The incredible whininess of the police

A Cleveland Browns football player Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt during pre-game warm-ups that said “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford”. This was viewed by the local police union chief as an incredible act of disrespect to the police and he demanded an apology from the football team, which they have quite rightly declined to do.

This is just another example of the fact that the police want nothing less from us than groveling and adoration. Other examples are the protests by the police when five St. Louis Rams football players ran onto the field with the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture and the head of the New York City police benevolent association sending a letter to mayor Bill de Blasio asking him to not attend police funerals, because they feel that he has been insufficiently supportive of their demand that they be allowed to behave as they wish.

What is interesting is that by their own actions, the police are revealing themselves to be a bunch of whiners who cannot tolerate even the slightest indication that they are not gods to be venerated. They trot out the talking points about how they are doing a really dangerous job but the facts do not quite match the rhetoric.

In 2013, out of 900,000 sworn officers, just 100 died from a job-related injury. That’s about 11.1 per 100,000, or a rate of 0.01%.

Policing doesn’t even make it into the top 10 most dangerous American professions. Logging has a fatality rate 11 times higher, at 127.8 per 100,000. Fishing: 117 per 100,000. Pilot/flight engineer: 53.4 per 100,000. It’s twice as dangerous to be a truck driver as a cop—at 22.1 per 100,000.

Another point to bear in mind is that not all officer fatalities are homicides. Out of the 100 deaths in 2013, 31 were shot, 11 were struck by a vehicle, 2 were stabbed, and 1 died in a “bomb-related incident.” Other causes of death were: aircraft accident (1), automobile accident (28), motorcycle accident (4), falling (6), drowning (2), electrocution (1), and job-related illness (13).

Even assuming that half these deaths were homicides, policing would have a murder rate of 5.55 per 100,000, comparable to the average murder rate of U.S. cities: 5.6 per 100,000. It’s more dangerous to live in Baltimore (35.01 murders per 100,000 residents) than to be a cop in 2014.

Meanwhile, Hawkins made a very thoughtful response to the police complaints, rightly saying that “a call for justice shouldn’t offend or disrespect anybody. A call for justice shouldn’t warrant an apology.” His whole statement, delivered verbally and without notes, is worth reading but has prompted further complaints from the police union chief because in his statement Hawkins had said that there were good officers and “not so good” ones. The mere suggestion that not every police officer was good was apparently offensive to the delicate ears of the police union chief. What the Cleveland police union chief has achieved is to come across as a pathetic whiner, as well as take a fairly obscure football player and transform him into an articulate national spokesperson for justice.

Also worth reading is this letter from a 76-year old black man in response to an article by a white author, explaining why he sees the police differently, and why there is such a racial divide in the support for police. It all comes down to the question of who the police are protecting and from whom.

What you seem to miss is that the reason that such support and trust exists is due to the fact that what they are protecting the majority population from, in the minds of far too many in that population, is us! From the Slave patrollers to the rural sheriffs, to the modern police forces, the threat perceived most vividly by the population they “protect and serve” is that of the (violent) black person. Even a cursory look at the history and culture of this nation will reveal that in popular culture for many decades the majority culture was told to be scared of people of color. The result of this villainization of Black, Brown, Red and Yellow skin is a populace that believes, at least subconsciously, that any stranger with a dark skin is a potential threat. Thus the differing rates of charging and conviction between white and minority populations. It is that perception that drives a lot of the injustice minorities complain about.

I could regale you with many stories, experiences and scenarios that I, my family and friends have experienced. Not episodes of racism or racist acts in the common understanding of the terms, but just folks reacting based on unfamiliarity, lack of knowledge and cultural stereotypes. But the bottom line is that this reaction is a widely shared one in the majority population. And it can be deadly. They want their police to protect them from the black person in the mugshot on the front page of the news paper. They don’t question his or her guilt. And they don’t question whatever actions the police take to apprehend them. And they don’t question whether I am any different.

But listen to the defenders of the police in these latest cases… do you really want to live in the world they are promoting? One where you must immediately acquiesce to any request/order give by anyone in a uniform, without question or complaint… under penalty of death if you don’t comply, or comply too slowly for them? Do you really mean to give people in uniform the power to kill, maim, imprison any person simply because they questioned why they were being confronted or resisted rough treatment? Is the uniformed officers word to be deemed absolute, without recourse… and his/her power to punish to be deemed limitless?

I can tell you from experience that police officers are just like everybody else – they are not all the benevolent guardians of small children, grannies and fluffy puppies. They do over use their authority, they do have bad days and they do lie, cheat and steal. But just as importantly, they do mostly try to do what they are asked to do. And what they are too often asked to do is… to protect you… from me.

Not from the educated, lawyer/judge me, or the granddad me, or the mentor teacher me… but from the Black menace me. The problem is that for too many of our citizens and our police they are one in the same!

Sobering thoughts indeed.


  1. says

    Note this heartening message from the Chief of Police- “It is important to note that the comments made by Mr. Folmer do not represent the views of the Cleveland Division of Police. The Division of Police respects the rights of individuals to peacefully demonstrate their personal views and opinions. Mr. Hawkins was certainly well within his rights to express his views and no apology is necessary.” Note Folmer is white, Chief Williams is black. The Mayor of Cleveland Frank Jackson has spoken much more intelligently and compassionately (not by any means perfect) about this situation than say the Mayor of Ferguson as well. He noted that he worries about his black grandchildren, that the Tamir shooting was the worst day of his tenure and did not try to be dismissive of or argue with a woman who said she feared the police and might move.

  2. smrnda says

    Whiners is right. The police seem unique among supposed ‘public servants’ in expecting to be above all criticism, no matter how warranted. What if police got the treatment that teachers did? Police departments with complaints would be shut down and privatized and officers replaced by people who could be fired on a whim. Doubt that would work (doesn’t work with schools) but for such big tough guys they really seem to want to be handled with kid gloves.

    And thanks for pointing out that being a cop, statistically, is not dangerous. I liked the stat on Baltimore, I’d need to check some information but is it more dangerous to be a cop or to be Black? From my cursory check, it seems it’s more dangerous to be a Black male than a cop.

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