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):
Mississippi police shot and killed 15 year old JAHEIM MCMILLAN as he exited a family dollar. Multiple eyewitnesses say he was unarmed with his hands up when police shot him 8 times in the head before handcuffing his lifeless body. His family and witnesses have been silenced pic.twitter.com/ZtyugT92mn
— Olayemi Olurin (@msolurin) October 13, 2022