Coverage of cops needs to change.

I am not a journalist. I write about news, but I’m pretty much always a secondary or tertiary source. All of that is to say that I’m not an expert in this field, so maybe I’m missing something obvious when I ask:  Why would so-called “news” organizations ever report police statements as fact?

The recent ubiquity of cameras has revealed something that was always there – police do not make our communities safer. They do not serve us. They serve themselves, and they serve the ruling class. In fact, through civil asset forfeiture, they play an increasingly large role in preventing class mobility – stealing from those who have little enough to begin with, apparently just because they can. If the United States was actually a free and just society, governed by and for the people, civil asset forfeiture would never have been made legal in the first place. If we had the kind of democratic power our leaders pretend we do, then I have to believe these laws would have been changed after John Oliver shined a big spotlight on them in 2014. Apparently the only state that’s actually made a meaningful change is apparently New Mexico.

Between 2000 and 2020, police stole at least $68 BILLION dollars from innocent people in the United States. Again, under the law, you do not have to be convicted of anything for the police to just take your property, and you have to hire an attorney on your own dime if you want to get it back. Might be hard to do if they’ve just stolen all your money, or your car, or your home.

More than that, cops lie constantly, and at this point it’s been so widely reported that I cannot believe anyone in the news industry is unaware. By the time we saw the cavalcade of lies from the Uvalde PD, nobody who had been paying even a little attention was surprised by their craven dishonesty.

When the subject of police violence comes up, I sometimes hear people say that even though cops do kill around three people per day. that’s not that many out of the hundreds of thousands of interactions every day. Even ignoring the less direct harm done by police theft and police dishonesty, the focus on killings often leads to us overlooking the non-lethal violence that police inflict on the communities that pay them:

>Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that since 2015, more than 400,000 people have been treated in emergency rooms because of a violent interaction with police or security guards. But there’s almost no nationwide data on the nature or circumstances of their injuries. Many of the country’s roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies don’t tally or make public the number of people who need medical care after officers break their arms, bruise their faces, or shock them with Tasers.
Researchers point out that only a tiny portion of arrests involve force. But when police do use force, more than half of the incidents ended with a suspect or civilian getting hurt, according to a 2020 analysis. It’s unclear how serious the harm is. “We need better data on injury severity,” said Matthew Hickman, a professor at Seattle University and one of the study’s authors.
Most experts agree that injuries at the hands of cops remain underreported.

And, of course, that doesn’t even start talking about the prevalence of white supremacy in law enforcement.

I don’t think any of this is new to my readers at this point, or if it is maybe you’re new around here? Maybe I need to write about this more often. Obviously, I don’t think that the corporations who own most “news” coverage in the United States serve the public interest any more than the cops do. If you want more of a breakdown of the problems of crime reporting in the US, you can go here. The point of this post was to say that I think the tendency towards passive reporting, and police-friendly reporting continues to help cops get away with a level of abuse and criminality so extreme that I’ve had people deny its reality to my face “because they would have heard about it”.

They should have heard about it, but for all our media love sensationalism, they love protecting the rich and powerful far, far more. If they actually saw themselves as serving the interests of the public, this is what their reporting would look like (content warning for extreme grief):


  1. sonofrojblake says

    Fuck. Content warning on that video, but I wasn’t ready.

    Many of the country’s roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies

    Eh? Eighteen THOUSAND law enforcement agencies??? Sounds like that’s part of the problem right there. In the UK (population about one fifth that of the US), there are fewer than 50 police forces, and probably fewer than 100 “law enforcement agencies” altogether, even if you count people like “cathedral constables” and parks police. I guess USians just love them lots and lots of police?

    Why would so-called “news” organizations ever report police statements as fact?

    Gee, I dunno… why would someone with a steady job and healthcare provision (in a country where such is contingent on having that job) want to antagonise an armed gang in charge of their home town, and armed gang who can simply take their stuff, beat them up, even shoot and kill them pretty much without consequence? Why would anyone with anything to lose make themselves known to this pack of crooks? A pack of crooks who, let’s not forget, are extremely well equipped AND authorised to find out who you are, where you live, and to simply waltz into your house all guns blazing if they want. I wonder why nobody ever seems to piss *those* people off deliberately to a mass audience?

    Every time I hear a new story along these lines – and I hear a *lot* of them because I am paying attention – I shake my head in wonder why anyone with any choice would choose to visit the USA, much less live there.

    Side note: it’s long past time that any cop whose bodycam footage isn’t made available more or less immediately in a case like this is is summarily suspended without pay and charged with gross negligence homicide at least.

  2. says

    Yeah – the personal dangers involved in accurate reporting did occur to me. I’ve heard rumors of reform-minded mayors being not-so-subtly threatened by their police departments when they take office.

    Nevertheless, reporting is necessary, and I put more blame on the corporate executives and other rich “news people” who’re doing just fine out of the status quo.

  3. lochaber says

    as to the number of agencies – because there is very little (none?) federal oversight or regulation, so almost every town, county, and state has it’s own independent police department.

    I don’t know where it was, but I recently ran across an image of uniformed and armed cops packing a courtroom, clearly to intimidate someone who was being critical of the police department.

    They are just another organized criminal syndicate, except they kill, steal, and assault far more then any other criminal group.

  4. John Morales says

    Why would so-called “news” organizations ever report police statements as fact?

    Dunno about the USA, but here in Australia, most reports from reputable news media use the form of “police allege X”, rather than just “X”.

  5. Dunc says

    Why would so-called “news” organizations ever report police statements as fact?

    Because “so-called ‘news’ organisations” operate as a propaganda system. You’ve read Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, right?

  6. billseymour says

    A better explanation might be simple laziness.  They can fill up the column-inches in their newspapers, or the minutes in their broadcasts, without having to spend any money on investigation or to do any real work at all.

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