some folks who will criticize me for placing the focus on blacks. However, there is no getting around it, the problem police officers have had and continue to have is largely a black problem. It's been us versus them, cops verses blacks, fueled by a sensation-hungry media. The police shootings of white men garners only local attention, the shooting of blacks gets nationwide coverage. Black Lives Matter would have us believe that cops set out to deliberately murder black men.
The disrespect of police is much more prevalent in the black community than it is in the white community, but the disrespect among whites has been growing steadily, fueled in no small part by the media frenzy over the shooting of unarmed black men.
For those who disrespect the very people who are trying to protect them from criminals, I say shame on you. And I say that before you disrespect the police, try walking in the shoes of a cop.
Editors Note: Sadly, BLM always fails to mention the true numbers of blacks killed by other blacks.